Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hats off to Team Anna

Anna Hazare has agreed to break his fast tomorrow morning. This came about after the Loksabha unanimously agreed to include 3 important issues raised by Team Anna in the Lokpal Bill.
Is this what Team Anna wanted?
No, they had demanded that the Janlokpal Bill should be passed by the Parliament in this session itself.
So is this really a victory for Team Anna. They have said that it is a partial victory

True, it is only a partial victory, but I am sure no one among Anna's team would have really believed that the Janlokpal bill will be passed in this session of Parliament. Their hard posturing, in my opinion was for strengthening their hand during negotiations and they did negotiate hard with a direction-less faltering Government.
I am saying 'Hats off to Team Anna' due to their following achievements.

Janlokpal movement Achievements:

1.They brought topic of corruption to center stage

 By their continuous hard work and help from the media they were able to put spotlight on Corruption for a prolonged period of time.
2.They made all political parties take a stand on lokpal

None of the political parties had a clear stand on lokpal. This movement forced them to take a clear stand.

3. Made sure that we will have a strong Lokpal against corruption and judiciary accountability Law soon.

Without this movement's constant pressure the Lokpal Bill would have been hibernating again in cold storage for another decade.

4. Proved there is space & need for political activism beyond political parties & that it can be effective.
 UPA 2 was reeling under corruption in the Center and most States. BJP was no different in states ruled by it. The Principle Opposition being a sectarian Hindutva oriented one made Congress over confident. Left Parties living inside their ideology-jail were ineffective.Thus Indian Polity became stagnant with political parties in a deep freeze.
Team Anna was able to churn the stagnant political climate in India. They proved that there is space of political activism in India and for that one need not form a Political Party.

 5. Proved there is still scope for non violent mass movements & fasts in India if the issue raised is important to all.
 Indian freedom struggle was one of the least violent of mass movements in the World. Thus we have a history of creating and sustaining such non violent struggles. But sadly in recent years most of our agitations were violent resulting in street fights and arson. Team Anna now proved that even in 21st century there is role for Gandhian style struggles and fasts. They proved that such a struggle for a popular and just cause creates so much credibility problem for the Government that they will have to mediate and address the issues involved.

Today I am not trying to enumerate the numerous faults and drawbacks of this movement. According to me they are not that significant compared to the achievements.

This is only a small step in making our country a better and more just place to live in, but a very important step.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Janlokpal movement and the Left

As the fast of Anna Hazare continues in Ramlila maidan the question of the position to be taken by Leftists towards this Janlokpal movement is being fiercely discussed in Intellectual circles. As I have stated in an earlier post in April,for me there was no confusion about whether I am for or against the movement. I had concluded in that post that
"Any movement which brings out ordinarily selfish and inert people out into the streets for a peaceful agitation for the betterment of the Society should always be hailed"

 This I feel should be the view point from the Left of the political spectrum.

Now more articles have come out both in favor and against Janlokpal movement.

Arundhati Roy has criticised the movement terming it elitist,casteist, Hindutvaised and one that is threatening to topple the State.
What she wrote is in red while my comments are in black.
For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State
Now where did I hear Team Anna saying they want to overthrow the Indian State. Why Ms Roy is beginning her article with a falsehood? Is this to frighten away middle class supporters of Anna?

In April 2011, a few days into Anna Hazare's first “fast unto death,” searching for some way of distracting attention from the massive corruption scams which had battered its credibility, the Government invited Team Anna, the brand name chosen by this “civil society” group, to be part of a joint drafting committee for a new anti-corruption law. A few months down the line it abandoned that effort and tabled its own bill in Parliament, a bill so flawed that it was impossible to take seriously.
 Ms Roy herself agree that Government abandoned talks and came out with a very flawed draft bill. Then why she is not supporting the strongest political movement against that flawed bill?

Meanwhile the props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna's Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the celebration of the nuclear tests.
Where she got this idea that this movement is dominated by upper caste reactionaries? Read Nivedita here after she went to see what is happening in Ramlila maidan.
‘The People' does not mean the Manipuris who support Irom Sharmila's fast. Nor does it mean the thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur. Nor do we mean the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley. Nor do we mean the farmers in NOIDA, or Pune or Haryana or elsewhere in the country, resisting the takeover of the land.
Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we've heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer's suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer's agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn't seem to have a view about the Government's plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India. The Team Anna's movement includes people from diverse backgrounds and political views. They have joined together for a narrow aim,the passing of a strong anti-corruption law. Bringing other issues here is needless. Team Anna is not a political party with manifesto having a view on each and every issue under the Sun. Asking Team Anna about these issues is same as Sangh Parivar asking Arundhati Roy why she is not supporting  Kashmiri Pandits when she speaks about oppression of Gujarati Muslims.

Will the 830 million people living on Rs.20 a day really benefit from the strengthening of a set of policies that is impoverishing them and driving this country to civil war?

Will a strong anti-corruption law harm the poor? Why it will not help the poor? Crores of rupees for poverty alleviation are diverted to pockets of many year after year. Will this law at least stem the tide? Why Roy is then against it?

This awful crisis has been forged out of the utter failure of India's representative democracy, in which the legislatures are made up of criminals and millionaire politicians who have ceased to represent its people. In which not a single democratic institution is accessible to ordinary people

True. So what is Ms Roy's solution for that? Armed struggle? If so say it openly or come out with a better solution. It is easy to critisize but difficult to act to bring a positive change.
For a change the Leftist web portal Kafila came out with a non-cynical article about Janlokpal movement.

Nivedita Menon wrote:
how do we on ‘the Left’ manage so unerringly to be exactly where ‘the people’ are not, time after time?Increasingly though, in the course of the current mass upsurge that has coalesced around the figure of Anna Hazare, I have been feeling more and more alienated in my community, by its strident demands for absolute purity of the radical position; its aggressive self-marginalization and self-exile to a high ground where credentials are closely scrutinized; its absolute incomprehension of and contempt for ’the people’ when actually confronted by them.
Any mass movement brings together disparate and sometimes starkly contradictory tendencies. Don’t we know that from the Indian struggle for independence? Was the Indian bourgeoisie absent from it? Or the religious right of all sorts? Or casteist and Brahminical forces? (Of course the Left – the CPI – even during the independence struggle was painfully tortured by such questions, and often did exile itself to its high ground, missing the moment completely. This time round, that historical memory seems to have stood them well.
If absolute purity and a point-to-point matching of our full political agenda is required for us to support a movement, then feminists would be permanently stuck restively in the waiting room of history, for I can assure you that every mass demonstration you see anywhere ever, is packed with patriarchal men and patriarchalized women! Nor does any movement except the women’s movement ever raise patriarchy as an issue. But what is it that we take into account when we do support a movement? One – does the movement express a goal or demand that we support? Two – Does the movement as such explicitly take positions that are anti-women or anti-anything-we-stand-for? (Clue: the answers should be yes and no respectively).

This movement is centrally about corruption, and corruption touches every single life in India. It touches the labourers whose muster rolls are faked, it touches the agricultural worker whose NREGA payment is swallowed up, it touches every poor undertrial and prisoner in jail on trumped up charges (was it surprising then, that the undertrials in Tihar fasted in solidarity with Anna?), it touches the farmer whose land is seized to be passed on to corporates, an issue mentioned by Anna Hazare in his speech at Ramlila Maidan (kisanon ki zameen zabardasti chheeni ja rahi hai). Holding government and the bureaucracy accountable for corruption will check corporate corruption, because guess whom the corporations have to bribe to circumvent every law and every rule?
This is a moment pregnant with possibilities. Just as the attainment of national independence marked the beginning of new lines of conflict and the resurfacing of old ones, the success in any form of this campaign will only inaugurate more differences. Just as the coming into being of “India” opened up possibilities and dangers, so will this. This is true of any project of transformation.

And just as “they” have set aside their casteism and communalism within the space of the movement, “we” will have to set aside our radical critiques of what ‘they’ stand for. We cant go in there in confrontational mode, but in solidarity with a minimum common agenda. For there are many thousands in there who are not communal, not casteist, not elitist, and we cant afford to lose them
The movement doesn’t really need us, let’s be clear. But do we need it?

Shouldn’t we be there?

Yes, everyone should be there.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why Anna Hazare's movement is popular?

The increasing popularity of Anna Hazare's movement and his fast against Corruption has baffled many,especially the intellectuals and  more so the Government.
Let me try to elucidate 5 important points that is making it popular.
1. Corruption is an important issue for every one in the country. It is a menace not only for the poorest of the poor but also for the richest of the rich.It is an issue in every corner of the country regardless of gender,class,religion, caste, language etc.
2. Non violent mode of protest is one of the most attractive and safe mode of protest and everyone including a woman carrying a baby or a physically challenged person in a wheelchair can participate.
3. Though the movement itself is one of the most important Nation-wide political activity in recent times in India,it is devoid of political color of any single Party. The movement can be broadly classified as on the Left of the political spectrum in the sense that it is liberal mass based protest against  anti-people State. But those participating it hold wide variety of political views.Lack of any political color makes it very popular.
4. Anna Hazare himself is a cute lovable character with a  clean image. Team Anna members are also held in  high esteem for the integrity of their character and for their track record in public life.
5. Inept handling of the protest movement by the Govt,especially the arrest of Anna and lodging him in Tihar jail and the way Anna handled it helped to increase his popularity.

 I have not included 24/7 visual media coverage among the 5 most important reasons  because I do not believe it played that important a role as many think. Media aims at improving TRP. Popular non-violent David vs Goliath movements with twists and turns every hour are their bread and butter unless their owners have a vested interest against it. The coverage has contributed to the popularity,but the coverage happened because it is popular.
 Though I am not sure how this movement will culminate, I am sure that it is a tremendously positive phenomenon in the Indian political scene.