Why Anna Hazare Movement makes sense?
All of us who believe in a vibrant democracy should be happy with the current mass participation in the Anna Hazare Movement. A democracy that whips up a public debate, which brings an all-pervading malaise into the foreground to make it topic of the day, making everyone in the country to sit up and take notice of an issue that concerns us all, definitely makes a healthy nation. Anna Hazare Movement has singlehandedly challenged the Government of India, woke it up from its slumber – you could practically see our beloved Prime Minister waking up from his eternal nap to give a speech on the Independence Day.
The Anna Hazare Movement has moved the current administration to sit up, shed its apathy towards corruption, and has created a sense of urgency to get the Lokpal Bill passed in the Parliament. The subject got undivided attention even from the President of India who devoted some valuable time on the topic of corruption in her nationwide speech on the Independence Day. Today the media consistently talks about corruption as if it is the newly discovered cancer. Anna Hazare already got his victory when he mobilized thousands of youth across the country to come out and protest over a cause that is not entirely selfish. Indian youth who do not pay much attention to the social and political issues have embraced this cause. The movement gives the youth of the nation a motivation to participate in the political affairs of their country. This is all for some good, one can hope.
Should Anna Hazare be allowed to protest?
The Government of India has become arrogant with the belief that it alone represents the will of the people of this nation. If anyone challenges its stance on social issues by providing an alternate viewpoint is considered ‘undemocratic’. The people in power call this movement ‘unconstitutional’ and try to suppress it. Arresting Anna Hazare on 16th August 2011 was one of the most egregious acts in the recent political history of this nation. Sending him to the same jail where Raja and Kalmadi are imprisoned on charges of corruption must be quite ironic. These sheepish actions of the government galvanized the movement further and brought more people into the movement. It is becoming clear that the Government of India may concede on some of the clauses in their bill.
It is the right to remind ourselves that it is the democratic right of citizens of India to protest. If people of a nation do not exercise this right on a regular basis, a democracy will turn into an autocracy. Right to protest becomes an integral part of every thriving democracy – one cannot always bank on the electoral, constitutional and legal methods to bring change. There can be no stage in the life of a democracy when we can say that protests are no longer necessary. Even the countries like United States see mass protests and demonstrations, like when the students wanted to end the war in Vietnam or in Iraq. And the capital city of a country is the appropriate place to make those protests. Each time a protest is imminent, the Government of India cannot arrest the protesting individuals or the leaders on the pretext of ‘preventing’ the disturbance it would cause. If a capital city of India cannot support and sustain people’s protests then where should the citizens of Indians make their voice heard? In Beijing?
Is hunger-strike a form of blackmail?
There are some people who believe that a hunger-strike or a fast is an act of coercion, that it is a form of blackmail. I do not necessarily agree with them. Hunger-strike is just another form of protest, like a bandh, or a rasta-roko, or a people’s rally, or a human chain. All these forms of protest are made to mobilize people to come out in support for a cause. When a protestor goes on a hunger-strike he makes the people conscious of the cause. He grabs their attention and encourages them to come out onto the streets. It is not the act of hunger-strike which can be deemed blackmail, it is the demand. In the current Anna Hazare Movement, what is blackmail is the demand that Janlokpal Bill be passed in the Parliament by a certain date.
There are hundreds of hunger-strikes currently taking place in the country. For almost a year and half, thousands of people have held hunger-strikes and fasts in Telangana, but the government did not pay attention. When Baba Ramdev was hogging the limelight with his stunts in New Delhi, another activist died after fasting for nearly hundred days for another cause. Not every hunger-strike derives the same attention from the people of Government of India, the way not all protests or bandhs evoke the same interest. It’s the demand which can be deemed an act of coercion, not the fast or bandh or a mass rally.