A Few Words For Anna Supporters

. 8/22/11

At a time when disagreeing with Anna Hazare is tantamount to treason, punishable with instant lynching by belligerent netizens, I choose to stick my neck out in the hope that somewhere out there, some people still have enough balance left to listen to a contrary view.

While I am unequivocally in favour of a scrupulously apolitical movement against corruption, Anna’s latest fast is terribly disillusioning.

It’s as if the citizens have rallied behind a deceptive ‘shortcut’ in the fight against corruption and ‘outsourced’ the same to the ‘do-gooder’ firm of Team Anna. Item numbers by Bollywood stars and spiritual gurus have added spice to the circus. Finally, 24-hour television has gleefully packaged this ‘reality show’, providing a perfect cathartic experience for a pathologically passive civil society, to believe they are ‘actively’ participating in a historic people’s struggle that has resulted in a great triumph within days.

Alas, the fight against corruption is nowhere that easy.

It takes no personal courage to join an anti-corruption rally, but how many of us are ready to stand up in our daily lives to resist everyday corruption that one comes up against? How many of us take the trouble to lend more than moral support to a friend, neighbour, acquaintance who seeks to remedy an injustice? How many of us aren’t corrupt ourselves either as ‘givers’ or ‘takers’ of bribe in some form or the other? How many of us are completely untouched by the culture of ‘doing and seeking favours’ for mutual benefit even in the private sector?

Make no mistake, the only way the culture of rampant corruption will ever be rooted out is by the refusal of every citizen to compromise and pay up, every single time. Not by lazy, big ticket, populist measures like fasts unto death and dharnas.

It’s no profound truth, just simple common sense. When you refuse to pay bribe, why is it that the person demanding it simply brushes you aside? Because he knows you are in a miniscule minority. Your fellow citizens are more than willing to oblige the bribe-taker, so he sees no need to humour you.

It is this kind of corruption that most of us face and need deliverance from. Sadly, that cannot be tackled by the Jan Lokpal Bill.

For, do you think that if a mammoth organisation like the Jan Lokpal Bill envisages is set up it is going to be staffed from top to bottom by angels? Pray where are we going to find these angels? Going by Indian society’s corruption quotient, we might end up with by far the most extortionist institution ever. For what better avenue of palm greasing and blackmail exists than dealing with complaints against anyone?

Thus Anna Hazare’s fast has the fatal potential of putting people’s faith in the wrong kind of impersonal solutions.
Moreover, can such so-called people’s movements be considered truly representative?

Figures floating around suggest that 4.4 million net users supported Anna, while the total number of netizens in India is nearly 40 million. What then about the ones who chose to be silent and outnumber the vocal ones several times over?

Apparently, a million people have protested in the metros in the last few days. Well, what about the 153,482,356 (153 million) Indians who voted for the current government? In any representative system, should 5.4 million people be allowed to dictate to a government elected by 153 million people?

Sorry, that’s simply not enough in a constitutional democracy. Not the least because the media has itself been guilty of over-hyped and rabidly one-sided coverage. If the fourth estate starts playing to the gallery and passes off propaganda as reportage, it loses its right to be considered a credible opinion-maker. For how do we know whether the credentials of Team Anna have not been ‘sexed up’?

Why does the media handle Team Anna with kid gloves? Why are no tough questions asked? Why is there no healthy skepticism about their credentials, their methods, their world view, their logic, their thoughts? Why this cloying worship of Anna Hazare? What if he turns out to be a flawed god?

By: Salil Desai

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