Quote unquote: Hazaaron voices on Hazare

Hazaaron voices on Hazare

Hazaaron voices on Hazare
Hazaaron voices on Hazare
As Anna Hazare's standoff with the government over his right to protest entered the third day, literati, glitterati, twitterati and other talking heads waxed eloquent. There were kudos and barbs from acolytes and cynics alike. Fence-sitters and tongue-in-cheekers joined the fray.
Here's the pick of what's around. And if you find something that's not yet here but should be, point us to it.
In a well-argued piece published in Outlook, RTI activist and National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy begged askance of what constitutes civil society. "If everything outside government is civil society, then it includes the RSS and the CPI (Maoist), the Lions, Rotarians, caste-based associations, including khap panchayats, human rights organisations, campaign and academic groups, corporate social responsibility organisations, private public partnerships (PPPS) and even individual crusaders like Irom Sharmila," she said.
In conversation with Tehelka magazine's managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, Roy expressed her scorching criticism of television debates that have polarized public view with their emphasis on sensationalizing conflict rather than inspiring debate. She also "Instead of having TV debates that reminds one of cock-fights, we should have a nuanced debate. After all, the nation is our collective responsibility," she said. In addition, Roy warned:
'The Lokpal could become a Frankenstein's monster, which was created by a good man who didn't have any evil ideas but what he created became evil.'
Mihir S Sharma, writing in The Indian Express, went hard at Anna Hazare's blind supporters who want to be "on the right side." He wrote:
"Who would not sympathize with the plucky Gandhian crusader tossed into jail by a corrupt government that wishes to silence him? That's the telling of events we seem to believe — in spite of the fact that Anna Hazare is pushing for an absurd and dangerous piece of legislation, shows little of the tolerance that marks political Gandhianism, and has a profound contempt for democracy. Our acceptance of his telling of it underlines Hazare's political canniness, and the ham-handedness of this government when it comes to shaping narratives. But it reveals, too, a yearning for the barricades, for a righteous uniting cause."
In a corrosive op-ed in The New York TimesOpen magazine editor Manu Joseph flayed the corruptibility of the Indian middle-class:
"Indians have a deep and complicated relationship with corruption. As in any long marriage, it is not clear whether they are happily or unhappily married. The country's economic system is fused with many strands of corruption and organized systems of tax evasion. The middle class is very much a part of this."
It's hard to decide which is louder -- the public outcry over corruption and the rabble's despair for monotheism, or the discordant noises of the media trying to out-hero Hazare. To the effect that the cogent issues behind the nature of Anna's fast and the government's position have been dissolved to a muddy blur. Writing in FirstPost, journalist Jay Mazoomdar is concerned that any benefit of this so-called groundswell is well out of reach of the common man, the aam aadmi. Arguing that Anna's "second freedom struggle" leaves the real aam aadmi feeling cheated, Mazoomdar asks:
"Is it because the aam aadmi has been offered a Hobson's choice: suffer corrupt politicians who handpick corrupt bureaucrats to loot the country on behalf of corrupt business interests; or back a group of self-appointed, ham-handed dictators who blackmail democracy with a fast-unto-death to force us to accept their panacea of a law?"
Ever the artful bugler, author Chetan Bhagat declared on Twitter that The Guardian had requested him to do a piece on the "Anna movement". While he admits that "it has... become cool to be righteous", here's the crux of his illuminating analysis:
"How has a sleepy, defeatist India suddenly been galvanized into action? Why do our people, used to a feudal-colonial setup for centuries, suddenly want their politicians to be accountable, rather than treat them like kings? It is difficult to answer these questions at the moment, as we are still in the middle of the movement. However, a few things are clear: India seems to have suddenly woken up to an intense craving for the good and the honest."
C P Surendran does not agree. Deploring that Hazare "in his moral tyranny is actually beginning to look like Mahatma Gandhi", he writes: "It'd be fun to see who were the advisers who landed a wimp like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh into the Lok Pal soup. A party that can't argue its case against a retired army truck driver whose only strength really is a kind of stolid integrity and a talent for skipping meals doesn't deserve to be in power. Power goes to people who love it. Anna Hazare loves nothing more than power."
Samar Halarnkar, writing in The Hindustan Times, argued that he finds it hard to relate to the "extreme passions" of this movement. He asks: "Have we ever stood by Irom Sharmila Devi, the Manipuri woman who has been on a hospital bed for a decade, force fed through tubes because she is on a hunger strike to have a draconian security law removed?" Unfortunate that an activist who has been fasting interminably for the last twelve years without food or water for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act must be introduced for the benefit of the reader while those who flock to Anna hardly know of (or care for) his real cause or his antecedents. Halarnkar's analysis doubles as a warning:
"This is a protest, not a revolution. I sense a lack of emotional proportion and a troubling hypocrisy from a middle class that refuses to get as moved to action by graver things, such as the murder of female children, child labor in homes, hotels and factories, or poverty outside our car windows."
But why Anna and not, say, Swami Agnivesh or Kiran Bedi, or even Baba Ramdev? Precisely the question that Raman Kirpal addressed in FirstPost. "After all," he writes, "Anna was hardly a nationally known figure. And despite the fact that he had worked wonders for his own village, he did not have a huge following even in his home state of Maharashtra." Hazare, he argues, was "an afterthought" for the movement's real spearheads. The writer's clinching analysis:
"Despite having many detractors and with a reputation for stubbornness, everybody was clear on one thing: he was personally incorruptible."
While high-flying commentators make hay, the king of low-cost flying Captain G R Gopinath has called out to fellow captains (of the industry, as we understand) to support the movement. Airing his disappointment to DNA about the lack of corporate participation in showing solidarity with Hazare, he said: "Corporate bigwigs should have come voluntarily. They have not been speaking openly and clearly."
Perhaps he had not yet heard of Shailesh Saraf, Morgan Stanley vice president who has flown down from Hong Kong to join Anna's protest.
Gopinath, who contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate and lost, criticized the government for misunderstanding Hazare's intentions:
"The UPA thinks the Jan Lokpal Bill is against it. However, Anna Hazare has clearly mentioned the bill is not against the ruling party, but against political parties and governments that have allowed corruption to increase."
Writing in DNA, Delhi journalist Seema Mustafa attacked the "dynastic" Congress-led government for failing to read the people's pulse. She wrote: "The Congress and its government was totally unable to understand the mood of the people being run by a Cabinet of politicians who have never faced the people in an election. Most of them are in position because of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and spend all their time in pleasing the latter than in serving the people."
Nearly everyone enjoyed a big fat smirk reacting to the announcement of a certain Sri B S Yeddyurappa to join Anna's crusade. Mid-Day reported that Yeddy arrived at Freedom Park in Bangalore August 18 to join the campaign in support of Anna. The shamed former Chief Minister, who was booed off, was quoted as saying:
"The government was wrong in arresting Anna Hazare and it was absolutely unjustified. I want to join the common man in their fight against corruption."
Even before the rest of the Tweetosphere had finished chuckling, @rameshsrivats tweeted:
"Yeddy to join Anna movement. After getting anticipatory bail for graft charges. He can shout slogans against himself."
But the last laugh went to a friend who posted on Facebook:
"SM Krishna on Anna: I wish she would return to competitive tennis."
While you ROFL to that, watch this space. And hey, have you applied for fasting leave yet?