A Case for Fractured Solidarities and Skepticism: Ghazala Jamil in response to Nivedita Menon on Anna Hazare

Guest post by GHAZALA JAMIL

On August 17 at 5:30 in the morning I sat up to follow the latest developments on Hazare front (for sleepless nocturnal souls like me it helps that Ramzan are on). Logged into my facebook account and found that I have been labelled ‘a cynic’ for my status updates and posts on Hazare mobilisation. Got into a facebook ‘discussion’ argument with a friend abroad (All my homesick friends abroad have been smelling wafts of the ‘Arab Spring’ in all this).

Okay, so we have already heard a lot about the reservations the ‘cynics’ have about Hazare’s leadership, his views, ideology, methods and demands. “Unfortunate that Hazare praised Narendra Modi… but he retracted the statement, didn’t he?” ask my friends and students who exhort me to be more ‘reasonable’. “It’s very tragic that no political party can claim to be really clean. They all have blood on their hands. Congress, BJP, even the Communists. So who should he align with for us to trust him?” another friend quizzed me? “Anna is old. He looks honest. He has no family that he may want to benefit. He has been working in field when we (apparently ‘left intellectuals’) just sit in AC rooms and discuss” they go on.

Mobilisations and utopias also come in different hues. Hazare’s utopian village has been brought about by flogging people who drink alcohol and use tobacco. In his earlier limited area of influence his vision has been shown to be tinged with authoritarian ideas. More over now that he has come on the larger arena it is clearly tinged with saffron. He has made his contempt of democratic processes pretty well known. His methods preclude any possibility of dialogue. We know how Hazare and group broke away from the larger civil society alliances and are bent on pushing their version of Jan-lokpal down everybody’s throat.

Then came an explosive argument from within- I was disturbed to read Nivedita Menon’s write-up on Kafila.org blog that IBN7 liked so much that they did not just link it to their website but republished it in its entirety. I have learnt so much about nuancing my stances on feminist discourses in India from her writings and could not really believe my eyes that she is succumbing to the lure of numbers. I know the frustration of going to numerous ill-attended marches, dharnas and demonstrations year after year and feeling queasy to see the large mobilisations of anti-Mandal campaigns, Ramjanmbhoomi campaign and violent Bajrang Bal, ABVP mobs imposing their version of ‘Bhartiyata’ on streets and university campuses across India. In 2002, Gujarat saw ‘numbers’ mob-up and kill Muslims to punish them in a state-legitimised twisted version of communal relations. In subsequent elections Gujaratis have turned in ‘huge numbers’ to reward Modi and vote him to power.

It is a surprising and strange argument that ‘we’ should piggyback any mobilisation that has numbers- ‘come together and go their separate ways when their campaign succeeds’- as Nivedita Menon puts it. Let me just try to understand this argument in light of already raised point of view regarding space for Muslim participation in Hazare’s movement against corruption. First, as we all know the definition of corruption as money changing hands and ending up in ‘foreign accounts and politicians lockers’ that the movement forwards is limited. It does not take into consideration of another sense of corruption- that of the executive, bureaucracy, police and judiciary literally not doing anything for the victims of, say, the Gujarat 2002 and other earlier pogroms against the Muslim community in India. Second, from all the above mentioned ‘bloody hands’ of political parties Hazare chose to pat the back of the bloodiest of them all- Modi for good governance! I’m pained for having to point this out but till real justice remains to be done to the victims of Modi’s ‘good governance’. I am not convinced by any strategic retraction of statements. Nivedita Menon, you are right about the Muslim fear of BJP coming back to power at the centre in any of its coalition-combination-avatar but that’s just one part of the story. Also, till the point that this kind of corruption is addressed, Modi and Gujarat 2002 will remain a festering sore for Muslim community. Remember Vastanvi? Third, Jamat-e-Islami and Muslim Personal Law Board have issued statements but since when have they been accepted by anyone as representatives of Muslim people in India.

And last, but really the core argument that I want to put forwards is that Muslims are required to leave their own issues and questions behind when their participation is solicited for this movement. My friend Pushpanjali who is researching on Jantar Mantar as a state designated site for protest reports that during Hazare fast – part I at Jantar Mantar a team from Aligarh Muslim University that had representatives of students and teachers came to express solidarity with his movement against corruption. When a sherwani clad teacher spoke of the composite culture and need to build solidarities across communities he was heckled by some saffron clad ardent supporters of Anna by loud cries of Vande Mataram. The AMU teacher made desperate appeal from the microphone to ‘Anna’ to ‘respond to the divisive elements within his movement’. Hazare chose to only smile his trademark smile to both the heckler and the heckled. In part-II at Ramlila Maidan Anna team resorted to the symbolism of organising Iftar for Muslims. But the point is to just add numbers not really build real or even strategic solidarities. Some Muslim are rendered visible while offering namaz at Ramlila Maidan but are their issues welcome there?

I’m quite tired of this burden of building solidarities that always lies with the most marginalised within the margins. Nivedita helped me saw a parallel through her writings. Mainstream women’s movement in India has been opposing reservation within reservation for OBC (and Muslim) women. Why? She asked, “are OBC women are not women?” OBC women are sure that a largely upper caste, upper class north Indian Hindu women movement would never afford them any space, they never have. Muslim women keen to build solidarities with the ‘mainstream feminists’ are asked to jettison their fears, suspicion and issues which are never addressed beyond the personal laws discourse vis-à-vis Muslim women. This is not to say that there are no ‘Muslim’ feminists within this mainstream but they are well assimilated into the discourse and oppose the ‘division’ of their movement solidarities on caste and religion lines. OBC and SC women feel that they must defend the right of upper class women to go freely to pubs and wear whatever they want to wear a-la Pink Chaddi and Slut Walks but when backward women are gang raped by upper caste mobs and their bellies cut open to kill their feotus where are these pub crawlers?! Just because we lack the requisite skills and competence to attract media gaze to our issues through maverick ideas that they seem to be bubbling with, we are reduced to just ‘numbers’. And now we are being called upon to build solidarities with Anna mobilisation because they are telling us it is the patriotic thing to do and all problems of displacement, hunger will get solved once the money stashed away in foreign accounts is brought back to India. I’m sorry but thats just more of the same.

A law against communal violence is also in the process of being drafted, so is one on social security for the unorganised sector. Why is the Hazare discourse not even mentioning these? Poor in India are slowly wasting away of hunger, their children are trying to escape and landing up on streets. Ten years ago when I began associating with urban shelter rights movement- we had homeless individuals on Delhi streets now there are entire families. We don’t yet have research to prove it but just from my own experience and that of many of my collegues and students I can tell you that almost all street children, homeless individuals and families on Delhi streets are Muslims and Dalits. Yet Muslims are told that their issues are those of personal law, fundamentalism, terrorism etc. Hazare has hit upon an oversimplified logic to mobilise casteist and communal India. It cannot be clearer to me that this mobilisation feeds on the same streams of ideology that talk of merit when it comes to backward sections asking for their fair share, killing and harassing youngsters in institution like IITs and AIIMS, the ideology that talks of Bhartiyata and hindutva in same breath.

Nivedita, if large mobilisation were to become the only requirement for our support that would be a sad day indeed. We would then be required to support Anti-reservation movement and communal mobilisations that say implementing Sachar commission recommendations is appeasement. Having followed and participated in movement against communalism I am not going to align with anything remotely saffron no matter how large it becomes and how alluring their symbols and discourses. I am comfortable with fractured solidarities- some solidarities cannot be and must not be built. Call me a skeptic if you will.

38 thoughts on “A Case for Fractured Solidarities and Skepticism: Ghazala Jamil in response to Nivedita Menon on Anna Hazare”

  1. You ask ‘Some Muslim are rendered visible while offering namaz at Ramlila Maidan but are their issues welcome there?”

    This movement has a narrow aim. It is not deviced to address each and every issue under the Sun. Why should it?

  2. the large mobilisation will bring about a strong lokpal bill that will be a first step towards ending the culture of impunity that prevails among the politicians and bureaucrats. theoretically after your file a complaint and it is found to be true then within two years the accused will be punished for certain. now this is something whichever way you look at it. it will definitely help grassroots movements of all kinds that are fighting for justice.

  3. I don’t understand the logic that every protestor should speak for and express solidarity with every other protest movement? Why? The fact that they don’t talk about Gujarat riots or muslims or women or manipur or bastar does not imply anything. If anything, the fact that every issued does not resonate in every heart reflects a failure of the people associated with the said movement in adopting the appropriate propaganda strategy. And why is the onus on their side to reach out and express solidarity with others. Shouldn’t it be the other way? Is it not the best idea to join them and explain one’s point of view?

    People should be allowed to be selectively outraged. Staying in a distance and ridiculing the protesters just because they are and they think differently from us is a net negative.

    1. yes, no one can do everything, so people should do what they feel concerned about and what they do best.

  4. For one … aren’t all the views a direct fruit of last 50 years caste-system imposed on all. why we indians choose to see one side of the story and forget the other. No revolution was with sacrificies ..and yes, 64 years before was no exception.

  5. Mostly, the idea of a piggy-back ride was offensive… and to a large extent, the parallels that are being drawn are specious. First of all, the “regime” is not really totalitarian like the one that Gandhi fasted against. Second, wafts of an Arab Spring would be more appropriate if this fasting was, as you said, for those who do face the totalitarian face of this regime. And finally, I REALLY want to know WHY he’s fasting… so call me a sceptic too.

  6. Just shows hoe inadept your at any logical reasoning. A simple anti-corruption movement has been critized (and how and for what???) .

    You belowng to those blatant supporters of congress who will castiagte any sentiment leave aside a movement which is remotely anti-congress. Bring in BJP angle, RSS angle , even go back and remind yourself of babri masjid, Godhra riots (why not go back to gandhi killing), caste politics etc etc , to not let anything which atleast has good intentions (if nothing else) just becasue it is that little bit anti congress. This inanity or should i say malice towards a society, which wants to remember the past but not behave like a moron and get stuck in the past and try and create a movement which affects it so adversely. You may think what you want .. as they say in the movie “gone with the wind” .. “we care a damn”.

  7. Anna Hazare’s movement is not related to corruption & affects the amm-admi, irrespective of caste or creed. I agree with Charakan, that movement has a narrow aim, a focused aim.
    I dont understand why shall one dilute it with religious viewpoint?

  8. I guess the onus of being inclusive lies with those who take the ‘lead’ so to say… merely replacing portrait of the ‘Bharatmata’ with that of Gandhi ranks of tokenism

    Yes, it is imperative that this ‘movement’ articulate about issues that affect the most vulnerable and margianlised peoples (adivasis, sexual minorities, muslims, dalits, women, and yes, kashmiris and manipuris too) who take the brunt of all forms of corruption… one needs to recognize systemic exclusion of all kinds… and understand that corruption affects each of us differently….some far far more than others… and it is with the latter group of peoples that one needs to make special efforts to build solidarities with… Of course just like in coalition politics, even in this ‘movement’ issues have been a casualty …

    On a different note: In the context of neo-liberal economic policy, how does the lokpal bill address corporate corruption of the Vedantas and Poscos which blatantly try to take away people’s right over their natural resources, stripping them of their livelihood, homes and dignity? How will it rein in such corporate vested interests…?

    1. Akhila,
      Hey this movement is ONLY about LOKPAL. Nothing else. Why bring in other things to dilute the issue? Team Anna is not fighting elections for us to know their stand in each and every issue under the sun.

  9. Excellent counter view Suddhabrata. Glad that you wrote it.
    The moral high-ground taken by the Anna “movement” has been suffocating for anyone with a different view. As if asking for a debate is a sin or something.

  10. If number is the criteria of supporting any movement than i am afraid why not we should be there in rath yatra of Advani and youth for equality’s movement against reservation. First of all, the issue of corruption is not the core issue in today’s crisis of indian society, secondly the model of governance, thirdly the method of agitation.
    Firstly price rise and unemployment is more important for the working class as well as today’s youth and corruption may be an issue for middile class who are in demand and supply side of it.
    Secondly the lokpal of Anna’s desire will have all power of administrative nature, prosecution and judicial power. All these power in one institution is likely to create a fascist state in future.
    Thirdly, the movement of anna is not ready to listen the dissenting view a pamphlet was not allowed at india gate by the organizer of the movement being distributed by activists of KRANTIKARI LOK ADHIKAR SANGATHAN having different view on the subject. The title of pamphlet is GANDHI NAHIN BHAGAT SINGH CHAHIYE , KOI KANOON NAHIN TEHRIR CHOWK CHAHIYE. if a movement is not ready to listen the dissenting view it is not different from any reactionary/fascist movement. And left should never be there.

  11. The essential theme of the Hazare movement is anti-corruption, the fact that he complimented a modi administration for it’s developmental efforts (and later condemned it) is incidental and quite irrelevant to the questions at hand – whether or not a Lokpal will be formed.
    Your article speaks volumes about your views on the gujrat riots, and its affect on you as a Muslim, but to the masses this movement in no way touches upon communal politics. Perhaps you’re being a the thin skinned about taking offence? a

  12. While I can appreciate the limits of the movement and the various concerns pointed out by Ghazala Jamil, to liken the “large mobilization” in the Hazare-led movement at the Maidan to the “large mobilization” supporting the communal movement in Gujarat or to the anti-reservation movement (as she does) doesn’t make sense to me at all. The anti-corruption movement unfolding in the Ramlila Maidan clearly has support from far more diverse groups. So if more groups (including the left) entered the fray and engaged with it through discussion and dialogue, and by persistently pushing its envelope, is it not possible that the movement and its concerns can be pried open wider to take on issues of systemic injustice, the moral corruption that shapes many of our policies, etc?

  13. Just to add to my previous comment: For instance, the NAPM has lent its support to the anti-corruption movement and issued a statement (that has been posted by Aditya Nigam on Kafila) that says: “We are conscious that the campaign for an effective Lokpal against corruption is not a full and final solution to all that ails our country today. It should be viewed as part of an ongoing process that can be built upon by various groups using myriad democratic styles, strategies, issues and foci… We also recognize and re-stress the reality that it is this large section of the Indian population; the gareeb, shoshit, peedit, shramik that faces the brunt of corruption most, day in and day out, in their battle for survival with dignity and we need to reach out to them.We can’t limit corruption only in monetary terms, but deal with it in terms of the systemic oppression, inequity and inhumanity perpetuated by political and non-political entities all.We are of the strong view that the battle against corruption is located within the wider struggles against corporatization, capitalism, communalism, casteism, patriarchy, criminality and consumerism which are challenges that any well-meaning, truly democratic public platform must address.” Surely, if enough numbers came forward to push the movement in this direction, it could turn in a more productive direction?

  14. This cry of “Why JLP only? Why didn’t they talk against X and y and z an blah blah blah” reminds me of Amir Khan joining Medha Patkar and NBA’s protest in Jantar Mantar some years ago. The BJP immediately pounced on him and cried- “Why Narmada Dam only? Why not Kashmiri Pundits? Why not x and y and z and blah blah blah”?

  15. Good plan! Don’t participate – in fact, actively discourage people from participating! It’s all a saffron conspiracy!

    Oh look – sand! Let’s go bury our heads there. Maybe that will fix everything.

  16. Well done! Some of the things I wished to say myself, but could not. And, mind you, I had written about this to the editor of EPW, Ram, long before this thing became such a big media blast.
    The middle class needs the publicity – the feeling that they have contributed to something; that they “deserve” it and their sense of entitlement. We are fast turning into Americanized buffoons, where issues hardly ever arise out of genuine concern, rather out of the need to follow the herd. Numbers indeed!!!
    (Ah, yes. Please churn out the usual litany of patriotism, pseudo-secular, pinko, commie, pak-lover, dissident, naxal etc etc. Not very novel, are we? Why don’t these people come out with some new pejorative? What was that about something being the last resort of scoundrels?? Really??)

    1. Well said.This kind of branding comes only from one direction. And yes. we need a leader so that our individual responsibilities as citizens can then rest on his shoulders !

  17. Why does the writer put religion or other social agenda on every governance issue being raised? To be fair, even the Right has the right to exist and protest in India as it does in most other nations. Surely you’re free to hate the Right’s policies and also protest against them for a good cause. But why lament that someone else didn’t include all social issues in their focussed agitation, and even go on to suggest that the whole agitation is anti-minority?

  18. अन्ना हजारे के आन्दोलन से जितना शोर पुरे देश एवं दुनिया में हो रहा है,
    उससे ज्यादा बड़े आन्दोलन इस देश में हुए है परन्तु इस मीडिया के युग में
    उतना शोर शायद किसी अन्य आन्दोलन ने नहीं मचाया होगा .देश की राजधानी,मीडिया की राजधानी,बुद्धिजीवियों की राजधानी एवं तमाम प्रकार के केंडल धारियों की राजधानी दिल्ली से जुड़े हर उस आन्दोलन, या देश की जनता को हतप्रभ एवं प्रभावित करने वाले उन मुद्दों की याद आज पुनः आने लगी है .इस भारत वर्ष में प्रतिदिन हजारो जेसिका लाल ,आयुषी हत्याकांड,प्रिंस और सदियों से सताए शोषित ,पीड़ित आदिवासी और गरीब जनता अपने हक के लिए , न्याय के लिए अपने स्तर पर अकेले ही संघर्ष में लगे होते है (अकेले इसलिए क्योंकि दिल्ली की भांति TRP ग्रसित मीडिया,मीडिया ग्रसित नेतागण,नेता ग्रसित चाटुकार और फेम-नेम ग्रसित NGO यहाँ इनके समर्थन में आना पसंद नहीं करते ).
    कुछ बातो पर सवाल करना आज, अन्ना के इस अनशन को देखकर बहुत ही लाजिमी सा लगने लगा है.सवाल बड़े गंभीर है और शायद इस वक़्त इस देश की जनता (मुख्यधारा से जुड़ी जनता )इसे अन्ना के विरोध में उठाया गया सवाल कह दे,या हमेशा की भांति मीडिया एवं फैशन नुमा आंदोलनों के कलेवर को पसंद करते हुए इसे बहुत ही छोटा मुद्दा माने .इस देश में (दिल्ली की पुब्लिसिटी वाले मुद्दों को छोड़कर ) ऐसे कई बड़े बड़े मुद्दे रहे है जिनपर न ही कभी इस देश की ‘मध्यवर्गी’ मीडिया ने ध्यान दिया है ,और न ही इस देश की जनता ने इन गंभीर मुद्दों पर कभी बात करने का कष्ट किया है.मै सारे मुद्दों पर यहाँ बात नहीं कर सकता पर इस देश में आंदोलनों की कड़ी में गंभीर एवं मानवता को हिलाने वाले जो मुद्दे है उनकी तुलना मै अन्ना हजारे के इस आन्दोलन से जरुर करना चाहूँगा .पहला और सबसे बड़ा मुद्दा आज इस देश में पनप रहे अलगाववाद से सम्बंधित है.’अकाल के समय अगर एक गरीब व्यक्ति को कुछ भी न देकर उसके सुन्दर पडोसी और प्रभावी व्यक्ति को सरकार ,मीडिया और तथाकथित समाज सेवी वर्ग के लोग कम्बल बाँट के चले जायें,तो शायद अगले दिन से ही उस गरीब के मन में इस सरकार और इस सिस्टम के प्रति विरोध की भावना जाग जाएगी और वह उग्र होकर क्रांति की बात करने लगेगा’ .
    इस देश में,चाहे वह उत्तर पूर्व की बात हो ,चाहे नक्सल प्रभावित बस्तर हो या फिर कश्मीर ही क्यों न हो,इन इलाको के साथ तथा यहाँ के नागरिको के साथ सदियों से सौतेलापन भरा रवैया अपनाया गया है, और आज इस अन्ना रुपी आन्दोलन ने फिर से इस बात को हवा दे दी है की , कब तक इस देश में इरोम चानू शर्मिला सरीखे लोगो को अन्ना जैसो के नीचे ही रहने दिया जाएगा .इरोम शर्मिला सुरक्षा बलों द्वारा मानवाधिकारों के उल्लंघन के विरोध में 11 वर्षो से अनशन कर रहीं हैं। अन्ना हजारे के इस अनशन का समर्थन कर रहे शायद 90 % लोगो को शर्मीला का नाम तक नहीं मालूम होगा(मालूम तो तब होगा जब राष्ट्रीय मीडिया शर्मीला को अपने पन्नो और कैमरों में जगह देगी,जिस प्रकार अन्ना को दी जा रही है ) और न ही इन्हें बस्तर कहाँ है ये भी पता होगा.(मुझे अपने तीन साल पहले तक की दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय में लोगो के द्वारा छत्तीसगढ़ को हमेशा झारखण्ड समझ लेने अथवा बस्तर से हो ,वहां तो कपडे नहीं पहनते है? वाली मानसिकता भली भांति याद है).
    सुरक्षा बलों द्वारा मणिपुर में 10 लोगों की हत्या की प्रत्यक्षदर्शी ‘मणिपुर की लौह महिला’ के नाम से प्रसिद्ध शर्मिला ने अनशन 2 नवम्बर 2000 से शुरू किया था। आज इस अनशन को ग्यारह साल बीत चुके है,पर न ही इस महिला को वो पुब्लिसिटी या सम्मान मीडिया या इस देश की जनता ने दिया है जो उन्हें मिलना चाहिए था.कारण काफी स्पष्ट है,मीडिया सिर्फ उन्ही विषयों को परोसना चाहती है जिसे इस भारत के मुख्यधारा से जुड़े लोग देखे,उत्तर पूर्व तो हमेशा से ही इस देश और यहाँ की मीडिया के लिए सौतेला ही रहा है.बस्तर के आदिवासी लोगो की भी यही दास्तान है.बस्तर में आज जितना अलगाववाद और हिंसा से लोग त्रस्त है उतनी हिंसा कश्मीर में भी शायद अब नहीं होती.कश्मीर में अगर दो बन्दे भी मारे जाते है तो मीडिया उसे पुरे दिन अपने primetime में चलाती है.परन्तु बस्तर में जहाँ रोजाना लोग मारे जा रहे है,उसे वो जगह कभी नहीं मिल पता ,क्योंकि कश्मीर का मुद्दा एक धर्म विशेष से जुड़ा मुद्दा है और इसे कवर करने में इस मुल्क और विश्व में हमेशा से ही TRP में इजाफा हुआ है.छत्तीसगढ़ के जन सुरक्षा कानून और मणिपुर के सशस्त्र बल विशेष शक्तियां अधिनियम (एएफएसपीए) पर कभी मीडिया ने कुछ खास नहीं कहा, क्योंकि इन कानूनों से केवल देश के कुछ दूरस्थ जगहों पर असर हो रहा है , ना की दिल्ली या मुंबई में.सरकार भी इन मांगो को लेकर कभी गंभीर नहीं रही ,क्योंकि इन लोगो के पास दबाव बनाने के लिए कुछ है नहीं,और कुछ है भी तो इनके साथ ये देश कभी जुड़ेगा नहीं.जब जब उत्तर पूर्व या बस्तर आग में झुलसता रहा है ,तब पता नहीं ये देश भक्त और समाज सेवी कहाँ थे,मैंने कभी अन्ना हजारे अथवा इन पूंजी पतियों को बस्तर के आदिवासियों के पास आते अथवा उनके समर्थन में बैठते नहीं देखा है.कभी कोई केंडल मार्च मैंने जंतर मंतर या इंडिया गेट में रोजाने मारे जा रहे आदिवासियों के लिए निकलता नहीं देखा है .क्यों ?यहाँ तक की बस्तर के सुदूर बीजापुर एवं नारायणपुर में मध्यवर्गी लोग अन्ना के समर्थन में अनशन और केंडल मार्च निकाल रहे है.इन लोगो ने आज तक एक दफे भी गरीब आदिवासी ,जो इन्ही के इलाके में घुट घुट कर जीने में मजबूर है,उनके पक्ष में बोलते नजर नहीं आये,इन्होने कभी मरे गए लोगो की याद में केंडल नहीं जलाये.ये दोगलापन और भेदभाव आखिर क्यों ?अलगाववाद के इस ज़माने में यह कहना अतिश्योक्ति नहीं होगा की अगर अन्ना को मिल रहे इस जनसमर्थन से शायद शर्मीला और उस जैसे हजारो,लाखो लोग इस पुरे सिस्टम से चिढ बैठे,और ये अलगाववाद की आग कम होने की बजाये और बढ़ जाये

  19. I am with you on this. My question was the same. Are we getting together because this issue affects us, our families and our pockets? I did not see any such mobilisation when people were/are being killed all over the country on some pretext or the other. may be a strong Lokpal will have it’s effect on internal security and what have you but is the protesting public looking that far or simply showing their anger at having to bribe passport touts and mcd beldars?

    1. Yes people get together to protest when they have a burning issue affectiing them directly. What is so strange about it? What is so bad about it?

  20. Your larger concern remains valid and your stand to not support a movement you are not convinced is respected but I think in an outburst you have mixed issues. Corruption, of the kind that we understand is the focus of this movement.

    We cannot blame a person for not taking up other causes. The issue of Muslim and minority representation and treatment in India is not simple enough to be explained in a post like yours.

    Also, I had read this sometime back where the following “their bellies cut open to kill their feotus where are these pub crawlers” – part was discredited. I am not going into details and I still strongly condemn the Godha riots but if the facts are right, our own argument comes out stronger.

  21. I have been reading about this Anna moment and movement and have been wondering about its nature too. And two things bother me all the time: If all these people were supporting Binayak Sen’s campaign or any other campaign of our own, would we pose all these questions and worry about credentials of people who support us: run them through so many filters? We all know the answer: we would not have. In fact, we did not when it suited us. If ten people in NY supported Binayak’s case, we all felt so happy, remember, not so long ago! So why are we raising all these questions now? I think it is primarily because it s a movement that, as Nivedita so well put it, does not need us. And suddenly we are baffled. A movement without us has to have a shaky/shady foundation. Besides, it is true that the right-wing forces are openly mobilising in favour of the movement. The point is: does it make the movement anti-people? For me, it does not. People unlike us are people too. They have the same rights that I aspire for. Of course, this movement is elite dominated. But hello, which movement in a third world country is not elite-dominated? Besides, many of us are not exactly plebian. Are we? So, with all my scepticism about Anna’s movement, I cannot get myself to oppose it on the ground that others on the street are not the kind of people I normally protest with, am at home with.

    (Let me share another disconcerting experience. I have been wondering all along about how the state and the police are treating these people with kid gloves, giving them so much space. And then I remember: how often the police have treated us also with kid gloves, given us space. Did we ever complain? Of course, not.)

    There is the second point I wish to make. This movement – and I, at times, really do not like the self-righteous attitude of its representatives (though again I keep thinking how self-righteous many of us are about our own causes!) – places a very stark choice before us: either you are with us or you are against us. To be very honest, I hate these kinds of binary choices (unless, again, when we force it on other people!). Be that as it may I still do not like to choose one of the only two options before me in this case – the bushism of it – with us or against us. But given this stark choice where would I rather be, I ask myself again and again? And I have to confess, every time I think that to reject Anna at this moment would be to side with Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh, I end up siding with Anna. I cannot tell you how happy I feel every time I realise how the sanctimonious duo of Chidambaram and Kapil has nothing to say for a change. I mean two top most vocal lawyers of the country have been silenced by an Anna from a village: just think about it. I also worry about how suddenly many of us are discovering virtues in our parliament!

    To sum up: I do not know how we can enthusiastically oppose this movement and still be an activist even though I remain sceptical about what shape this movement will ultimately take but that is another story for another time. So what should someone like me do? I will share with you what I have decided: watch it, be sceptical, remember it is not really my movement in the sense that it is still a movement-in-the-making. But to oppose it at this stage is to straight away play into the hands of the ruling elite. I cannot bear to do that. And yes enjoy the extreme discomfort of our smug representatives who fool us all the time in our own name. For a change, it is eureka moment for the people though I do wish these people were a bit more like me (some of them actually are but more would have been better! And I really really wish these people had not made me feel so marginal and so jealous!).


    PS: Having been around, to be sure only on the fringe, for a long time – more than three decades with all kinds of campaigns and groups of the left – I wish to make an observation about us. I have always found it strange that though we talk about democracy all the time, in reality we find it very difficult to deal with it. Every single time, we are posed with a situation we cannot control, have people around us we cannot define/ identify with, we begin to feel uneasy. We worry about conspiracies; we worry about motives. We worry about why these people are here!
    The thing is: democracy is messy. May be this Anna movement will be hijacked by some monster, will be derailed by the RSS. Who knows. But should that apprehension alone should dictate how we should respond to this movement and movement!
    I have just read about Nivedita and Aditya’s trip to Ramlila ground and their rich description of the experience. And I suddenly remembered the Emergency. Jaiprakash Narayan had a historic meeting there just before emergency, if I recollect correctly. Anyway, I vividly remember other meetings during the March 1977 elections in and around Ramlila ground. And I remember the feel of those meetings soon after Jagjivan Ram, a minister in the Indira cabinet till then, resigned from the Congress and joined the opposition. Suddenly, the mood shifted in a marked fashion. People were just focussed on removing Indira and Sanjay Gandhi. It did not matter who you were. I think something similar, on a smaller scale, propped up by the media perhaps, is happening here as well. I think, with all its deep flaws, Anna’s campaign resonates with the people because people are really fed up with political patronage of corruption. They just want to do something to get rid of it. They think a strong lokpal is an answer. No, they think Anna has the answer. I think people are also deeply moved by Anna’s courage. I mean, here is a 73-year old man willing to die to rid the country of corruption! When was the last time someone wanted to die for the nation in such a public manner?
    Therefore, I increasingly think that whether we like it or not, it is some kind of people’s democratic movement. We need to acknowledge this simple fact at even if we do not like it.
    Of course, numbers alone do not make a movement one should support. Just look at Modi in Gujarat; and Ram Janambhoomi movement that led to demolition of Babri Masjid. Independent of numbers, one has to oppose Modi and one had to oppose Ramjanam Bhoomi movement because both these were/are repugnant to my idea of my country. Can I say the same about Anna’s movement? So far, no. A movement really built around the idea of political accountability of the executive in whatever manner is very different from Modi’s idea of politics. We should at least be able to recognise this distinction.

  22. This kind of article reeks of a left-liberal McCarthyism which is sweeping the chatterati and media very much a part of the vast network of patronage and spoils system built up by the Congress party.
    I pray and hope that we can shake off the yokels of this brand of thinking which is rancidly compromised.The last straw was to see team Aruna Roy sound like UPA agit-prop and only shades away from the hoods called Messrs Tiwari and co.

  23. Ghazala, an open mind is critical in the troubled times we live in…a nuanced understanding of this ‘movement’, the complexities, the dilemmas and the contradictions, all need our patience, and openness to comprehend what is going on, ..thank you Nivedita and Aditya.

  24. Loved reading this article. And regarding the ‘mass support’ for Hazare, am compelled to quote Anatole France here

    “Even if 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”

    1. A foolish thing?? A stand against corruption is ‘a foolish thing’? Really?

      Speaking of foolish things…

      1. Supporting a proto-fascist, a neo-conservative, a political cretin, just because he has ‘a stand against corruption’ is nothing short of foolishness. In fact, ‘foolishness’ is a rather generous term to describe this phenomena….

  25. This article isn’t a response to what Nivedita wrote but an example of the silliness she wrote about. Why would I, a casteless confirmed pub crawler who supported the Pink Chaddi movement (may it live on in our hearts) not be agitating right alongside *you* when an upper caste mob rapes a lower caste woman? Might it be because to satisfy your image of a genuine activist, I’d have to agree with each and every one of your views? What does our current situation, where those with power can do as they please, bode for those without, like the twice-blessed women from a ‘lower’ caste?

  26. Apart from often sited arguments against the present movement, the point worth mentioned by the author is the question of large numbers alluring us. To me and i hope Nivedita Menon will agree with it that the question is more about the nature of this ‘mass’/ ‘people’. The question is what is the composition this mass? where is coming from? what about the background? Are they all coming from Sang Shivirs or there are people from all sections from workers, peasants, students, women, dalits, tribals, trade unionists? if the author argues for the former then author needs a introspection. Also this movement is not limited to only Ramlila Maidan and Anna Hazare it has moved to small towns, villages, cities and at times away from Anna Hazare and his team.. For the author of this piece i will suggest that you have the answer in your friends words.. “we (apparently ‘left intellectuals’) just sit in AC rooms and discuss”.. At last for all of us i would like to quote Pranay krishan from one of the most thought provoking piece on this anti-corruption movement. “जिन्हें इस आन्दोलन के संघ द्वारा अपहरण की चिंता है, वे खुद क्यों किनारे बैठ कर तूफ़ान के गुजरने का इंतज़ार करते हुए ‘तटस्थ बौद्धिक वस्तुपरक वैज्ञानिक विश्लेषण’ में लगे हुए हैं? आपके वैज्ञानिक विश्लेषण से भविष्य की पीढियां लाभान्वित हो सकती हैं, लेकिन जनता की वर्तमान आकांक्षाओं की लहरों और आवर्तों पर इनका प्रभाव तभी पड़ सकता है, जब आप भी लहर में कूदें. तट पर बैठकर यानी तटस्थ रहकर सिर्फ उपदेश न दें. आन…्दोलन की लहर को संघ की ओर न जाने देकर रेडिकल परिवर्तन की ओर ले जाने का रास्ता भी आन्दोलन के भीतर से ही जाता है. तटस्थ विश्लेषण बाद में भी हो सकते हैं. लेकिन यदि कोई यह माने ही बैठा हो क़ि आन्दोलन एक षड्यंत्र है जिसे संघ अथवा कांग्रेस, कारपोरेट घरानों, एनजीओ या मीडिया ने रचा है तो फिर उसे समझाने का क्या उपाय है? ऐसे लोग किसी नजूमी की तरह आन्दोलन क्या, हरेक चीज का अतीत-वर्तमान-भविष्य जानते हैं. वे त्रिकालदर्शी हैं और आन्दोलन ख़त्म होने के बाद अपनी पीठ भी ठोंक सकते हैं क़ि ‘देखो, हम जो कह रहे थे वही हुआ न!’.

  27. I whole heartedly agree with Ghazal’s views. Anna’s movement ostensibly for a plebeian cause was largely fuelled by web warriors and media. It hardly has any strong ideological and political platform. Hats off to Parliament to rising up to the challenge and coming out with a measured response based on clear cut distinction between ‘democracy’ and ‘mobocracy’. While I am extremely concerned about systemic flaws and issues like corruption, some questions come to my mind. What is Anna’s position on the socio economic, ethno- political issues of the country? The indifference and dismissiveness displayed by Anna and his band towards any form of dissent for his campaign borders on nihilism – a trademark of ultra-right groups. Without spelling out a clear cut vision and ideology, merely buoyed by swelling ranks of supporters Anna Hazare has donned the mantle of a quasi-constitutional power. Worse still, now he wants to strike at heart of our democratic set up by advocating radical electoral reforms such as ‘ right to recall’ elected representatives. If one connects the dots, the potential fallout of Anna’s demands can be quite spine chilling. One, he wants to override the democratic institutions and usurp legislative powers. Two, he wants to dismantle the framework of representative politics. All along, he has displayed rabid contempt towards electoral democracy. Mass based nationwide anti-corruption such as Anna’s needed to reflect hopes, aspirations and concerns of each and every citizen of India. It should not be based on realpolitik. Lynch mob mentality is extremely dangerous to nation. Because there is very little that separates frenzied mobs of Gujarat in 2002 and Anna’s frenzied followers.

    Anna is in twilight of his career, he has ignited the spark of dissent and rebellion in the minds of generation X. The same generation that prides itself in being branded ‘rebellious’. And he has deliberately parked his movement outside the realm of electoral politics. Because it is clear he wants to thrive on incongruities and ambiguities of the system. Therefore, he is more appealing to youth because they do not see any political colours on the surface, and yet they see the same strands of rebellion. Like them, he detests political system, militates against the laid down constitutional norms. So to me this is a kind of fringe mentality. The other day on a debate at NDTV Prashant Bhushan openly questioned the current representative system of democracy and said it had lent itself to corruption. Here lies the insidious part. They don’t believe in democracy. And want to coin their own brand of democracy which is based on rabble rousing and bringing people out on roads. Because frenzied mobs heavy on anti-establishment dosage are their bargaining chips.
    I ask a question, when he and his coterie denigrates the politicians, deride the Constitution and revile the current system. What are they driving at? What is the alternative in their minds? After Anna, who has the acceptability, appeal and capability to lead the struggle which they want to drive down to grass root level? For all the bluster and blandishment demonstrated by Anna and his rabble rousers, the final outcome was emerged from a constitutional apparatus and not outside it. And not outside them. Anna’s brand of activism poses more grave danger to national stability because it strikes right at the core of our identity- the constitutional democracy.

  28. Wow, we finally hear ‘voice of dissent’ (i also wonder why critical reflections thunder from the margins). Great read and in complete agreement with the author,with a slight objection to statement on OBC and SC women.

    I dont think so anyone has forced OBC and SC women to speak against Ram Sene. or defend the right of upper class women to go freely to pubs and wear whatever they want to wear a-la Pink Chaddi and Slut Walks …..

    OBC and Dalit women very well know that there is no ‘sisterhood’ in these shallow engagements of feminism. And honestly, if you hear from Dalit Feminists they care less about Hindu feminists and their feminism. Dalit feminist speak for themselves and dont seek any solidarity, Good sign, ironically. So lets not presume again that OBC and SC women are meek and can be forced. There are fault lines and we should acknowledge them if we come from the margins.

    Back to Anna, the most tragic moment (apart from the televised tamasha), Muslim and Dalit (girls) were used to break fast of Mr Hazare, who actually is making mockery of Indian democracy and constitution. Deeper fractures!!!!!!!

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