Anna Hazard

While I was trying to post something to Twitter the other day, my phone autocorrected Anna Hazare to Anna Hazard. Well, damn you HTC – what would you know of the sentiments of a billion Indians and particularly of a certain Arnab Goswami who orgasms on News Hour just by insinuating how the sea of public protests all over the country have sledgehammered the government into submission!

But the autocorrect got me thinking – was this Hazare – the beacon of hope for our country where corruption has soaked into the deepest roots – a Hazard too?

I am certainly not against the Jan Lokpal Bill in the current form, nor am I a sympathizer of the ruling Congress coalition – least of all a fan of the First Family of Indian politics. While I believe that the fact that Anna, at 73, has picked up the cudgels for fighting corruption and has got a large section of the country to rally behind him, I do not always condone his methods. Especially, the second round of protests have turned rather farcical.

To put things in perspective, it is clear that the government had clearly not foreseen Anna’s gameplan well enough – they assumed it would be easy to arrest him for the day on August 16 and release him the same night and prevent any momentum from building up. Momentum did seem to build – but only among the popular media. As TV cameras piled up outside Tihar and Chhatrasal Stadium, thousands of people had their 15 seconds of fame. And as TV cameras looked elsewhere in search of other stories to sensationalize, the crowd too withered.

Meanwhile, Anna – for who the crowd was waiting – refused to come out of Tihar even 36 hours after his release. His antics were beginning to be compared to that of an overstaying guest, or that of a rude hotel guest.

Clearly, the mood of Twitterati was very different from the mood projected by mainstream media. What caused this difference? The informed masses were beginning to notice Anna’s rigidity – it’s my way or the highway. Either you consider ALL my demand, or I fast. Either you let me do EXACTLY what I wish, or I lock myself up in Tihar. Rather puerile, is it not?

The informed society could see through the redundancy of a Lokpal Bill. Wouldn’t the purpose be served equally well by giving institutions such as CBI, and CVC more teeth? A Lokpal would not rid our country of corruption, it would only brush it under and push it in deeper into the labyrinth of governance in our country. To understand this, let us examine an often quoted example of cleaning-up – the telecom sector. Years ago, one paid a bribe to get a telephone connection. Since then, the sector has been opened up and has been cleaned up – and today, you can get a telephone swiftly and legitimately in a day or two – right? Wrong, the corruption has been pushed to higher levels of governance – the telecom muck that has already swallowed in Raja and Kanimozhi, threatens to take many more into it, including ‘respectable’ corporates. Even if we imagine for a moment that the Lokpal could rid us of all ills, who would watch the Lokpal?

The other party to the mess – the government too erred severely. They have been arrogant; almost high-handedly imposing Section 144 on the venue for Anna’s fast and then pre-emptively arrested him. Worse, the government tried to justify the imposition of Section 144 by playing down its seriousness. Isn’t this the same Congress that cried hoarse when Section 144 impeded Rahul’s electoral agenda at Bhatta-Parsaul? While Mr. P. Chidambaram conceded to the Parliament that involving the civilians in the fashion of the joint-drafting committee for Lokpal Bill was an experiment that went awry, he tried justifying Anna’s arrest saying that it was technically not an arrest but a detention.

The government’s biggest blunder came in the form of the sickening incarceration order for Anna at Tihar – a jail notoriously containing the Kalmadis, the Rajas, and the Kanimozhis of India. No matter the legitimacy of his methods, Anna remains a respectable, peaceful, frail septuagenarian – an Anna, or elder brother to the masses. Even as Manish Tiwari attempts to paint Anna in the corrupt paint from head to toe, the truth remains that he is taint free. Certainly, if looked at in the perspective of the crimes of Raja, or Kalmadi, Anna is as pristine as a baby’s mind.

While I do not think the Jan Lokpal Bill is a panacea for our ills, I think this government must be punished – for its arrogance, for its hubris, and for its unwarranted actions. Indeed, most of all for sending Anna to Tihar.