Why Jai Karan supports Anna Hazare

Jai Karan in The Times of India

My own feelings about the Anna Hazare movement are mixed, or you could say confused. I like the way the movement is bringing an arrogant government to its knees, and though I don’t know if their version of the Lokpal Bill is the best way to fight corruption, I appreciate how they have exposed the UPA’s farce of a bill. I get the point that fellow-travellers Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam are making about democracy and political movements, but as one unit of ‘the people’, I don’t see why I should support a movement just because it is popular. Perhaps it is my elitism and naivete and cynicism. Or perhaps I’m just confused by now. The taste of the pudding is in the eating, and I’d like to see where this takes us.

While I sort out my confusion, I see a message on Facebook, attributed to Anu Ramdas, that says:

kafila’s 4 prominent authors write a series of con articles about how valid the media crap fest around baburao hazare is. running away from big media, indeed! don’t look too hard at the caste/religion of these paid ‘public intellectuals’.

Since I don’t see why Anu Ramdas is any more a representative of the Dalit community than Jai Karan, I am taking the liberty of reproducing in full Jai Karan’s interview to The Times of India:

Govt has let us down, Anna is our only hope

Shobhan Saxena, Aug 21

In an indication of the kind of effect Anna Hazare has had on the nation, Jai Karan, a sapera in Badarpur, on the Delhi-Haryana border, who can’t read or write and is jobless most of the time, tells Shobhan Saxena that the anti-corruption crusader is his only hope. Excerpts:

How do you make a living since you are not allowed to keep snakes or perform with them anymore?

Most men here have formed been and dhol parties, and we perform at weddings and birthdays. We get some work for four-five months during the wedding season. The rest of the year we sit here and wait for work. Our situation is hopeless

The government doesn’t allow you to follow your traditional profession, but has it done anything to help you get alternative jobs?

They have done nothing at all, only promises. Five years back, the Delhi government invited us to perform at Central Park in Connaught Place, and Sheila Dikshit promised to give us jobs. We are still waiting. We have been demanding jobs for our children in zoos and forest departments because we can handle snakes, but no one has bothered to call us.

But the government invites you to perform at cultural events. Doesn’t that help?

Rarely. More than 70 saperas were invited to perform at the Commonwealth Games village during the Games. We were paid Rs 200 per person per day. We were supposed to get complete sapera dress but they didn’t give us shoes. I think Suresh Kalmadi swallowed that money too. They spent thousands of crores on the Games and gave us Rs 200, making us walk barefoot in front of foreigners.

Have you put your demands for jobs and education in front of the government?

Yes, dozens of times. But nobody listens. We have submitted petitions and raised slogans. No one has done anything yet. They have killed our profession, snatched our snakes and abandoned us. We have no hope from the government which is itself drowning in scams. Now, Anna Hazare is our only hope.

Anna is campaigning for a strong Lokpal. How will that help you?

Anna is fighting against corruption and we are the worst victims of corruption . If we go to a government office for a job, the officials ask for bribe. If we want scholarships for our children , they ask for bribes. When we tried to make BPL cards, they asked for money. Because we didn’t have money to bribe them, they gave us Above Poverty Line cards.

How will a Lokpal check all this?

If there is a strong Lokpal, we can go to him and register our complaints. At the moment, there is no one to complain to. The corrupt are not scared of anyone and they openly ask for bribes even for things which are due to us. When we go to government offices with our caste certificate , they ask us to go away, saying ‘You are not Scheduled Caste’ .

But you have a SC certificate…

Yes, I have, but it’s in English and I don’t know what it says (shows the certificate issued by deputy commissioner, south district. It says saperas are SC). This is a useless piece of paper. We have no education. How can we get jobs without education? It’s better that the government gives us licenses for performing with snakes. Then we won’t have to beg before politicians, and bribe the officials for education and jobs. At least the future of our young men will be secure.

Do you expect the government to listen to your demands?

We expect nothing from the government. If there is a wedding or a party in your house or neighbourhood, please call us to perform. At least, we will make some money.

29 thoughts on “Why Jai Karan supports Anna Hazare”

  1. Though huge turn out is impressive, being skeptical is not all too bad, because it amounts to some sort of critical engagement


  2. Another unsympathetic article on Anna team and their movement: http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-view-fascist-streak-of-team-anna-apoorvanand/20110823.htm

    Huge turn outs only show the people’s pent-up anger against the malaise of corruption and their hopes that some standard-bearer and reliable honest leader to fight it has come up and come out in the open but that does not necessarily mean they understand the pros and cons of the exact points at issue here and as to whether Anna team is not overstretching itself.


  3. The first thing that strikes you in this interview of Jai Karan is its heartfelt honesty. I’m sure the stories of millions of Indians like Jai Karan won’t be any different. But what Jai Karan, the thousands physically at Ramlila Maidan & the millions there in spirit fail to understand is that its not as simple as it sounds. I’ve been reading IAC’s own analysis of the Jan Lokpal draft and something very elementary comes to the fore – a daft superficiality & lack of depth. Something the millions of Anna supporters are in no mood to pay careful attention to. I shall put forth a couple of points I fail to get.

    The analysis is available here…

    1. On page 10 of the document, there’s a flow-chart depicting the process for grievance redressal. Once the issue goes to the Lokpal. the Vigilance Officer (the first face of the institution), will solve the grievance, impose a fine on the guilty officer and levy a penalty on the department, all within 30 days. This shows absolutely zero understanding of the level of engagement the likes of Jai Karan have with the state. Unlike the urban elite, whose engagement with the state is restricted primarily to property registration, birth/death/marriage certificates and maybe a couple of other sundry items, the likes of Jai Karan have to engage with it at virtually every level of existence. PDS, Education, Healthcare, Employment, Posts & Telegraph, Small savings…the list runs on. Given the rotten state of governance today, the grievances could run into millions in barely a few weeks. Will the Lokpal have the manpower to stand up to its 30 day deadline for each grievance?

    2. Pages 11 & 12 deal with the “checks & balances” to ensure the incorruptibility of the Lokpal. The selection process talks about the selection committee having two judges of the Supreme Court & two CJ’s of a High Court. But there’s a funny rider for these judges. They have to be the youngest SC judges & the youngest HC CJ’s. Do I read a presumptory bias here that the younger judges are more prudent/honest/capable of this responsibility or is it there just to increase the fashion quotient?

    3. Going forward with the “checks & balances”, the second point mentioned is that the bill will ensure that the Lokpal staff works “well” (whatever that means). Under this point, all we get to see is claims of transparency. I don’t understand how that translates into working well.

    4. Further, the analysis states that the bill will ensure that the Lokpal & Lokayukt can’t be influenced. Fair & easy enough. But how do they ensure that the thousands of officers under the Lokpal & Lokayukt staff can’t be influenced? Mum’s the word.

    I’m sure there will be more frailties exposed in subsequent readings and I shall post them on my blog soon. Sadly, my blog doesn’t go around a lot. I wish there was someone who could at least get some level of rational & critical thought into this movement that’s sadly missing it, all the way from the grassroots to its leadership.


  4. ‘Look, one Dalit feels this way about the Lokpal. Here is another Dalit who feels exactly the opposite’ – that’s all I can hear you saying. So, yes, Shivam, this article is casteist and symptomatic of Kafila’s difficulties in engaging with caste. I don’t understand why Anu Ramdas and Jai Karan are being quoted in tandem. The way Jai Karan has been introduced by the Times’ journalist is extremely offensive and I do not understand why Kafila had to quote it verbatim.
    There probably are opposing views on the Lokpal Bill in any community you should care to look at. Several Dalit intellectuals have expressed deep concerns about the attack on the constitution that the current protests constitute. Why does Anu get singled out here?
    If Sunalini can ask what caste the Financial Times is – for quoting her out of context and clearly espousing an upper-caste perspective on reservations – then Anu can ask what caste Kafila is too. After this offensive post, I think she will have far more reason to.
    I am aware of your earlier writing on themes relating to caste and I don’t find any of that sensitivity in Kafila – Why?
    And where did that image come from? The Times’ article? Or did you find it to be convenient shorthand to depict how Jai Karan ‘probably’ looks?


    1. I am not looking for any ‘sensitivity certificate’ from anyone, I hope you realise that. I’m not saying you don’t have the right to ask Kafila’s caste. I’m only saying that just as Anna Hazare does not represent every Indian, Anu Ramdas and people like her, who brand everything they disagree with as anti-Dalit, also represent only themselves and not every Dalit. The photo is indeed from the Times and that is Jai Karan himself – you so wish I had goofed up on that. Nice try. Next time. You ask: “Several Dalit intellectuals have expressed deep concerns about the attack on the constitution that the current protests constitute. Why does Anu get singled out here?” Let me answer that with a counter-question: Several casteist platforms have endorsed the Anna Hazare movement, why does Anu Ramdas single out Kafila?

      Not that I mind – thank you for the attention. I’m only flattered for the constant attention Anu Ramdas and her friends give Kafila.

      One of these days have a look at: http://kafila.org/tag/dalits/
      And: http://kafila.org/tag/caste/



      1. I have followed some of the discussions that Anu has initiated or participated in on Facebook, Shivam, and that is about the extent of my friendship with her currently. I have never got the impression that she is ‘branding people who disagree with her’ as ‘anti-Dalit’.
        No, I did not wish for you to goof up. I was only hoping you would add a caption and/or credits to the picture.
        I’m not sure why Anu singled out Kafila. You will have to ask her. I know that I am engaging with you because we have had earlier conversations, because I respect the work that you do and think that Kafila is a space where such discussion is possible.
        Yes, I am aware that Kafila does publish the occasional piece on caste – I count 14 so far in 2011 and 5 in 2010 – how many of them were written by Dalits?


  5. What Anu Ramdas has said still holds valid. And what Shivam Vij does to counter her observation is not so innocent as Jai Karan’s participation. It is sophistry to present one Jai Karan to suggest that this mobilisation is not communal, casteist and reactionary. It is akin to deny the fascist nature of the mobilisations in the Gujarat massacre or the Kandhmal pogrom since Dalits participated in them. Make no mistake, this ‘crusade’ is not about the Jai Karans of the country; its about the ‘purity’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘cleanliness’ in ‘public life’ envisaged by the Golwalkars, Hegdewars and Savarkars. If a Shivam Vij, Nivedita Menon or Aidyta Nigam wishes to be a part of it, so be it! Its their democratic right. But then, they must be ready to answer for their actions. This is the burden of being a ‘public intellectual’ (and not the least for being paid for by the taxpayer’s money). They must not be too miffed when questioned about their social location determined their by caste/religion (and not to forget their class). Shivam Vij would know that these factors go into the making of our choices, and it is the choices we make that makes us. No point in pretending to be ‘confused’ – it is apparent that you have already made your choice in this case.


    1. “It is sophistry to present one Jai Karan to suggest that this mobilisation is not communal, casteist and reactionary.”

      i am issuing an OPEN CHALLENGE to prove that this movement is “communal, casteist and reactionary.”??You and your fellow travellers who make such claims are simply driven by your own prejudices.

      Lastly Few examples of “radical” double standards:-

      1)A bunch of Indian middle class guys protesting…..must be communal and casteist.and yes of course “fascist”….”radicals” cannot be part of it.
      2)A bunch of foreign middle class guys protesting in a foreign country…….yes yes “radicals” will shout “SOLIDARITY!”..people’s movement!


      1)Fascistic hindu right is there in Ramlila maidan……therefore “radicals” cannot be there.
      2)Fascistic Islamist are there in Lal Chowk………no problem our “radicals” can stand shoulder to shoulder with them…and also invite them to delhi for conferences.


      1. Dont worry much about Jai Karan, Sivam… He has his own reasons to be part of this agitation despite whatever ideological strands are dominating, and the dalit intellectuals are better placed than anybody else to conceptualize those reasons… So any attempt or sophistry to juxtapose one position to the other is too pathetic, at least


  6. “Since I don’t see why Anu Ramdas is any more a representative of the Dalit community than Jai Karan,”: Shivam, this remarks of yours is not valid. Unfortunately, Jai Karan is an uneducated fellow thanks to India’s brahminical political economy. Fortunately, Anu Ramdas could access education. Unfortunately, the millions of dalits could not afford to go to foreign land to get higher educatioon. Fortunately, Baba Saheb Ambedkar could get an opportunity to go to Colombia University. So the fortunate dalits, who could get education, has natural right to be a representative voice of his/her community than the unfortunate dalits. Not only dalits all caste/community lean upon their educated class to speak through.


    1. We can agree to disagree on this. Ashok ji. I don’t think the educated representing the uneducated is a democratic ideal endorsed by the Babasaheb-drafted Constitution.


    2. Ashok,

      Mayawati is reported as supporting Anna Hazare’s agitation against corruption and she is very much educated. As Malarvizhi noted, almost every community will have some people who support Anna Hazare and others who oppose him. Even the reasons for supporting or opposing can differ.

      That corruption affects everyone can hardly be denied. But it ought to be noted that corruption can affect people in very different ways. The way Jai Karan is affected by corruption is not the way I (and people like myself) are affected by it. The following comment by Rahul Roy on another Kafila post illustrates this point:

      I remember once travelling without ticket on Indian Railways from Delhi to Dehradun in an unreserved compartment full of poor men and women returning to their homes after a season of working as construction labour in the capital. At some point a Railway Protection Force jawaan got into the compartment got in and extracted one rupee from each and every occupant of the bogey except for us five with our rucksacks and jeans who were going on a trek. His gentle advice to us was that we should shift to the second AC compartment where seats were empty. He never asked us for our missing tickets nor for the one rupee he had extracted from everyone else. The incident shook me up and I remember it ever so vividly even now.

      It is not clear that such differences have been taken into account in the Jan Lokpal bill. It is not even clear that those leading the movement are aware of such nuances. That is a fair point. But to call all people who support the movement anti-Dalit is not exactly fair.

      For the record, I am upper caste, have views on the economy which will be termed “neo-liberal” by most who run this blog, and yet oppose the Jan Lokpal bill and don’t associate myself with the movement against corruption.


      1. The point missed by Rahul Roy and Suresh is that those “poor” men and women will be still afford to pay that 1 rupee bribe if caught, so that they can avoid purchasing an expensive ticket….


  7. “Make no mistake, this ‘crusade’ is not about the Jai Karans of the country; its about the ‘purity’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘cleanliness’” – Rajimel

    This underscores a key point that I would argue has eluded some of the ‘pro-protests’ commentators on Kafila. Words like ‘cleanliness’ and ‘efficiency’ are not just Hindu codewords – they also function as an essential part of industrial and corporate jargon. These protests belie an underlying endorsement of capitalism that seems to have escaped the attention of the so-called ‘leftist’ intellectuals here.

    We must subject to careful scrutiny the forces providing the financial and organizational backing for these protests. Where are these supposedly modest and abstemious individuals finding the resources to hold these mass protests? i fear that the corporate powers that be have not only hitched their wagons to this movement, but are its prime movers. They will benefit from the passage of this circuitous legislation?

    I must confess that some of the articles on Kafila concerning this subject have been disappointing and profoundly troubling.


  8. I actually spent a day at the Ramlila Ground, talking to people. I realized that most don’t understand the jan lokpal bill or the government’s version, they are just fed up with corruption. And they think this group of people is doing something to resolve the issue. For them, that’s enough to support them.


  9. Malarvizhi Jayanth: As I said, I’m not looking for any certificate on how caste-sensitive Kafila is. Really. One or two pieces have been by Dalits. Our guest posts are mostly what people send us. I’d only be happy to get more and more submissions on caste, and from those who identify themselves as Dalit/Bahujan. How many posts on your Writing Caste blog are by upper castes by the way? Your comment reminds me of the comments from Hindutvawaadis who come here and ask how much we have written on Islamic fundamentalism. Really, as I said, I’m not looking for any certification. You think we’re casteist? Brahminical? Anti-Dalit? Fine, we’ll live with it. And I don’t want to ask Anu Ramdas anything. My fear is that if we start posting on caste more often, Anu Ramdas and Other Friends Obsessed with Kafila will start accusing us of hijacking the Dalit discourse and will call for saving Ambedkar from Kafila. Either way, we’re doomed.

    Thankfully, the pitiable slandering of the kind Anu Ramdas and Friends indulge in does not affect Jai Karan’s life.

    And I’m not responding further, please feel free to have the last word.

    Suresh: I completely agree with you. Is that because we are both upper caste and anti-Dalit, closeted RSS etc?


  10. Funny to see Dalit intellectuals being exposed for what they are, disconnected from their own communities but constantly claiming to represent all Dalit-Bahujans when taking on the rest of the world.


  11. I am happy to see that my legacy continues. My party is most happy that in the urgent task of opposing this unconstitutional fraudster who claims to be Mahatma Gandhi! My gratitude to Chandrabhan Prasad, Udit Raj and Kancha Iliah (who is not Dalit and is usually not seen in the same boat) for helping the Indian National Congress in this hour of need. Ditto for the Facbook Dalits. Jai Hind!


  12. Shuddhabrata Sengupta and Mukul Sharma have written disapprovingly on Kafila about the Anna Hazare movement. Those who have written in favour of the movement, their stance is explained by Anu Ramdas as coming from the caste they were born into. Does that mean Mukul Sharma and Shuddhabrata Sengupta can be given a certificate of being caste-sensitive by Afthab, Malarvizhi and Anu Ramdas? I’m sure they would love to have such a certificate. Can you scan and email?


    1. Thought you weren’t responding further? Is it ever possible for someone else to get the last word in? Oh well, we live in hope….


  13. Can anybody be unmindful when a litigent goes to various Court for legal relief? From Advocates to clarical staff to court payadas all demands bribe to give temporary relieve to litigents, rob them without giving any relief. From asking hugh cost for Certified copy to getting a date for hearing all needs bribe money for relief. This happens right at the court premises where people go for getting relief. How a corrupt system in judiciary can give legal relief unbiased when nothing is available without bribe? Similar is in the other issues with various department of any Government of today. Be it Municipal Corporation, Housing board etc. If Annan wanted Jono Lokpal for these sector to check coruption where he is wrong? Mr. Khursid, Mr. Primister or any of these elected representatives can not reliase these problems or they want to shield the corrupt people in the lower rank too when they are robbing middle & lower class by corruption?


  14. can we have another democratic system, in which, people can demand referendums, and make their government conduct one, so that they do not have to come on streets every now and then and fetter their energy in justifying which personality they support or do not support. Can ‘one person, one vote’ principle, so cherished by Ambedkar, be exercised on each law and each issue, if and when the people choose to?


  15. Today I find one more reason to feel proud as an Indian. A social reformer, through complete non-violent means has been able to bring about nothing short of a revolution. The movement has manifested the power of democracy, Gandhian principle of non-violence and ushered a new dawn of mass enlightenment.

    If a movement for a similar goal had started in countries like Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan or even China, there would been at least 2000 people killed and thousands wounded. And that’s why this movement is even more remarkable – a revolution succeeded without any bloodshed! I feel proud to be an Indian today – it proves that we are definitely more civilized than those failed states.


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