Friday, May 6, 2011

The Anna Hazare Project

I just woke up from a revolution. I thought my country was on the cusp of a massive uprising. I was worried about the outcome, thankfully I’ve been spared of seeing bloodshed or a coup d'état. For a closet crusader like me this was the perfect opportunity to stand up and proclaim my support to the cause. It’d have been so hip and so today to have proclaimed something like “My heart bleeds for this frail old man who has taken it up all upon himself to rid this nation free from the curse of corruption, for me and my brethren”. Oh how patriotic it’d have been, I’d have become in one sweep the star amongst my Facebook, Orkut friend list and could have added at least a hundred followers on Twitter. The fact is I didn’t see all this coming, I, like many people I know simply didn’t “rise up” to the occasion.

I overdid it, there was no revolution. I had to look beyond the media reports that said “thousands” at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and realized it was almost “a thousand” there and the remaining that added up to the sum to make it “thousands” were almost all journalists and their respective OB (outdoor broadcasting) vans, drivers, technicians, cameramen, orderlies and basically a tom, dick or a harry related to the media-news circus that our country is subjected to every night at prime time. It’s another matter that this cartel put their heads (empty anyway) together and decided that 24 hrs was prime time.

So we had editor-in-chief’s of news channels mouth lines like a telugu or tamil potboiler’s climax scene, looking into the camera and appearing to be addressing each one of us personally, trying to get us all to wake up to reality and take action. Unfortunately, for them, this wasn’t a movie and they didn’t command such star power to pull off an MGR or an NTR on us. It’s so damn easy to sit in the air conditioned confines of a news studio with the crème de la crème of “civil society” (a new term that’s taking air time as if “uncivil” it was yesterday) sit around a round table debating with vociferous and vigorous voices on how they’ve had enough and how it was time to tackle the bull by it’s horn. The irony was palpable, they needed a senile old man to go on a fast for a bill none of them would have read to understand what was in it that would suddenly appear to be the ten commandments to root out corruption, the one big ill that is the reason for every other sickness that plagues this vast country called India.

Every 10 minutes were intercut with scene from “ground zero” (ergs Jantar Mantar), where protestors gleefully appeared before camera for their 10 seconds of fame in national consciousness. One could have mouthed inane and obnoxious stuff like “this is India’s Tehrir square”, “we’ll rid this country of it’s disease”, “there are thousands here and we are all with Anna” and still get away with it because the media is too busy catching up with the rapid developments, getting more and more members of the “civil society” on telecons, videocons (not the brand), mycons, yourcons, basically conning all of us that there was this revolution underway which was spreading across the nation like a tsunami. Every city that had a 3 digit STD code in the country had “civil society” representatives standing like they would for a middle school choir song and singing “Hum hongey kaamyaab” or “we shall overcome” based on which school they went to and reaffirm their cause to the great Anna with candles in their hand. Candle light vigils are the new fad.

Does wearing a white cap and going on fasts makes one a Gandhi? That’s a question that’ll need a separate blog altogether.

In the end (I refuse to assume it’s a beginning) the “civil society” got the government to do something that’s been unprecedented. It relented to their demands. I have just one point to add here about independent bodies in India that are also successful, the best example being the election commission. The success comes from the fact that all the parties involved need the election commission to get their mandate to get to power and hence have actively contributed to and adhered by it’s strictures which is where the commissions’ success comes from. That needn’t be the case with all other statutory bodies that are constituted in the country. I’m not a fan of politicians or politics, I do vote when there is an election and I try not to pay bribes as much as possible simply because beyond the urge to not aid corruption is the urge to fish for trouble and be a pain in the neck to someone in power for a moment, even if it’s brief.

I’m disgusted by the fact that “civil society” can be led by folks whose merit is just that their supreme Ayyatollah Shri Anna Hazare vetted their names. There is no doubts that the top cop was a sterling character during her stint in the IPS. Or the RTI activist who has fished many a govt file and gotten people into trouble, rightly so. But I don’t understand what’s that virtue in them that’s gotten them into a position where they’ll frame law jointly with elected representatives (I and you voted for). How can a non elected body, outside the frame of the Indian constitution assume upon itself the task to terrorize the government with a fast and get it to bend and crawl and heed to every one of it’s demands?

I’d like to pose questions to every one on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else who joined the cause without breaking a sweat and made it so fashionable (peer pressure!): It’s so damn easy to pay a bribe and escape a traffic offence or pay a TTE for a berth on a night train or the brake inspector in the RTO for an LLR or license or in the municipal office for a building plan or registrar office to underwrite sale values and pay less on stamp or any scenario where you have to deal with people in power. When will we stop being closet crusaders and refuse to pay a bribe at the cost of having to go through all the damn trouble it bestows upon us or delays that would also put our loved one’s in hardship?

Finally, this post is titled THE ANNA HAZARE PROJECT and if you’ve read thus far you’d have seen that this is so less about the man and so much more about the brouhaha around him primarily in our news media and the motley crowd of supporters he’s managed to attract. Precisely how the media kept “Breaking News” to all of you and me when the fast was on till the man assiduously broke it in full media glare. This isn’t the end of it, wait till you hear it all from the man’s own mouth and I’m sure you’ll end up wondering if this chap was a impatient nationalist, a pseudo socialist, a right wing crusader or a fading star in search of his last big limelight.

Disclaimer: All views expressed here with are my own and are not here to stoke distrust, disgust or any feeling of hatred towards any person irrespective of caste, creed, culture or religion. Despite this if there is a word or line or paragraph or the full post that offended you please let me know and I’ll be more than glad to edit / modify / delete offensive sections simply because I don’t have the money nor the resources to fight cases in the courts unlike members of the “civil society”. I guess I’m waiting for the amendment where my part of the world will go civil from uncivil.

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