Phew..that was some week !- By Pritish Nandy….

Anna Hazare, a little known player in mainstream politics, arrived in Delhi quietly with his little known Jan Lokpal campaign and almost miraculously emerged as India’s most powerful rallying point for the battle against corruption. For an entire week, thousands streamed in from all over the country to support and join his fast. Many of them, like school kids and rural folk didn’t have a clue what the Jan Lokpal Bill was all about. But that didn’t stop them from lining up behind Anna and, suddenly, he became the strongest moral force India has seen since JP led the students of Bihar in 1977 to upstage Indira Gandhi and dismantle the axis of evil that imposed Emergency on us.

Many are comparing Anna to Gandhi. They call his campaign our second freedom struggle: Freedom from corruption that has corroded our nation and destroyed its spirit and purpose. What specially defines this campaign is that young people have joined it in droves and the social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter were widely used by them to show their support for Anna. The Government, as usual, began by ignoring the fast, pretending it was hogwash. Then it used its twits to deride it. It even persuaded sections of the media to write it off as a movement ridden by internal dissensions. Cynics joked about it. How can a 72 old man with no money, no political party to back him, no powerful supporters in Delhi ever hope to fight the mighty Government? With a fast unto death! Are we joking?

They had not accounted for people power. In three days, Anna’s fast snowballed into a huge political movement. Indians all over the world joined it. Opinion leaders started to back it. So did some business leaders. Seeing this, the Opposition tried to rush in but were firmly turned back by those at the gate. They saw it as their own movement, didn’t want it hijacked. Insinuations that the RSS was behind it were met with contempt. Twitter saw millions of tweets. An unauthorized tweet became the most popular slogan on social media: Mera neta chor hai. Hazare later said that politicians shouldn’t be sent away. Everyone has the right to join the campaign. But the people there didn’t want their movement politicised. It belonged to the common man, they said.

The Government initially dug in its heels, refused to give an inch. In a democracy, what is Parliament there for, what are ministers for if people were to directly participate in framing laws? How cheeky can this demand be, that the Prime Minister’s office should be brought within the Lokpal’s purview? Who are these people who think they represent the nation when elected representatives are around? So what if the Government has been sitting on the bill for 42 years? So what if scams happen? Isn’t Raja in jail? This farce went on for a while till Sharad Pawar, a wiser man and an old adversary of Anna, saw the writing on the wall. He resigned from the Group of Ministers formed to frame the bill. He knew Anna would not give in. That was the first victory. The second came when Sonia wrote Anna a letter, urging him to give up his fast, saying the Government would consider his requests. He politely refused. He asked for an official notification instead, before ending his fast. He was not prepared to be tricked.

The rest is well chronicled. The Government finally gave in, conceding every demand. The victory of the people was total. All the pomposity, the hubris, the smart one-liners on TV by Congress spokespeople vanished when it was announced that the Government had surrendered on every issue and will see the bill through Parliament in the coming monsoon session.

For those who were not around in 1947 or 1977, this is the first time a people’s movement has actually succeeded. The youth that Rahul Gandhi tried so hard to bring together have now got together for Anna Hazare. I saw them everywhere I went last week. In Jantar Mantar. In Azad Maidan. At the Gateway of India. On the streets of every city, on TV channels, speaking their hearts out. It was the biggest battle ever fought—and won, in less than a week. Like every Indian who played a tiny part in it, I feel proud and empowered. We have regained faith in our ability to change India. We have also proved that the young and the old can share the same dream.

I never compare my heroes. Gandhi, for me, will always be Gandhi, the father of this great nation. JP will remain JP, the bravest of men, who won an impossible battle which restored us the freedom to write, speak and dream again. And now, there’s Anna Hazare who has taught us that nothing is impossible. However powerful a Government may be, it has to bow before the people’s wishes. Let no cynic convince you otherwise


8 Responses to “Phew..that was some week !- By Pritish Nandy….”

  1. Mr. Nandy,

    Comrade Anna Hazare was fasting publicly for getting the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by someone he can trust and then pursue the same till it can be introduced in the parliament as soon as possible. He has achieved that so far in a sensational manner.

    I saw you on the stage next to Anupam Kher. I am sure you will agree that Anupam Kher is a better actor than you are. What seemed obvious to me was the disconnect between Comrade Hazare’s reason for the crash course and your take on the integrity of the indvidual.

    I appreciate that you have honestly expressed the same in your post above. That, for me, is integrity. It’s a remarkable construct on what may be mistaken by cynics for mere consistency.

    I feel the first faux pas was in associating a Gandhian intervention in a democratically elected government’s law making process to a people’s movement against corruption.

    The second, and more outrageous than the first, was the evaluation of the motive of the anti-corruption sentiment against the strength of the government’s resistence. This trivializes the magnitude of the issue of corruption.

    When I first saw all the twitter and television media celebrities on the stage at Jantar Mantar, I feared that Comrade Hazare’s primary agenda would be hijacked. Specially, if the tourists had decided to join the fast in support of a complete eradication of corruption as a cultural phenomenon. That would have set the country on fire.

    Ofcourse, those fears disappeared once I saw Jaspal Bhatti, Ramdev and Farah Khan doing their cameos for the camera and the dosawala doing some brisk business.

    As I have said to Sharmila earlier, I feel the end did not justify the means in this case.

    • A remarkable quip from Reader as always!

    • So Anna Hazare has won the first round.

      What will he and the rest of India do now in order to keep the momentum going? If they rest on their laurels, even an ignorant bystander like me can predict with some certainty that the politicians will do their best to keep the status quo.

      And succeed.

  2. Shocked about the death of the 8 year old daughter of the famous play back singer and national award winner KS Chitra

  3. Sharmila,

    Please read the Security Incident Alert that was released a few months ago by the WordPress programmers. The servers (although mostly OpenSource) had some of its database hacked. All admin accounts were asked to change passwords.

    Hope you have done that.

    The entry about 2012 seems something from a bot. It even quotes your site as the source of the 21 Dec 2012 doomsday prophecy.

    Looks like some bot or engine has broken into the spam settings on your dashboard.

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