Friday, April 15, 2011


Anna Hazare. Who had heard of this soldier before the Great Jantar Mantar Tantar rattled an arrogant government that thought it had everything under firm control, right from the media to the BJP?

I have not read the Jan Lokpal Bill that started the churn, the first stirring of a long delayed revolution. Nor do I intend to waste my time going through it. Many analysts on both sides of the divide have written copiously about it, and will continue to do so. Like millions of other Indians I do not want to get lost in a debate that misses, or deliberately deflects from, the real point.

Our collective rage is against a democracy that is being destroyed, a government – I use the term for state as well as central governments -- that has abdicated its responsibility to govern, and politicians who have become plunderers of their own nation.

Till Anna Hazare began his fast to death against the mischievous efforts of the political class as a whole to keep itself and the babus whose guidance and collaboration makes plunder possible, literally beyond the reach of law, the enormous energy of this seething rage was getting dissipated due to lack of point or leader of focus. The present government in Delhi was, not surprisingly, smug and disdainfully dismissive of all talk of reigning in unbridled corruption that has now reached levels that cannot be sustained without a serious blowout that might even lead to the demise of the First republic.

Anna Hazare gave the explosive charge of public anger the shape it needed. The resultant Munroe effect blasted a hole through the impenetrable armour of a devious government that, till the explosive shocked and burned it, was ridiculing and mocking the diminutive Gandhian and those supporting him. This hole in the hull is not symbolic, nor can anyone plug it with a rag and drive the tank back into battle. The Lok Pal Bill represents only the first exchange of fire between the people and a government that claims to represent them but has effectively ceased to. For 43 years, people may have kept quiet. No longer. No matter how hard politicians and babus may try now, an appropriate law will be put in place sooner or later, with or without them. But that will be only the beginning, not the end.

Expectedly, government forces are hitting back with all the heavy weapons at their disposal. Their target, no surprise, is the Teflon-protected complete outsider Anna Hazare. This non-English speaking, soft-spoken leader has, to the amazement of all, connected not only to the masses but also to young, educated urban Indians who, till he appeared on the scene, were being channeled to draw bubble gum ‘inspiration’ from cricketers, Bollywood stars and Rahul Gandhi. There was no real leader who had it in him to draw their attention back to where it should have been and galvanise them into action in the manner that Anna has done.

What has disturbed government troops the most is the fact that behind the members of civil society who are drafting the Lok Pal Bill are leaders and people they had all but rendered invisible and irrelevant. Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar and the like bring with them numbers that can drastically change the equations of elections that have been solved by politicians who have figured out that democracy is not about getting the people’s mandate, but about getting to power without it. With Anna Hazare praising Narendra Modi, arguably the only incorruptible political leader who is also a doer and deliverer without peer, and the latter too putting his weight behind the voice of the people, the balance of power has shifted quite substantially in favour of the people. When leaders of other religions too join Anna, as they should, it will become a no-contest.

Suddenly, the “idea of India” that uproots India from India, that does not recognise a timeless India as anything more a creation of the British, that disparages and mocks at everything Hindu, is in danger of being thrown into the only place it should always have been: the dustbin. The cocooned English-speaking elite and the secular brigade which is infested with parasites, thought -- just like the politicians did -- that they had it all covered with the help of a few missionaries, mullahs and media. Patriotic scenes reminiscent of the freedom struggle, starting from Bharat Mata on Anna Hazare’s stage, to the enthusiastic singing of Vande Matram, the national song they thought they had all but buried, has given them a rude reality check and woken them to a vast India beyond and very different from the soulless caricature they have reduced it to under the guise of ‘secularism.’

Anna Hazare is under attack not only from sarkari soldiers but also from deserters who did not get their free deserts from the government. The pressure being generated on him and other leaders like him to conform to their idea of India, one that has been built solely around the political objective of keeping Congress in power, is immense. They manifestly want to reduce him to a nominal head, a Manmohan Singh if you like, so that the corroded and hollowed edifice that they have all helped build and sustain remains intact. It is not going to be easy for him and those truly interested in rebuilding India to take the pressure.

No matter what people might say, I believe that a soldier who took a Pakistani bullet in 1965, will not run away from this battle, the greatest one that he has fought in his life. He will take all the bullets that are being fired at him now, achieve victory and pass the command to someone worthy of it.

But what Anna may not be able to take is the pressure from fifth columnists in his camp. They have no followers, no following, no rage. They need him and other leaders in the movement who have energised the masses, not the other way round. He must not let them set the agenda, the shape and the pace of the movement.They will only kill it. They are agents of status quo, not change.

Anna Hazare must listen to the rage of the people and remember the faith they have reposed in him. If he does and continues to give shape to it, he will remembered as the icon of the change that India desperately needed; if he doesn’t, he will be replaced and forgotten.