Tag Archives: Jan Lokpal Bill

Politics of Anna Hazare Anti-Corruption Movement by Sanjay Kumar

Guest post by SANJAY KUMAR

Sonia Gandhi Hinsak Hai
Rahul Gandhi Napunsak Hai
(Sonia Gandhi is violent, Rahul Gandhi is impotent)
(placard displayed by a young man on Barakhamba road crossing, during anti-corruption march on 21st August, Delhi)

Rahul Bhaiyya! Why don’t you get married so that Bhabhi can take care of Sonia Aunty, and you do not have to spend so much (black) money to get her treated outside the country? (placard carried by a three year old girl child)

Manuvadi Krantikari Morcha supports Anna Hazare
(a banner heading for a group of 20-30 middle aged men)

Bihari Nahin Ham Jaat hain
Ham Anna ke saath hain
(We are not Biharis we are Jaats, we are with Anna)
(shout of youth in open jeep in Darya Ganj, after the 21st Aug march)

Continue reading Politics of Anna Hazare Anti-Corruption Movement by Sanjay Kumar

Are We Talking to the People Who Are Out on the Streets? – Kavita Krishnan

Guest post by KAVITA KRISHNAN  (Editor, Liberation)

The people saying ‘I am Anna’ or ‘Vande Mataram’ are not all RSS or pro-corporate elites. They’re open to listening to what we have to say to them about corporate corruption or liberalization policies. The question is – are we too lofty and superior (and prejudiced) to speak to them?

Throughout the summer, student activists of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) engaged in this painstaking exercise for months. They campaigned all over the country, in mohallas, villages, markets where there is no visible Left presence. No, these were not areas of ‘elite’ concentration – mostly middle, lower middle or working class clusters, or students’ residential areas near campuses. In most places, people would begin by assuming they were campaigners of Anna Hazare. When students introduced their call for the 9 August Barricade at Parliament, they would be asked, ‘What’s the need for a separate campaign when Anna’s already leading one?’ They would then explain that they supported the movement for an effective anti-corruption law to ensure that the corrupt don’t enjoy impunity. But passing such a law could not end corruption, which was being bred by the policies that were encouraging corporate plunder of land, water, forests, minerals, spectrum, seeds… They learnt to communicate without jargon, to use examples from the state where the campaign was taking place. They would tell people about the Radia tapes, and the role of the corporates, the ruling Congress, the opposition BJP, and the media in such corruption.

Continue reading Are We Talking to the People Who Are Out on the Streets? – Kavita Krishnan

Response to Gail Omvedt: Nirmalangshu Mukherjee

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

Three Questions to Friends

I have been taking my time to reflect on the positions that have emerged in the fairly polarised debate on the on-going anti-corruption struggle in Delhi. I take very seriously the questions raised by critics on the right-wing inclinations evident in the movement’s leadershi, but I think it is both a strategic mistake and a disawoval of responsibility on the part of those of us on the left of the political spectrum to stay out of it. We should engage with the movement from the inside, strategically and persistently, and this means thinking afresh on the means by which we may support the larger binding issue with clear awareness of the risks involved. In this connection, I want to raise three questions:

First, when did we start to be so reluctant to acknowledge the fact that any civil social movement is bound to be contaminated by regressive positions and ideologies and so we cannot avoid thinking of ways of participating in them guided by awareness of the risks? I have recently been trying to collect narratives remembering the fourth national conference of the Indian women’s movement held at Kozhikode, Kerala, in 1990. The participants who spoke to me often pointed to a contrast between the dominant left parties who opposed the conference from the outside, and many, many groups who participated in the conference fully, but raised sharp criticisms which were quite like those of the former. They remarked that these critics were listened to with considerable respect because they were inside, unlike the dominant left.The participant who mentioned this, a well-known radical activist here, still remembers their arguments vividly. Another participant remembered sharp disagreements between urban feminists and rural participants on the question of justice to rape victims. While the former were opposed to the ‘solution’ of marrying the victim off to the rapist, a senior participant from a rural area who spoke up approved of it. This was shocking and unexpected to the urban feminists, but then purity of positions wasn’t, apparently, an overwhelming concern then — and at that place.

Continue reading Three Questions to Friends

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.

Continue reading A Great Opportunity, A Serious Danger: A Statement

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.

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

Onwards to the Independence of the Corrupt!

Let us pledge this 15th of August, that we will tirelessly work towards the independence – nay dictatorship – of the corrupt. We must tirelessly fight every attempt to raise  corruption as an issue – by gullible people who do not understand that corruption is not a real issue. We will not allow such people to be misled by demagogues and fascists who are  interested only in power – even if they do not show their hunger for power by contesting elections. Indeed, precisely because they do not contest elections.

Is the new mantra of democracy? How else do we understand the deafening silence on the series of dictatorial measures adopted by the government, on the part of all those who have been vocal, indeed strident, in their attack on the Anna Hazare movement? It is one thing to be opposed to the Anna Hazare movement but the silence – from parties as well as intellectuals, democratic rights groups and self-righteous editorial commentators of the Indian Express – on the desperate measures being adopted by one of the most corrupt governments ever, is inexplicable. It is as if the only threat to democracy today comes from a group of people who want to raise their voice in civil disobedience against public money being looted by elected representatives acting at the behest of powerful corporate interests.

First the Delhi Police simply refused permission to Anna Hazare and the India Against Corruption fast. Then they asked them to hold their protest in Burari! That is to say on the border of Haryana. This was but another way of disallowing it. Then they came out with a novel idea – a set of preconditions that include an undertaking that there will not be more than 5000 people and that the fast will be wound up in three days. Clearly, no self-respecting set of protestors will agree to such conditions and so ‘Team Anna’ refused to sign the undertaking.

Continue reading Onwards to the Independence of the Corrupt!

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.”

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

Putting the “Jan” into the Lokpal Bill: Nikhil Dey and Ruchi Gupta

Guest post by NIKHIL DEY and RUCHI GUPTA

For many who quite rightly guessed that the Lokpal Bill drafted by the Government would be a non-starter, the alternative merited automatic support. However, little was known about the contents of the two Bills, except that the alternative being proposed by ‘India Against Corruption’ had the prefix of being a “peoples” Lokpal. The consequences are too important to leave to the expertise of the drafting committee. The people must comprehend, and play their part in ensuring that there will be an Act that will empower them to fight corruption- not make them surrender their hopes to yet another anti-corruption organization. How people-centric is the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLP)?

While the JLP is going through rapid revisions – 12 so far – the basic framework and some principles have remained constant. Broadly the Bill can be divided into four sections: the mandate and scope of the Lokpal; composition and selection of the Lokpal; powers of the Lokpal; and functioning of the Lokpal. The composition and selection of the Lokpal is substantively one of the least contentious sections – concerned largely with procedural matters and subjective preferences, rather than ideological or legal viewpoints. A discussion of the other three sections follows.

Continue reading Putting the “Jan” into the Lokpal Bill: Nikhil Dey and Ruchi Gupta

‘Anna Hazare’, Democracy and Politics: A Response to Shuddhabrata Sengupta

In an earlier post, (hits to which have broken all records on Kafila), Shuddhabrata Sengupta has raised some extremely important points in the context of the media-simulated coverage and celebrations around the ‘Anna Hazare’ movement. I agree with the central argument made by Shuddha – which is about the authoritarian, indeed totalitarian implications of the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill (though, as many commentators to the post have pointed out, the Bill really remains to be drafted and passed in parliament).

I have no doubt whatsoever that any demand that simply seeks a law of the sort that has been raised by the movement (even in the proposed form), is completely counterproductive. Indeed, it is naive. Matters like corruption or communalism cannot simply be legislated out of existence through tougher laws. Inevitably, they will lead us up to China type situations where you will end up demanding summary trials and executions. Even in the best of cases, a law and state-dependent mode of addressing such problems, adds to the powers of a corrupt bureaucracy. I also agree with his (and Bobby Kunhu’s) criticisms of some aspects of what they have both chosen to designate as ‘mass hysteria’ of sorts – I certainly do not agree with this description but that need not detain us here. I am  interested in something else here and that has to do with the way the movement has struck a chord among unprecedentedly large numbers of people – mainly middle class people I am sure, but the support for it is not just confined to them. In fact, on the third day of the dharna at Jantar Mantar I received an excited call from a CPM leader who works among the peasants in villages of northern India in the Kisan Sabha, about the response to the movement he had encountered in his constituency. I doubt that this was a support simulated either by the government or by the electronic media. Continue reading ‘Anna Hazare’, Democracy and Politics: A Response to Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Of a Few, By a Few, For the Few: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU, carrying the debate on the Anti-corruption movement forward

I am distinctly uncomfortable with predictions – using either scientific or unscientific tools. For me it smacks of charlatanry – from astrology to psephology to stock market speculation. But with the charade that was unleashed for the past few days on news television by the mainstream media and of course at Jantar Mantar and a few other town squares across the “mainstream” Indian political landscape by Anna Hazare’s fast – I did dare to make an attempt – both at prediction and more comfortably with dissent. I foretold the outcome of the fast tableau at an emergency meeting that was convened by some co-travellers at the Salem Citizen’s Forum to debate on whether and how to show solidarity to Anna Hazare…

…Well, it is not just Anna Hazare and his team who won this match comfortably. All actors who joined the show have won the match. Everyone – the “civil society” that sat on fast at Jantar Mantar and other places, the Corporate media, the glamour world, the Government, political establishment of all hues and shades – everyone who bothered to join the game. It was like bathing in the Ganges during the Maha Kumbh – everyone’s sins were washed away. And of course nobody in their right minds regardless of political affiliations or ideologies could take a position “for corruption”!!! A veritable Bush-ian position — either you are with Anna Hazare or you are with corruption. And yes, India Incorporated has won the match and it is time for celebrations!

Read the full post on Countermedia

At the Risk of Heresy: Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare

At the risk of heresy, let me express my profound unease at the crescendo of euphoria surrounding the ‘Anna Hazare + Jan Lokpal Bill’ phenomenon as it has unfolded on Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and across several hysterical TV stations over the last few days.

This time around, I have to say that the print media has acted (upto now) with a degree of restraint that I think is commendable. Partly, this has to do with the different natures of the two media. If you have to write even five hundred words about the Jan Lokpal bill, you run out of platitudes against corruption in the first sentence (and who can speak ‘for’ corruption anyway?) and after that you have to begin thinking about what the bill actually says, and the moment you do that, you cannot but help consider the actual provisions and their implications. On television on the other hand, you never have to speak for more than a sound-byte, (and the anchor can just keep repeating himself or herself, because that is the anchor’s job) and the accumulation of pious vox-pop sound bytes ‘against corruption’ leads to a tsunami of ‘sentiment’ that brooks no dissent. Continue reading At the Risk of Heresy: Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare