Since the time Anna Hazare was arrested yesterday morning, we have been hearing numerous politicians and some intellectuals crying at the top of their voice that Anna Hazare is blackmailing the government by resorting to indefinite fast if his demands are not met. They claim that Anna’s approach is “My way is the highway” approach, this is a parliamentary system, laws cannot be made at JP Park or Jantar Mantar, and so on. Let us look at the logical feasibility of such arguments
Claim: Anna Hazare is Blackmailing the Government
Anna Hazare is not blackmailing the government to donate a few crore rupees to him or to give him tax exemption or to allot few acres of land to his industry. Anna Hazare is forcing the government to introduce a strong anti-corruption Lokpal bill in the parliament. Given the fact that corruption is rampant in this country today with four of the MPs from the ruling alliance in jail, given the fact that multiple multi-crore scams have taken place during this government’s rule – it is evident that none of the present laws and institutions have enough power to curb corruption in the country. So if asking to establish a strong anti-corruption institution to prosecute the corrupt is paramount to blackmailing the government, then SO BE IT.
Claim: One man cannot hold the entire government and parliament at ransom
Those who make the above claim should come out of their homes and go on to the streets or atleast should switch on the TV. It is not ONE Anna Hazare. Millions of citizens of this country are out on the streets in support of the movement against corruption. One man is just LEADING the movement. The movement itself is supported by almost the entire nation. Claiming that one Anna Hazare is holding the government at ransom is akin to claiming Mahatma Gandhiji was ALONE fighting against the British and rest of the country was indifferent towards the freedom movement.
After all this is a democracy, and in a democracy it is the people’s will that rules ultimately.
Claim: Laws are made in the Parliament, not at JP Park or Jantar Mantar
This claim is aired by those who either do not understand what Anna Hazare is demanding, or who want to mislead that section of the public who want to be technically correct in their views. Anna Hazare has ONLY demanded that the Jan Lokpal Bill draft (the Lokpal version by the Indian Against Corruption movement) be tabled in front of the parliament.
The government has currently tabled its own version of the Lokpal bill which actually promotes corruption and does not give enough power to Lokpal to prosecute and punish the corrupt. The governments version actually punishes the complainant for upto two years in jail if the law enforcement agencies are unable to find any proof of corruption related to the complaint. This in itself is going to deter people from complaining to Lokpal for fear of being sent to jail just for raising an alarm. Do we really need another dummy institution at the tax payer’s expense?
So where is Anna Hazare saying that the law should be made in JP Park or Jantar Mantar. He has chosen those places as his venue to protest because he cannot sit on fast inside the parliament. However his demand is just to table the right Lokpal bill inside the parliament so that the bill can be debated, discussed and voted upon. Why is the government so scared to just table the Jan Lokpal Bill inside the parliament? Because it fears that the entire opposition will get united to pass this bill, which will then empower the so formed Lokpal to take action against all the corrupt ministers in the government.
More importantly, the laws which are passed in the parliament are normally suggested by a government appointed National Advisory Council (NAC) which comprises of eminent citizens of the civil society. So to say that Laws are made by Parliament and NOT by members of civil society is an attempt to completely MISLEAD those who are not informed about the process.
Claim: Everybody has a right to protest, but Anna Hazare’s way of protest is not the right way.
Anna Hazare is doing a peaceful protest. He has repeatedly called for people not to resort to any kind of violence. Inspite of being so massive the protest has been very peaceful all over the country so far. He has not called for any Rasta Roko, Rail Roko, kind of protests. If this is not the right way to protest in a democracy, then WHAT IS the right way?
Claim: Anna Hazare’s attitude is “My way is the Highway” attitude
Guess we forgot to count the number of people standing on this highway in the country today?
Claim: Anna Hazare was arrested because he violated the 144 section.
Really? Anna Hazare was arrested at his residence even before he could reach the JP Park were 144 section was in place. Since when did staying back at home become a violation of 144 section? The police should have arrested him only after he reached the JP Park which would have then amounted to violation of the prohibitory orders in place.
Claim: Anna Hazare’s Arrest was an independent decision by the police. Government did not have any say in it.
Wow, now this is the biggest joke of the day. Since when did police in India start getting so much of independence to act on their own, especially in such matters which are of extreme political importance involving the central government of India? If the police really had this much of independence in the country, then most of the politicians would have been behind the bars since they would have been able to independently probe and collect evidence and produce it to the courts. The massive political interference in police actions is also one of the reasons why an independent Lokpal institution is being demanded.
Claim: Mass movements like this will create an anarchy and convert India into a Banana Republic
So you do not call the rampant corruption in the society an anarchy? Crores of rupees, public wealth being swindled – is this the rule of law? Here is a detailed answer for this question – Will Anna Hazare’s movement convert India into a Banana Republic?
Claim: Lokpal is not going to solve the problem of corruption in India
Does anybody have any other answer to address corruption in this country? And simultaneously do they also have the will and mass following to undertake a movement of this scale and force the government to act accordingly to implement the solution they propose? If yes, you are welcome. If not, at least allow the person who has an answer and the people’s support to do his job.
It is a common sense that in any system independence of institutions is of paramount importance if it is to be effective. An independent Lokpal with power to prosecute and punish the corrupt is going to be extremely effective in curbing the menace of corruption. A real world example is how even with very limited powers, the Lokayukta led by Justice Santhosh Hegde was able to send ministers to jail in the state government of Karnataka and even made the Chief Minister Yediyurappa and other corrupt ministers resign from the government. And all this was done with the limited power of just RECOMMENDING prosecution of the chief minister and other ministers/politicians of the state, after submitting a report which had evidence of corruption against the accused. Now imagine how more effective it would have been if the same Lokayukta also had the power to prosecute and punish instead of simply submitting a report and hoping that somebody would act on the report. This is what the entire anti-corruption movement is all about. Creating a powerful institution which can tackle corruption effectively and independently.
Claim: Anna Hazare does not have the exclusive right to fight corruption nor is his way is the only way to fight corruption.
True, every person has the right to fight corruption in his own way. But how many have been really fighting the corruption in their own way? How many have been able to convince millions of Indians about the effectiveness of their way to fight corruption? Why don’t that somebody who has their own way of fighting corruption come out on the street and organize a people’s movement to fight corruption? It is easy to sit between four walls and talk. Anna has been able to come out on the streets with his way of fighting corruption and people have been convinced by his way. This is indeed a democracy and in a democracy majority wins. Now it is no more only Anna Hazare’s way. Look at the number of people on the streets in all cities and towns across the nation. It is the way of millions and millions of people in this country.
Claim: Why doesn’t Anna contest elections?
Politicians contest elections. Anna is NOT a politician. But that doesn’t mean that people only support those whom they vote for. Mahatma Gandhiji never contested elections. Does that mean Gandhiji’s views are of no political significance in this country?
If one is so worried about numbers, then why not hold a country wide referendum about whether people believe in Anna Hazare or in the government? And for that matter, what is the percentage of vote received by each elected representative, or for that matter by the government in power? People supporting Anna Hazare are much more than that in number.
Claim: Tomorrow anybody can come out on the streets and say meet my demands or I will fast unto death
Wow, as if nobody has ever come out on the streets of this country so far and Anna Hazare is fasting for the first time against the government policies.
Remember how government ignored the ascetic Swami Nigamananda of the “Save Ganga” movement who was fasting indefinitely protesting against the illegal mining on the banks of river Ganga polluting the river? He even died doing his fast for 115 days and nobody cared a damn in this country. Did the government yield to the demands of this saint? No. Why? It is even alleged that the local land Mafia poisoned this swamiji fearing that his fast would invoke massive public anger against the mining.
Remember the Iron lady of Manipur who has been fasting for the past 11 years protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives legal immunity to soldiers? Ever since she started the fast she has refused to eat or drink water and has been force-fed liquid food through nasal tube. Has the government yielded to her demands? No. Why? Forget the fast, most in the government today don’t even know of her existence.
So then what is making the difference in this case of Anna Hazare’s movement? People are not fools. It is the massive public response and public anger against the government which has got the ruling establishment worried. It is not as if government fears that tomorrow anybody can go on a fast and make demands. As if, government is going to yield to all those demands. It is the massive public response to such movements that the government is really worried about.
If some random person goes on a fast or protest for some random reason will the government listen to that person’s demands? This is not a person’s movement, it is a people’s movement today.
Claim: Prime Minister should be kept out of Lokpal because arresting Prime Minister will destabilize the government, be a national security issue, will be an international shame, etc.
For those who say that Prime Minister should be kept out of the ambit of Lokpal, Judiciary should be kept out of the ambit of Lokpal, public servants should be kept out of the ambit of Lokpal, etc. True, in India the law is applicable only to the mango man (aam aadmi), everybody else are above law in this country.
My question is very simple. Is arresting a prime minister indulging in corruption a threat to national security, or allowing a corrupt prime minister to continue to remain in power a threat to national security? Do we prefer to have a stable government rather than bringing down a corrupt prime minister?
If arresting a prime minister indulging in corruption is an international shame, does that mean we worry more about how we look to the international community instead of what we really are? Do we care more about our cosmetic external look hiding the rot within? Cannot a prime minister be asked to stepped down if found guilty, before he is arrested? Doesn’t it actually show the true democratic vibrance if a person in power indulging in mis-governance is taken to task by the law of the land? How does it become an international shame? It really becomes an international shame if we allow a corrupt prime minister to be still taking decisions on the behalf of the country. Isn’t it?
Read Part II – Views against Anti-corruption Movement for Strong Lokpal