Over a year ago, I had written on Kafila about the (Ir)resistible rise of Arvind Kejriwal, a phenomenon thoroughly misread from the beginning to this moment, by free radicals and Left devotees of Congress-style politics. Taking the risk of saying ‘I-told-you-so’, some lessons need to be underlined, learnt from the political developments of the last three years. That post said – referring back to the days of the Anna Hazare movement (itself dubbed reactionary, casteist, even RSS-sponsored and fascist, by pundits of all hues) –
But here was the political class and the intelligentsia from Left to Right taking the protestors to task – asking them to tame their dissent and channel it through ‘proper channels’. Contest elections and let us see how much support you have, they challenged. Anna Hazare stuck to his guns, refusing the bait. Kejriwal however, seems to have decided to call their bluff. And much before the last hunger strike failed, his political mobilization started moving away from the single point agenda of the Lokpal Bill. Apparently taking up the challenge and moving towards the constitution of a political party, Kejriwal has entered the field in a manner that might even begin to pose an electoral challenge to ruling as well as opposition parties. How much of a challenge it will be we cannot say. However, one thing is quite clear: It will probably introduce an element of serious uncertainty in the coming elections, whenever they are held. Old formulas will cease to work. Equations are bound to change with new imponderables entering the scene.
Continue reading AAP Halts BJP Advance in Delhi
Guest post by NIRMALANGSHU MUKHERJEE
First of all I strongly object to the various insinuations posted in several comments. However, with due respect to a veteran activist, I think the older generation of left activists are by and large failing to come to terms with an unfamiliar form of protest in the IT-age. For them perhaps, Tahrir square looks full of promise at a distance from where all the finer dark spots get blurred; not so when it is happening in the neighbourhood.
The janlokpal campaign has three broad components: the core group with Anna in front, the bill itself, and the people. The Maoist campaign also has these components. There are serious problems with the first component in either campaign insofar as the condition of “democratic elections” are concerned. In the Maoist case, it is just an upper caste and largely upper class coterie of people thrust on the adivasis. The programme of proctracted war to establish “new democracy,” i.e., the second component, is also deeply flawed. Yet, the Maoist campaign is routinely advertised as a just campaign because it is supposed to be a people’s campaign driven by a people’s army. The current terminology is “bottom-up.” The reality of this proclamation is not the issue here, the structure of justification is. The Maoist campaign with its flawed first two components is justified because “people” have accepted and wanted them, contrary to fact as indicated. But the same commentators are terrified when the same structure is offered for the janlokpal bill. Or is it because Dandakaranya, likeTahrir Square, is safely remote while these “middle-class people” are dangerously close?
Continue reading Response to Gail Omvedt: Nirmalangshu Mukherjee
We are reproducing below a statement issued by NTUI
NTUI Statement On the Fight Against Corruption
Workers’ life and work experiences are very different from those of the middle class and the ruling elite; so is their experience with corruption. For the middle class, corruption is a mechanism to accelerate government procedures in the public or private sectors. For the working class, corruption deepens their experience of subordination. Instances of corruption that are directly experienced by the working people are the result of the unequal power relations that govern workers’ daily interaction with public institutions and is therefore contributing to a sense of distrust and loss of faith in these institutions. There can be little doubt that corruption affects the working class disproportionately more than it affects economically more privileged sections of society.
Continue reading New Trade Union Initiative on Anti-Corruption Struggle
This guest post comes from GAIL OMVEDT
Why are such masses of people (apparently: in our village some came out for a morcha organized by the Maharashtra Navnirman Samiti) following Anna Hazre, when it is now clear that his Lokpal is an authoritarian, centralized and undemocratically pushed proposal?
Several articles, including those by Arundhati Roy and Aruna Roy, have made this clear by now. I can find only one point to disagree with in the otherwise excellent article by Arundhati: that, like the Maoists, the Jan Lokpal Bill seeks the overthrow of the state. It does not. The movement wants to keep the state, in an even more centralized form, but replace its current rulers with a new set. And Ranjit Hoskote’s comment that “Anna Hazare’s agitation is not a triumph of democracy [but] a triumph of demagoguery” deserves to be remembered. The increasingly authoritarian, even fascist forms of activities are disturbing even many of its supporters.
Continue reading Tired of Democracy? – Gail Omvedt
A Statement Issued by some individuals and friends in social movements
The Anna Hazare situation invites two common reactions: many dismiss it as a middle class driven “urban picnic”; and others, notably the mainstream media, describe it as just short of a revolutionary movement to establish “people’s power.” The same divide exists among progressives and those concerned with social change. Strategies differ on the basis of where one stands on this divide. The problem, however, is that neither of these reactions fully reflects the reality of what is happening.
Continue reading A Great Opportunity, A Serious Danger: A Statement
This post has been jointly written by Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam
At Ramlila Maidan
We went to Ramlila Maidan yesterday, the four of “us” considerably swelling the numbers of about a lakh and a half of people there by 6.30 pm, when we left. They were either sitting inside, milling about outside all around its walls, or pouring in having walked from India Gate. (Is the media exaggerating the numbers? In our opinion it is underestimating them considerably).
Continue reading If only there were no people, democracy would be fine…
[The statement was issued by the National Alliance of People’s Movements on 14 August. Much has happened since then – the arrest of Anna Hazare – accopanied by silence and often ridicule poured by the radical elite, but in the face of what is perhaps one of the most widespread mass movements in India after Independence. Over the past few days, we have been witness to innumerable demnstrations and marches in almost every colony in Delhi – where no TV camera ever reached or was even expected to when the ‘real’ action is going in in central Delhi. Contrary to the general propaganda and even our own earlier impression, this is no more simply a middle class movement. I am reproducing it here, somewhat belatedly, because it still touches on some of the post important points at issue in the ongoing struggle. – AN]
Anna Hazare Ji and manyothers across India will be starting their fast from August 16th in Delhi demanding an effective Lokpal. NAPM supports the people’s movement for a corruption-free India and urges the citizens of the country to plunge into this struggle. NAPM, along with other organisations is holding relay fast, human chains, public meetings and other programmes, in Chennai, Pune, Mumbai, Narmada Valley, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Bhubaneshwar, Bangalore, Mysore, Mou, Balia, Allahabad, Muzzafarnagar and other places. We urge our members and supporters to join this call and challenge the corrupt and defensive governments at the Centre and the states.
We strongly disapprove of the way in which government has been trying to put severe restrictions on holding peaceful protests in the capital, and Delhi Police under the garb of implementing the Supreme Court’s Guidelines is imposing unnecessary conditions on protests, as it did early this month on SANGHARSH anti-land acquisition protest, AISA-DYF anti-corruption protest and others. For an independent democratic country like ours, imposition and insistence on police permission and strict guidelines for holding peaceful protests and Sataygraha seems completely contradictory and only shows shrinking spaces for democratic freedom of expression and curb on fundamental rights of its citizens.
Continue reading NAPM Extends Support to Anti-Corruption Movement and Demand for an Effective Lokpal