Saturday, April 09, 2011

Anna Hazare: Lessons for future


Anna Hazare, a noted ‘Gandhian’ and an activist, who has earlier played a role in fighting for Right to Information Act has taken up fast to bring more teeth to Lokpal Bill, an instrument to curb the corruption at highest offices in this country.   Many urban middle class Indians have come forward to support him in this cause.  Relay hunger strikes have sprung up in many cities in India.  Artists and intellectuals lent support.  It is heartening to see so many yuppie Indians coming out onto streets to voice their opinion against corruption.  Not many movements in the recent history have seen the urban middle class coming out of their secure careers and gated communities to take the streets in protest on a universal and overarching cause.    At the most, the urban middle families are known to fight for their selfish needs like parks for their kids, or against reservations for lower castes, or for stopping the government from demolishing their illegal houses. 

A phenomenon like this, where urban middle class across the entire country has participated and expressed opinion on the streets or on the internet for a cause that is not just selfish but helps even the common man should be celebrated as truly historic.  But some hard questions remain, as to how long they are willing to fight, and will they be perseverant  enough  to reach a logical end.  Or is it just a one-off incident and phenomenon where they got attracted to the event because they do not know enough details and hence got carried away by the mere symbolism that sounded deliriously romantic and heroic like in movies where one man takes on a mighty nation and ends corruption once and for all.  Are they participating in it to fight their own guilt of apathy towards the country around them? Does this cause seem to have a lofty goal where their mere participation can be recollected and remembered as their one-time participation to erase their years of apathy? Do they know what they are in for?  Do they know how long it will take to actually achieve the desired results? 

The government has indicated that it is ready to succumb to the pressures from these agitations and embrace some of the demands Anna Hazare is proposing.  Already there are detractors.  Some people ask if these ‘extra-constitutional’ methods, like coercing the government through agitations and protests, should be encouraged to get the desired results.  On CNN-IBN show with Karan Thapar, journalist-editor Kumar Ketkar and bureaucrat-turned-editor Sanjaya Baru said that we should not resort to ‘blackmailing’ a ‘democratically elected government’ through ‘unconstitutional’ methods like fasts and agitations.  Sanjay Baru equates the fast of Anna Hazare to that of KCR holding the government of India to ransom.  To make a case against the methods Anna Hazare and the urban middle class Indians are resorting to in their fight against corruption, they cite Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of Indian Constitution, who said in his last speeches to the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949 the following [emphasis mine]:

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha.

When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

The question and the answer both lie in what Ambedkar said.  Yes, if indeed this nation is a truly democratic country where the Constitution is working the way it is written, then there is no need for fasts or agitations.  But Ambedkar says that ‘when there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods.’  So what should the people of the country do when the constitutional methods are no longer 'open'? When the country no longer works as a truly democratic country? When the Indian Constitution is subverted on a daily basis?  Shouldn’t the people of this country fight against their government the way they fought against the British in India?

Actually, the slogans on the TV reflect the current mood pretty well.  One reads: “Govt bends, India wins”. Such a slogan would sound more appropriate during the British rule, because the Government and India were two different entities, where the Government is seen as unrepresentative of India’s wishes and demands.  To make a slogan like that now shows how people are pitted against the Government of India, reflective of colonial rule.

A democracy is not just about elections.  Protests are an integral part of a thriving democracy.  Therefore, people coming out onto streets in protest, participating in agitations will make our ailing democracy recover not make it weaker. These agitations should be seen as a course-correcting measures putting India back on the democratic path.  Didn’t we go into large scale agitations to fight the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi? Ambedkar naively believed that India would remain open, democratic and constitutional forever once British left.  That is not the case.  Our masters remain.  They are within.  We have long way to go in toppling all our masters.  The fight continues. If that was not the case, there would not be people agitating for reservations for lower castes or participating in Telangana Movement for protecting the region against domination of Seemandhras.

Here I would like to introduce the readers to the current Telangana Movement and draw lessons from it for the future course of action in their anti-corruption movement.  

Lessons from Telangana Movement

First, let’s take a look at the people’s participation in the current anti-corruption movement.  The media says that it is the ‘power of people’, that it is ‘victory of the people’.  Like in Telangana Movement, many urban middle class Indians have come out in throngs walking the roads, participating in the agitations.  Usually the urban middle class is apathetic to people’s causes.   They do not come out of their comfort zone to participate in people’s movements.  They keep their kids indoors cutting them off from the realities of the world, protecting them from the knowledge of the reasons behind social injustices, the realities of discrimination towards lower classes, or tales of subjugation of weaker people by the powerful.   Telangana Movement might be one of the first movement in the recent history where urban middle class comprising artists, intellectuals, authors, editors, scientists, lawyers, bureaucrats, politicians, social activists, doctors, bankers, teachers, professors, engineers, IT professionals, etc, have participated in agitations along with farmers, workers, rickshaw pullers, masons, pachayat leaders, potters, sweepers, cobblers, grocers, milkmen, weavers, etc, to fight for a common cause.  And yet, no change has taken place.  Telangana remains under subjugation even after intensive agitations spanning nearly 10 years.  The yuppie Indians should ask themselves some serious questions as to why there is almost no participation from the masses of India in their fight against corruption and why it is limited to cities comprising urban middle class.  Unless the anti-corruption movement becomes a grass root movement where ordinary people are involved, you will never have the political influence and without political influence nothing will ever happen in this country.  The bill will fail to pass in the Parliament.

Second, it is considered a victory just because a committee has been formed.  Like in Telangana, one should be highly skeptical of any serious result from such committees.  Srikrishna Committee, formed to find solution to Telangana issue, included a reputed ex-judge of Supreme Court, an economist, a social scientist, and other eminent people, who are supposedly apolitical in nature, supposedly with integrity, honesty and sincerity.  But the report that came out clearly shows how even such ‘supposedly honest’ people can succumb to corruption and how they can subvert people’s movements undermining democratic values and institutions.   Yuppie Indians who are new to such devious tactics of Indian government should study Telangana Movement to understand what the Government of India will do next.  They may find answers as to how and why this committee won by Anna Hazare's fast and activists' agitations will be used to subvert their movement rather than accept their demands. 

Third, why should the committee include Anna Hazare and other representatives of his choice in the committee?  Is Anna Hazare elected leader of recognized people’s party or organization?  Is he representative of the urban middle class Indians who are fighting against the corruption?  If indeed these people put faith in Anna Hazare, how is it guaranteed that other members are equally trustworthy?  How long will Anna Hazare live?  What happens after him?  The middle class Indians should ask themselves some hard questions – is the movement dependent on a single person?  Are they going to create a sustainable system that will deliver results in spite of the person?  Once again they should learn from Telangana Movement.  KCR, though the hero of Telangana Movement, is not the only leader spearheading the movement, nor is he the unanimous choice as their leader.  There are many organizations, JACs, political parties competing with his party; many leaders who challenge him, and these other people have won the mandates of the people.   KCR is not Telangana and Telangana is not KCR.  In the same way, it is important for the yuppie Indians to create a sustainable movement and organizations at all levels in India without depending too heavily on one or two individuals or heroes.

Fourth, Anna Hazare calls this ‘second war of Independence’ against the Government of India.  Some anti-corruption activists equated their movement with that of Tahrir Square in Egypt.  Yuppie Indians should be prepared for cases of sedition against them for such calls.  Telangana activists had to deal with such anti-national tag against them by their detractors.  It is just a matter of time- their activism may be called anti-national and seditious once it becomes powerful.  Already people like Sanjaya Baru whose  newspaper 'Business Standard' continuously discredits Telangana Movement has described the current anti-corruption movement 'unconstitutional'.  Thankfully, most of the media is currently with the activists, unlike in Telangana, where Seemandhras control all newspapers and media outfits.  But there is a strong likelihood that even the media will be instructed not to showcase this movement in positive light, and there is a good chance they will comply. You should be strongly suspicious of the motives  and self-interests of the media.

Fifth, many activists of the current anti-corruption movement do not know the details of the Jan Lokpal Bill, Lokpal Bill, or the anti-corruption acts already in place.  They do not necessarily know the details of what Anna Hazare is fighting for.  They have rallied behind the mere symbols, which are usually seen in black and white.  If they continue to stick to black and white symbols and not understand the shades of grey, their movement will be a mere blip on the radar which will fade away eventually.  Yuppie Indians need to spend time to understand the details and then go about educating the masses on those details so that each of them is equipped with the knowledge and facts, histories, and precedents, legal arguments, and the rationale so that this movement becomes sustainable.  My fear is that once these yuppie Indians know the details, they will not be able to come out onto the streets because the devil is in the details.  Telangana Movement has built itself into one of the strongest, most sustainable movements with strong grass root participation, having set of ideologues and activists and leaders who are pretty savvy in legal details, in facts and figures, ready to quote historical precedents, provide rational argument, knowing Indian Constitution’s strengths and weaknesses. There are hundreds of thousands of activists who are well versed in the rationale and they provide the bulwark to this movement.   Telanganas have made their movement a large scale mass movement through hundreds of books and thousands of songs.  Grass root level people may still see it in black and white but it becomes sustainable only because of this bulwark of savvy activists.  The yuppie Indians who are ready to fight anti-corruption movement should spend time studying the nuances of the bills, the committee details, the outcomes, the failed precedents, the existing laws and understand why they have not worked, should be ready with facts and figures and keep disseminating this information to everyone on a continuous basis to create more activists so that this movement is sustainable, so that it becomes independent of Anna Hazare the way Telangana movement is independent of KCR.   

20 comments:

  1. why this is a exercise in Failure:

    When RTI act was passed it was called a silver bullet to end corruption, but corruption actually increased by many folds after RTI got passed, I dont expect the results from Lokpal bill to be any different. It would only give more legitimacy for the arguments of the elites that we are a "wonderful" Democracy and we shouldnt fight against such a magnificent system.

    I found it Ironic that these elite and yuppie indians are Benificaries of the Corrupt system that they are protesting against, may be they are demanding a greater piece of pie and are Pissed that the Super Rich Radias are eating all the cake.

    These Yuppie indians are not worried that half the Indian kids are Malnourished , the Problem for them is that they are seeing too Many Benz cars while they struggle to afford a Hyundai, Their Protests against corruption are not from empathy for the Poor but from Envy of the Super rich.

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  2. listen to this folks,


    gaali broters..jagan...supported anna hazare for his fight against corruption...chandra babu even went to an extent to walk in support for the cause....:):)... roflmao..

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  3. Commenters:
    If you have anything specific to be commented on this topic, please write here. Otherwise, there are many Telangana related articles on this blog. You can continue writing Telangana-specific comments there.
    Thanks.

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  4. In Andhra, several school days have been cancelled because the Telengana activists somehow think obstructing children's education is a good way to protest. I would choose fasting over that any day.

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  5. IS THE LOKPAL REALLY NECESSARY?



    The nation is energized about Anna Hazare's fast at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar. Many people are uniting in support of the cause, and many are expressing opposite views also. But no party is raising a fundamental question. What is the necessity of post or institution called Lokpal? The question can be debated on two levels. First, there is no guarantee that corruption at the top echelons of government will decrease by the appointment of Lokpal. The appointment of Lokayuktas at state levels indicates to the same. But this is minor or superficial level. The main question lies much deeper. Why should there be any need of institutions like Lokayuktas or Lokpals? Whosoever is corrupt should be punished legally. There are laws to prevent corruption. The laws should be applied properly. The responsibility for judging corruption lies with the judicial system. The administration's responsibility is to investigate and collect necessary evidence for the trial. If the administration doesn't perform its duty properly, then the judicial system takes the responsibility to get the task done properly. But the crux is, everyone performs the duty which is delegated to him.



    Herein lays the logical and fundamental irrelevance of posts like Lokpal or Lokayukta. Why should any other institution carry out the duty of the court? The court itself should get active to implement the prevailing anti-corruption laws to prevent corruption at the top levels of government. The judiciary can recommend creation of stringent laws if necessary. But it is meaningless to create a parallel judicial system for that purpose. That is why in matured democracies of developed countries this kind of parallel institution is a rarity. Two different judicial systems create unnecessary confusion, which can invite major complications in the judicial process. Simultaneously, it is harmful to the dignity of the court. In our country the tendency to create multiple posts or institutions for a single purpose is ancient, well-known, and practically omnipresent. This is a bad habit of Indian society and government. This habit leads to obesity of the government. Accumulation of excess fat is not an indicator of good health. Neither for a person, nor for a country.(contd.)

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  6. IS THE LOKPAL REALLY NECESSARY?(contd.)

    But this is just one side of the story. The other side is also important. The presence of a separate judicial system for trial of corruption of high-ranking government officials violates one of the major fundamental rights of democracy. The right that all citizens are equal in eyes of law. This equality is often-repeated, but in practice often-violated. One of the reasons for violation is of course inherent discrimination in ancient society, which becomes visible in the behavior of police station to different levels of court. But the discrimination is not only in behavior, but in fundamental system, the framework of the system, and the rules for creation of the framework. If everyone is equal in the eyes of law, then why the corruption cases of government officials can’t be tried in the court where the aam aadmi is being tried? Those involved in the movement for methodology for appointment of Lokpal and its legal complexities are not even raising this fundamental question. This indicates, this society is still incapable of understanding the nature of government of a mature, modern democracy. Indian democracy has a long way to go.

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  7. WHY HAZARE'S PROTEST IS VERY HARMFUL FOR INDIA IN LONG RUN

    What Anna Hazare is trying to achieve with his protest is, in the long run, very harmful for the country. Protesting against corruption in itself is, of course, not wrong and should even be encouraged, but what Hazare is trying to do is influence the working of a democratically-elected government and the due process of law-making by what is essentially blackmail.

    The constitution of this country clearly lays down a number of safeguards, processes and institutions that are designed to deal with all these issues. If someone has a problem with corruption, report politicians to the police. File a PIL. Or better still, don't elect them! Sharad Pawar seems to be the target of this particular protest, and if the people are so aghast by his behaviour, don't elect him the next time.

    Violating the due process to achieve a goal — and this is admittedly a noble goal — is adding to the problem. It sows the seeds of anarchy. This is trial by the media and trial by a kangaroo court. Who are Anna Hazare or his followers to decide what should or should not be included in the Lokpal Bill? Leave it to Parliament. That's what you elected them for.

    Many have brought up the example of popular movements in the Middle East that are currently in vogue. Everyone forgets one major fact. All those governments were autocratic. This is not Gandhi versus the British. There is no enemy. Our government is our government. We put them there, and often enough have booted them out every five years if we don't like them.

    Allowing extra-constitutional measures to be used to influence the process of lawmaking sets a dangerous precedent. Today, it's taking on corruption. How do we know that tomorrow it won't be used to push some other majority agenda (and one shudders to think of the kind of majority agendas Indians have come up with — Babri Masjid being a case in point).

    India's main strength lies in it's ability to have maintained democracy for 60 odd years while all others who became independent around the same time have failed. The wellspring of the Indian democracy has been the strength of it's Constitution and institutions. These are above all issues and above all people. They're not perfect by any means but need to be upheld to ensure that every issue goes through the same due process. That is democracy.

    If Anna Hazare has a problem, and does not want to use the courts, then let him deal with it in the ultimate manifestation of public opinion — the ballot box.

    (Karan Bedi in Times of India)

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  8. Suppose tomorrow there is a terrorist attack in India like 26/11.

    This time some hugely popular big politician/industrialist/actor/sportsperson dies.Say, BigB or Rajnikanth or Ratan Tata dies.

    Terrorism is one issue which can unite young educated middle-class India faster than corruption.During Kargil the whole India, including scamsters came together. Its not that these corrupt people had suddenly developed a love for India.Actually, it was our hate for Pakistan. Hate is a stronger, quicker adhesive than love.

    This time Swami Ramdev goes on fast. He will withdraw his fast only when India attacks Pakistan.

    In Indian media there are enough rabble-rousers. After 26/11 the editor of TOI Mumbai wrote an open letter to PM, telling him to "behave like a real Sardar" etc.( On Saturday. the headline of TOI was "India Wins Again". If India wins, who loses? The govt.? But we elected this govt. in 2009. Isn't this a case of my right hand fighting my left hand?)

    In the age of 24X7 media, news of Ramdev's fast will spread like wildfire. Thanks to facebook and twitter, in one hour Ramdev will have thousands of supporters. In one day, lacs. In one week millions and in one month crores. The whole bunch of hindu fundus- Shiv Sena, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal will throw there weight behind him.

    Then what?

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  9. First of all Kiran Bedi is a B--ch, she is in the same league of celebrity activists like Amir Khan or Ramdev.

    Their only goal is Self Promotion through Media.

    <<<<India's main strength lies in it's ability to have maintained democracy for 60 odd years while all others who became independent around the same time have failed.



    What she means by "Maintained democracy" is that as India has enjoyed "stability" for the past 60 years, while our neighbors Flip-flopped between Autocrats and dictatorships.

    But we are not paying taxes so that our govt could provide "stability". even Somali people pay taxes to their warlords who ensure stability to their respective localities by providing "security".
    The role of a govt is to deliver Basic services to its people not Just "stability" . Something that our govt failed miserably.

    << It sows the seeds of anarchy

    So? Is anarchy really that bad, take somalia for instance which effectively has no govt ( a anarchy by definition), in there it takes only 3 days for installation of a landline conncection, In India it takes atleast 2-3 weeks. You dont have to bribe any govt offical there because there is no bureacracy.

    <<< The wellspring of the Indian democracy has been the strength of it's Constitution and institutions.

    Institutions..
    Is that a JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!. In USA if there is a corruption charge from certain govt agency it would be dealt within the agency itself, because of the Strength of their institutions.

    In India even the so called premier Institutions like CBI or ACB are routinely Subverted by the govt and used to do its "dirty work" like targeting political enemies or a non-compliant officer.


    So its the Biggest JOke saying that Indian Democratic system is something so Sacred and untouchable. Mostly its the corrupt elites who threaten the Public not to challenge the System using the Bogey of "anarchy" showing neighbouring failed states as examples( false examples).

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  10. @TG
    Hey dude, it's KARAN Bedi, not Kiran Bedi. But you have jumped to conclusion without reading carefully. Typical Indian behavior, I guess!!

    (BTW, Kiran Bedi was supporting Anna Hazare all this time)

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  11. somehow, I expected a much more focused article from you in this subject. seems like you are too much into telengana issue these days- I have no problem with that. But you could have approached 'Anna Hazare issue' more objectively.

    Check this article
    http://kafila.org/2011/04/09/at-the-risk-of-heresy-why-i-am-not-celebrating-with-anna-hazare/

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  12. Does anyone have a single example where a disadvantaged Party(people) achieved its aims fighting through Pure- Nonviolence against a more Powerful opponent.

    Anyone?

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  13. Mubarak in Egypt says: Me or Anarchy.


    Media in India says: Democracy or Anarchy.

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  14. @United Indian

    <<<BTW, Kiran Bedi was supporting Anna Hazare all this time.

    Does that mean she is not a B-tch.

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  15. Should the success of Anna Hazares fast be interpreted as the Rise of Fascism in India and Ring alarm bells for Democracy.


    First the wikipedias definition of Fascism : is a radical, authoritarian nationalist political ideology.



    Wiki: Fascists believe that a nation requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong.
    <<< One of the proposed Selection committee member: a Nuclear weapons Hawk Abdul kalam



    Wiki: A key element in the creation of fascism was the fusion of agendas of nationalists on the political right with Sorelian syndicalists on the left
    <<< Mixing of the rightwing RamdevBaba and leftwing Swami Agnivesh.
    Wiki : Benito Mussolini stated in 1922, "For us the nation is not just territory but something spiritual... A nation is great when it translates into reality the force of its spirit”
    <<< The dominating presence of Bharath matha imagery at Hazare’s fast.



    Wiki: Fascists spoke of creating a "new man" and a "new civilization" as part of their intention to transform society.[142] Mussolini promised a “social revolution” for “remaking” the Italian people.
    <<< All those rants about “Second Independence” for India

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  16. One of the Option for the selection Committee of the members of Lokpal draftees tabled is :
    The Last three Magsaysay Award winners.
    And Magsaysay awards are decided by bunch of trustees appointed by the Rockeffler foundation, why don’t they let Dhirubai foundation decide instead , So you will give power only to the worlds richest guys foundation not the countries richest.

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  17. http://www.countermedia.in/?p=663


    excellent article

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  18. Sujai,
    I quote from your blog :- Quote “So what should the people of the country do when the constitutional methods are no longer 'open'? When the country no longer works as a truly democratic country? When the Indian Constitution is subverted on a daily basis? Shouldn’t the people of this country fight against their government the way they fought against the British in India?” Unquote.
    Sujai these questions are the crux of the matter. I thought some one like you will not merely raise those questions but opine on them or analyse them. But you have provided very shallow treatment to the entire matter by misinterpreting and/or misrepresenting Ambedkar. When you quote Ambedkar saying ‘when there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods’ and equate that to the plight of the Indian society today you are not only being naïve but are also being stupid. Ambedkar was not naïve. He knew very well the fissures and fractures, dichotomies and inconsistencies, and above all injustice and corruption that are part and parcel of the fabric of Indian society for centuries. What he meant is those who have the ability to lead the masses must use the ability and power to bring about the change through the means provided.
    Why does not Anna use his mass following to instil a clean Govt? Why the Civil Society activists don’t do the same? Hard work for Civil Society activists, is it? For Civil Society activists is it a short cut to power and undercutting the politicians and people whom they represent?
    Lastly, about your “Our masters remain. They are within. We have long way to go in toppling all our masters. The fight continues. If that was not the case, there would not be people agitating for reservations for lower castes or participating in Telangana Movement for protecting the region against domination of Seemandhras”. Do you sincerely believe these agitations for reservations like Gujjar agitation are just? Are there no specific criteria for deciding who are SC/ST/Backward? Then why the agitations? Just because there are agitations for reservations or for Telenaganas, it does not mean they are just.
    Yes, corruption is a monster. It needs to be tackled. But Anna way is certainly not the way. We need to understand the root causes of the corruption. I don’t think Anna or anyone of his Civil Society stooges have answered that question. Nor have you. And certainly I have not provided any clues about answers to that. But what Anna is doing is coercion and imposing his will, like Mohandas Gandhi did not only against British but us Indians too.

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  19. @Nagsen

    . Do you sincerely believe these agitations for reservations like Gujjar agitation are NOT just?

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  20. well we are still under teh british rule . just that the colour of skin is bronw instead of white. Targetting team anna members is exactly what I had expected would happen. Our politicians are the worst breed of animals and when good people pick up a fight agains them , this is what happens. The other day on a news channel I heard salman khurshid joking shjamelessy that ' Hum business class hka paisa economy mein travel karke nahin bachhate. yes ofcourse, why would you guys save. Desh ka paisa to sab aap logo ka hi hai. wealth of India is the property of the ancesstors of all our ploiticians . The kind of money that is spent on our polotiticna is equivalent to buying helicpoters . They dont desrve travel by bus and are targetting Kiran bedi who saved money for her foundation by puttign herself to inconvenience. How mny poilticians to this ? If you are really in politics only to serve the country, why do you guys spend crores on travel by air, why do you wnat luxurions houses in South Mumbai , or the elite regions of Delhi, why do you guys spend crores of rupees on renovation of houses of MLA's ministers? for filling up potholes, the quality of material that is used isn not even worth a few hundred rupess and then they shamelessly say - we dont save money like what Kiran bedi did. We indians should now get united and should not lose focus agains these corrupt brown british rulers.

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