New Delhi, April 30: The enigmatic allure of the ‘anti-corruption’ agitation spearheaded by Anna Hazare and his brigade has no doubt captured the imagination of the common masses. For nearly a year, it remained the burning topic for electronic as well as print media. One of the reasons behind this larger-than-life transformation is that Team Anna’s movement has been able to hit the government where it hurts the most.
The agitation has compelled the common masses-from across social, economic, political and class divides-to ponder over the issue of endemic corruption, which, unfortunately, has hogged the limelight under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance II regime.
Loud and screaming, intermittent banner headlines, played repeatedly on corruption ad-nauseum have placed the UPA-II in the dock of collective socio-political consciousness. This has also provided unwarranted legitimacy to the movement that is being run by a motley bunch of self-proclaimed representatives of people.
However, since its inception in November 2010, Team Anna’s movement has undergone massive and deeply radical internal changes. A whirlpool of allegation and counter-allegations, points and counterpoints, criticisms and counter-criticisms have somewhat marred the image of this movement.
Consequently, and unsurprisingly, Swami Agnivesh has been booted out, Mufti Shameem Kazmi-the Muslim face of the movement (besides core committee member Shazia Ilmi) humiliated and thrown out of a crucial meeting on charges of alleged spying.
Moreover, the movement seems to be standing at the crossroads, with some over-ambitious members of the brigade clearly aspiring to join active electoral politics. Astoundingly, despite claiming to be working for democracy, some members of Team Anna also estimate the value of electoral politics to be nothing more than a Rs. 100 currency bill, and that a bottle of whisky can ensure a leader a seat in the national parliament-the sanctum sanctorum of Indian democracy.
Adding to the cauldron of confusion and contrasts is the latest ‘declaration’ by Anna Hazare, who says neither does he intend to form a political party, nor to join electoral politics. However, Hazare asserts that he will give the ‘common man’ a credible alternative to exercise the right to vote.
Amid the ideological tug of war due to internal and inherent pulls and pressures, the Anna Hazare movement is clearly trapped in the never-ending labyrinth of politics. n a nutshell, the movement seems to groping in the dark, in search of viable and feasible issues and a concrete agenda, to reignite to its dying flames.
At this juncture, when so many queries and theories are presently haunting the minds of the intelligentsia as well as the masses, Harper Collins is going to release a book devoted to Anna Hazare and his movement.
Edited by a young journalist, Arunodaya Prakash, the book, titled “Annandolan:Sambhawanayein aur Sawal” (Anna Hazare’s movement: Possibilities and Queries) is actually a compilation of diverse views on the phenomena from across the spectrum.
Written in lucid style, it brings out a range of views and voices from people who are either closely attached with this movement, or have observed it at close quarters with a hawkish eye.
Prakash has tried to bring forth both views-that of pro-Anna and anti-Anna.
Among the book’s chief contributors are Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Udit Raj, Sandeep Pandey, Shakeel Ahmed, Praveen Jha and Vijay Vidrohi.
Clearly, for anyone wanting to understand the nuances and layers of Anna Hazare’s movement-with its pros and cons- then this book is definitely a must-read.
The book, however, does bring out strong pointers that are anti-Anna, rather than emerge as a typical testimony supporting the movement. Those opposing Anna Hazare succeed in their attempt to make people fathom the intricacies and the fallout of the type of movement that has been initiated and shaped by the core group of Team Anna.
Incidentally, the various streams of thought included in the book seem to unite over a common belief: that yes, corruption has indeed shaken the nation and must be stopped by all means, but Anna Hazare’s movement does not guarantee the complete elimination of the menace either. This seems to be a point of convergence between pro and anti Anna elements in the book.
Most of the contributors, such as Aruna Roy, Sandeep Pandey, Praveen Jha, Virendra Yadav and Udit Raj are of the view that the movement has been blown out of proportion by the media. In their own words, the movement is nothing but an illusion, a “creation of the media”.
This point is strongly proved in the stirring articles written by senior television journalists, Ashutosh and Vijay Vidrohi. In his well-crafted piece, Ashutosh tries to compare the movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare with the one initiated by Jai Prakash Narayan in the 1970s. Ashutosh attempts to establish his theory that ideologically, Anna’s movement should command more respect than that of JP’s movement, considering the former was and is largely non-violent, organised and disciplined.
Ashutosh is of the view the 21st century has got another Mahatma Gandhi in the name of Anna Hazare. Similarly, Vijay Vidrohi’s article is also an adornment of Anna Hazare. He is also of the opinion that there is a sense of renewed hope and faith for redemption and change among the common masses, in Anna’s agitation.
The book opens with an article written by Manish Sisodia. The article is humdrum and simply a chronology of the agitation since November 2010, when Anna Hazare, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Swami Ramdev lodged an FIR at New Delhi’s Parliament Street police station seeking legal action against corruption in the Commonwealth Games.
According to Sisodia, the movement was conceived right there at the Parliament Street police station.
The very second piece is that of Arvind Kejriwal’s, which is in the form of an interview taken by Arunodaya Prakash himself. The interview reflects the egoistic traits inherent in Arvind Kejriwal’s personality, especially when he declares that no matter what, he only does what he thinks is good.
There is another interview, in which Sri Sri Ravishankar claims his Art of Living was the origin of this movement and that it actually started in March 2009 during a seminar organized by his disciples. Really, historians will have to face a lot many problems while tracing the origin of this particular movement, with so many voices, and so many claims.
The hawkish opinions authored by Aruna Roy-member of National Advisory Council-social activist Sandeep Pandey and senior economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Praveen Jha , are some of the pieces that make for excellent reading.
Their write-ups seek to unravel the hidden truth behind this agitation.
Virendra Yadav, a well-known Hindi writer and critic, asks how and why the movement has been able to garner massive support of Bollywood, the entertainment industry, corporate houses, Page 3 socialites and Hindu right-wing outfits like the RSS and the VHP. Praveen Jha argues that the way this movement has used “crowds and crowd-pullers” as its weapon, is a danger signal for democracy.
Yadav urges the society to contemplate whether it wants to be ruled by a positive “democratic ideology” or by downright “mobocratic stubbornness.”
A highly-detailed and elaborate piece penned by Aruna Roy throws more light on the weaknesses of this agitation. Point by point, the Ramon Magsaysay Award winner credibly demolishes the theories and arguments put forth by Team Anna on the issue of formation of the anti-graft watchdog, the Jan Lokpal. She also successfully raises the feasibility, authenticity and accountability of the proposed Jan Lokpal.
Another interesting piece, written by veteran journalist Sudhanshu Ranjan, underscores that Anna Hazare’s movement has lost its direction and the allegation of corruption leveled against the core committee members has to a great extent eroded their credibility. Moreover, Sudhanshu believes, that when Anna Hazare himself comes forward to protect Kiran Bedi, embroiled in an embarrassing and indefensible Airline Ticket row, it is natural and obvious for questions to be raised over the moral integrity of the movement.
An important thing to be noted is that the book not only incorporates academic and social viewpoints but also provides enriching political perspectives. Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed, renowned dalit leader and chief of India Justice Party, Udit Raj and AISA leader Shefalika Shekhar have also penned down their opinions on Anna Hazare’s movement. While Udit Raj accuses the Anna Hazare movement to be piloted by certain individuals trying to further the cause and aspirations of upper castes and corporate sector, Shefalika Shekhar’s allegation is that the movement is being funded by business leaders and tycoons with a sinister motive to dislodge the present government.
Needless to say, the book “Annandolan:Sambhawanayein aur Sawal” aptly justifies its title. However, interestingly, it leaves behind more “questions,” rather than bringing out the “possibilities” of the phenomenon.
All in all, it is a great attempt to analyze the causes and effects of one of the greatest mass social movements to have been witnessed by India in decades. By Pankaj Choudhary (ANI)