The People

Not enough people are asking what is motivating people to go to Ramlila Maidan in such large numbers. People like Ghazala Jamil and Anish Ahluwalia are not asking this question because for them the whole thing is an elite, middle-class conspiracy that is anti-Dalit, anti-OBC, anti-Muslim, anti-justice, anti-equality, anti-peace, anti-love and anti-sex.

These saviours of the marginalised, the poor and the vulnerable make the point that Anna Hazare’s means are showing contempt for the people by not letting people’s chosen representatives delay anti-corruption measures. They are making the point that unless Anna Hazare’s movements takes up issues of land reforms and justice for Gujarat’s Muslims, he should not be supported. 

At the Ramlila Maidan, people may different views on justice for Gujarat’s Muslims and police reforms that make the police independent of the executive. They are all, however, united by the desire of mechanism that would do something about corruption. To not appreciate this sentiment is to have utter contempt for these people. Unlike Ghazala Jamil, Anish Ahluwalia doesn’t even hide it. He writes: “One cannot ignore the possibility that sometimes large number of people can move from one misconception to another without bothering to examine its long term consequences.”

Tripti Lahiri has recorded a few such stories of misled people, people who Ghazal Jamil presumes are anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit:

Sunita Kundu, 35, Army tank repair worker: Corruption has become so great. To fill any form, to do anything, you have to give a bribe. It happens a lot. To file a police complaint takes 500 rupees.

Manvendra Singh, 38, runs a computer supply firm: For government workers, their salary is like a pension; to get any actual work done you have to pay money. Even for a phone line, you have to pay a bribe.

Vinod Kumar, 59, auto parts trader: I bought a plot of industrial land [from its previous owner] in 2005; I haven’t been able to get it transferred [to my name] yet. I paid 200,000 rupees for it. They asked for 50,000 rupees to get it transferred. One of the officers [I dealt with] was later caught with two million rupees in bribe money. Those people went to jail and came out also; I still haven’t got my plot. I’m 59. Now what factory will I start?

R.N. Mandal, 40, driver: My village is in Bihar. There is a scheme called the Indira Awaas Yojna [it provides financial assistance for home building to rural families who are below the poverty line]. We’ve been waiting one-and-a half-years for it. Our name is on the list but we haven’t received all the money. In my family I got it, but my mother didn’t get it. They say her number hasn’t come up yet. Even what I got wasn’t the full amount, the village headmen kept 5,000 rupees.

Ravi Agrawal, 36, manufactures motors and other industrial parts: It’s a daily experience. The policemen put those barricades on the street and they stop you. They ask for your license. Then they ask for your registration card. Then they ask for your insurance. Then they ask for your pollution check certificate [meant to be renewed at gas stations every three months]. If you have got all these things, they say your lights were on high, or they weren’t on. Until they get 100 rupees, they keep asking. [Link]

I can imagine the naysayers going up Sunita Kundu, Manvendra Singh, Vinod Kumar, RM Mandal and Ravi Agrawal and say: “Shh! This Anna Hazare is a fascist and doesn’t care about displacement of tribals! Don’t be fooled by him. Support democracy! You have elections to make yourself heard. Use your vote! Wait for your chance to vote the Congress in power again in 2014 because we have to keep the Hindu right out, okay?”

25 thoughts on “The People”

  1. shivam, I really didn’t think you’d come up with this. Consider the supposed high impeccability of the promised lokpal body. as someone who regularly discusses caste and its habitus, i don’t think it is very difficult for you to imagine what an unregulated, unlelected and imprecise ombudsman body’s caste composition could be like? of what nature will its own reproduction of existing caste hierarchies be like, given that it is not going to face reservations? when the logic of impeccability and credentials will be applied for the constitution of this ombudsman, where will caste figure?

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  2. Shivam Vij,
    Is it not blasphemy to ask people directly like that? You should have consulted books in your libraray and found out the motive.
    Great post. It is a relief after ur-fascism,minoritism and Dalitism. It is ironic that some on the Left has suddenly found so much virtue in our elected representatives. If you bury yourself in your prejudices and books you fail to see the real world. If you are really on the Left you have to engage with raw people,not just academics at JNU. Then you will have to find out why people who have not read ‘Red’ books are reacting in a certain way.Instead of us giving them motives that we read from our books is it not better to ask them ourselves or listen to them when somen one else ask?

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  3. So well said sir.. Half of our problems are created coz OF SUCH PPL as they neither take a just stand nor let other take it

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  4. Well-said Shivam. It shows by now. The ordinary person in the streets holds the “radical” left in utter contempt if at all he/she has heard about it, which is rare. You will find considerable support for this Left though from elite, jeans-clad, summer-in-Europe, Lodhi Garden-walker types who love chiselled English, yankee puns on words, sneer on the “establishment”, and, of course, bleeding hearts for the tribals. As Chomsky and others have repeatedly pointed out, the real elite is anti-State, anti-Government, in favour of controlled grassroots organisations etc. They also detest the “middle classes” for their closeness to organized working class, for the noise they are capable of making when they are not stoned by consumerism.

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  5. Well said. The so called intellectuals should stoop down to the level common man’s thinking to fully understand why the movement has garnered such support. Labeling it as ‘middle-class movement or associating with any other issue will only result in self-deception.

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  6. hehehehe… good one. But Shivam just tell me, why are we stuck to these two positions only? Either Anna or Congress? Either Congress or BJP? Either Anna’s bill or not other bill? There is need to look beyond that too. Its fine, huge number of people are supporting it, but there are huge number of people out there not even supporting it. We live in the world where we have more means of manufacturing the consent, inspite of that people do take independent positions. To write of people’s emotions who are for the campaign is surely contemptuous but to bash those who do not support it is equally contemptuous. Is there any problem in keeping the difference of opinion alive? The way supporting the movement has become a certificate of being national or anti-national, its definitely a concern.

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  7. Interesting cross section of opinions, highlighting a range of problems. Question only is how best do we seek answers to these. By giving people like these the right to ask questions of their local authorities and giving them the power to move the machinery of administration for redress. Or by empowering a super-bureaucracy that will play the messianic saviour, addressing problems large and small — investigating and prosecuting everybody from the Prime Minister to the gram sewak?

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  8. Well said, Shivam.
    When events happen in far away countries, they smell like Jasmines but when much better things happen at home and the venue shifts to Ramlila Maidan, it stinks.”Door Ke dhol Suhane”.

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  9. Great reply Shivam,

    These so called “intellectuals”, who till the other day held parliament and elected representatives in utter contempt have suddenly discovered the virtues of parliamentary democracy! The least they can do is engage with the movement and then draw conclusions. But to dismiss it outright as right wing, casteist, communal or best of all “fascist” shows the utter contempt they hold the “people” in!

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  10. No body in their right mind will oppose a fight against corruption. But people reserve the right to comment on the nature,character and larger meaning of the ‘movement’. To answer the dissenting voices with self-righteous diatribe and not with meaningful arguments is avoidable at best. The whole thing is not a elite middle-class conspiracy but it has definitely become a media-bloated, bollywoodesque spectacle which is riding on the same old frivolous symbols and practices of nationalism to further the odious nehru/gandhi legacy and plastic ideals.

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  11. “At the Ramlila Maidan, people may different views on justice for Gujarat’s Muslims and police reforms that make the police independent of the executive. They are all, however, united by the desire of mechanism that would do something about corruption.”

    Then, Vij Sahab, why can’t readers and writers united by the desire of celebrating literature have an event in Kashmir? They may also have different views on justice for the Kashmiri people.

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      1. If cultural organisers, like those behind the Harud Literary Festival, are expected to be sensitive to larger issues of justice and oppression around them, why not political organisers like Anna Hazare and his team?

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  12. “They are making the point that unless Anna Hazare’s movements takes up issues of land reforms and justice for Gujarat’s Muslims, he should not be supported.”

    It was Hazare who praised governance in Gujarat. Is it so unfair to ask him to clarify his position? If Gujarat is his model, then no one should be blamed for being fearful?

    Janab Shivam Sahab please inform us, why Anna should not be questioned on his own statements?

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      1. So if people are fearful of his brand of politics, should they be caricatured as Congress supporters? Many other right wing movements also got a cross section of public support after getting traction in the upper caste media.

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  13. I sense that there is a disinclination among leading Indian academics (who understandably are left-leaning) to critically engage the Indian middle classes. There seems to be almost unspoken assumption that the middle class is this or that. Perhaps I am not aware of the literature, but Vinay Sitapati’s recent article in the EPW was the first time in a long time that I saw an actual analysis of the middle class, its structure and an explanation for its behaviour.

    I am wondering if the bifurcation of our higher education system into ‘institutes’ that produce a lot of the middle class and a select few colleges (JNU, DU) that produce the intellectual class are atleast in part responsible for the current scenario. Let me comment here that the more comprehensive American public universities (faculty AND students), even in hyper-right states like Texas are strongly left leaning.

    I hope the events of this year shed some more light on the middle class and its engagement with the working classes beyond the usual ‘India Shining’ or ‘right wing fascist’ labeling.

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  14. ‘Not enough people are asking what is motivating people to go to Ramlila Maidan’- I quite agree. The blame falls fairly and squarely upon the Govt. for not providing basic facilities and infrastructure so as to ensure that adequate numbers of people are encouraged and supported to ask what is motivating people to go to Ramlila Maidan. More sinisterly, not just the Govt. but also socially responsible Think tanks and N.G.O’s have utterly failed to initiate measures to ensure enough people are asking what is motivating people to not ask why people are going to the Ramlila Maidan.
    Very name ‘Ramlila’ supplies clue- it is only an illusion that some great Evil is being battled by pure and God-like heroes. Still, festivals are needed to punctuate the monotony of life

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  15. Good one, Shivam,

    I am reminded of a joke which Prof Randhir Singh, a popular Marxist teacher in Delhi University (till the mid-80s), used to crack. He was a very funny and intelligent speaker but became repetitive over the years. Anyway, the joke went like this:

    I was in Manipur. People there told me, we are not part of India.
    I asked them, do you have corruption in Manipur?
    They said, lots.
    I said, Come on, you are very much part of India!

    ravikant

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  16. “People like Ghazala Jamil and Anish Ahluwalia are not asking this question because for them the whole thing is an elite, middle-class conspiracy that is anti-Dalit, anti-OBC, anti-Muslim, anti-justice, anti-equality, anti-peace, anti-love and anti-sex.” Shivam Vij, you’re sounding distinctly like George W. Bush: “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” It was nice to criticize Bush after September 11, eh? But when it comes to your favorite movement of the day, you speak the same language to those who don’t agree with you. Beacuse I disagree with the tone and content and method of this movement, in your view, I must be either a lunatic or a whiny minority or an elite. *Nice*.

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  17. Shivam, I am confused as to why naysayers are assumed to not be able to walk up to the people Tripti interviewed and say: “Anna Hazare will not solve your problems.” That seems like a legitimate response, which has the not inconsiderable merit of being absolutely true.

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  18. To Ravikant –

    ‘Good one, Shivam’? “GOOD ONE Ravikant? Like seriously? Since when has Kafila become the personal domain of a gang of boys who can’t deal with disagreement?! Shivam Vij has been absolutely obnoxious in his comments to Ghazala and Anish’s posts on YOUR very esteemed forum Ravikant – and you’re encouraging his crude bullying tactics?!

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