Tag Archives: Anti-corruption movement

AAP Halts BJP Advance in Delhi

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.

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Response to Gail Omvedt: 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

New Trade Union Initiative on Anti-Corruption Struggle

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.

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Tired of Democracy? – Gail Omvedt

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.

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A Great Opportunity, A Serious Danger: A Statement

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.

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If only there were no people, democracy would be fine…

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).

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NAPM Extends Support to Anti-Corruption Movement and Demand for an Effective Lokpal

[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.

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Democracy, Populism and the ‘Middle Class’: The Return of ‘Anna Hazare’

[This is a considerably expanded version of an article that was published in Himal May 2011. It is being re-published, elaborated and updated, in the context of the farcical draft of the Lokpal Bill roduced by parliament and the threatened round 2 of the movement. – AN]

Corruption – a Systemic Affair?

Let me start with an ’emperor’s new clothes’ kind of question: What is a systemic understanding of ‘corruption’? What is a political understanding about corruption as opposed to say, a touchy-feely ‘moral’ problem? Yes, some of these phrases are straight from Arundhati Roy’s ‘When Corruption is Viewed Fuzzily’, published in the Indian Express on 30 April. But my question is not directed only at her. She represents – at least on this issue – a much wider consensus among sections of the radical intelligentsia.

Roy herself has left nothing to the imagination as to what she means:

“Among the millions of understandably furious people who thronged to Jantar Mantar to support Anna Hazare and his team, corruption was presented as a moral issue, not a political one, or a systemic one — not as a symptom of the disease but the disease itself. There were no calls to change or dismantle a system that was causing the corruption. Perhaps this was not surprising because many of those middle-class people who flocked to Jantar Mantar and much of the corporate-sponsored media who broadcast the gathering, calling it a “revolution” — India’s Tahrir Square — had benefited greatly from the economic reforms that have led to corruption on this scale.”

To her, the system that lies at the root of corruption is embodied in the ‘economic reforms’, which have led to corruption on this scale. I have no way of measuring the scale – though I might be inclined to agree with her that in my living memory, I have not seen so much compressed into such little time-space – from CWG to l’affaire Niira Radia to Adarsh Housing scam and the Bellary brothers – not to speak of the daily corruption in land acquisitions that dot the landscape of the country. Nonetheless, I do remember that something like the Bofors scandal or the ‘irresistible rise’ of Dhirubhai Ambani – all predate the ‘economic reforms’. And of course, I will not even try to mention the innumerable cases of corruption from Nagarwala onwards – including political corruption that led to big mass movements in Gujarat and Bihar in the 1970s. Those were the days when Mrs G proclaimed that ‘corruption is a global phenomenon’. To me saying corruption is systemic and must be analyzed ‘politically’ (whatever that means), sounds pretty much the same.  So, if neo-liberalism is responsible for corruption, how do we explain the instances mentioned above? How do we understand the great socialist states which secreted corruption from every pore? What does a ‘systemic analysis’ of corruption really tell us?

However, Arundhati Roy was making this point, it seems to me, not in order to analyze the phenomenon of corruption but to comment on the Anna Hazare movement and its ‘character’:

“When corruption is viewed fuzzily, as just a touchy-feely “moral” problem then everybody can happily rally to the cause — fascists, democrats, anarchists, god-squadders, day-trippers, the right, the left and even the deeply corrupt, who are usually the most enthusiastic demonstrators.”

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Cultures of Corruption: Kalpana Kannabiran


We are a country given to idolatry – both the erection and demolition of idols a favourite pastime that buries under the rubble questions of ethics and constitutional morality.   While this penchant for idolatry raises larger questions,  I will concern myself at this point with the effigy (or the idol upside down) called corruption.

While there has undoubtedly been a marked shift in the languages of corruption in the neo liberal era, calling for new and different strategies to combat it, the fight against corruption is not new.  When women’s groups campaigned decades ago against the testing of banned drugs and contraceptives on poor people by the ICMR, the question that was raised was about the nexus between pharmaceutical companies and state actors that involved deals for which poor and vulnerable communities were pushed to the guillotine.  With Bhopal, the question came up again on the deals between multinational companies (Union Carbide in this case) and the government that violated every principle of human rights, natural justice, constitutional morality and the ethics of care in governance.  Was the derailment of justice effected without corruption at every level? Apart from providing care to the affected, was not the struggle for justice in Bhopal a struggle against corruption?  When the People’s War Group (as it was then called) abducted an elected representative two decades ago (who was later released), the reason they gave to the negotiators was that he misused public funds in the district and asserted that theirs was a fight against corrupt representatives.

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Anna At Nehru Place?!: Aditya Sarkar

Guest post by ADITYA SARKAR

On the afternoon of 25 March, Nehru Place felt different. The rectangular maze of shops and offices wore its usual air of busy activity, but instead of being concentrated around a million acts of individualized consumption as it normally is, the energy humming through the place circulated around a public spectacle. Visitors, bystanders, and low-paid office and shop employees clustered in the central square, and on the balconies of the first floor, their gazes fixed on a street play taking place right outside the central Bajaj office. About twenty young men and women, all dressed in black, raised fists, shouted slogans, and mocked the usual suspects – MNCs, netas, and plutocrats, in the name of the aam aadmi. Shop after shop emptied out. Hundreds of people watched, many applauding loudly. The specific target of this public campaign, though, seemed opaque to most, as the publicity leaflets circulated rather more sluggishly than the sentiments evoked by the performers.

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The Making of Anna Hazare

[This piece is based on my extensive field work on Anna Hazare and his movement in Ralegan Sidhi over some years and is also a part of my forthcoming book Green and Saffron: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Environmental Politics. MS]

The anti-corruption movement, spearheaded by Anna Hazare, and the passage of the Lokpal Bill have generated unprecedented interest amongst a wide spectrum of society about the ideas, politics and organisations of civil society in general, and Anna Hazare in particular. Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade merits attention not only for its importance in ensuring a corruption-free society, but also due to its multifaceted nature. Hazare’s politics however has to be seen in a larger framework and in a wider historical context. Howsoever laudable the goals of anti-corruption movement in India today, the movement is not beyond the categories of gender, caste, authority, democracy, nationalism and ultra-nationalism. Far from transcending them, the movement is transforming and being transformed by the implicit deployment of such categories. I wish to place Hazare in the larger context of his environmental journeys, where the elusive but crucial element is one of authority that is exercised due to a large degree of consent and conservatism. Yet, almost all accounts on him, largely celebratory in nature, do not examine the ideology and politics of his works. These are crucial not only to critically assess the present and the future of our anti-corruption movements, but also to interrogate certain brands of civil society activisms and environmentalisms. Continue reading The Making of Anna Hazare