The ongoing fast unto death by respected social activist Anna Hazare has evoked popular support and wide spread coverage in the media. It is clear that the popular support especially from the urban middle classes is built more on the outrage over corruption than a deeper understanding of the issues involved in Anna’s campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill. While there is a broad consensus, including the Left Parties (http://cpim.org/content/bring-effective-lokpal-bill) that the present draft made by the government is inadequate to serve its purpose, genuine concerns have been raised over the civil society’s demand for bypassing the role of elected representatives and operational parts of the bill (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/jan-lokpal-bill-undermines-democracy-experts/148609-3.html). It is not clear as to which way will a final resolution materialize, with the government feeling the pressure of the momentum which has gathered around Anna’s campaign. However, it is worth reflecting on some of the issues around this hyped campaign against corruption.
To begin with, let us take the role of the civil society itself. In a well functioning democracy the civil society plays an extremely important role. In
But to think of the civil society as some entity which would lead a country towards salvation, even politely speaking is farfetched and detached from reality. To my mind, the biggest reason is not incompetence, lack of revolutionary zeal, being unable to lead the people but lack of any accountability towards the people. This works in two ways. First, no matter what position the civil society takes (not to generalise it as some homogenous entity), it is not held accountable in any manner. Let us take an example: Swami Agnivesh, one of the key persons with Anna Hazare’s agitation has been campaigning for the present Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in
What then is the point? Is this an argument for argument’s sake? If not what is the moot point? A struggle to free the society of its vices can only succeed if it takes a holistic view. In common parlance unless the “system” is overhauled there is not much hope in the long run. The fight against corruption cannot be confined to the realm of a Lokpal Bill. Corruption in today’s
Now, one can legitimately argue that to allow big corporations to evade taxes in a country where millions go to bed without even two square meals a day is definitely the hallmark of a corrupt government, if not legally then politically and morally. But these issues shall not be raised, for there are stakes involved. The media would definitely not cover such demands. Media and News Making is itself big-business in
Of course, it would be absurd to say that Anna’s agitation is designed to appease these sections. One must give the respect and legitimacy to the present agitation it deserves. The point I’m arguing for is a different one. To reduce the fight against corruption or the debate around it to only the demand for a particular piece of legislation is not doing justice to the cause. To project the middle classes, many of them politically naive or illiterate, and some time reactionary as revolutionaries who’ll bring about change, to allow characters like Chetan Bhagat to ridicule the entire democratic set up in our country by a cheap imitation of Deewar’s Amitabh Bachhan, who had to bear the indignation of having to spend his life with “mera baap chor hai” inscribed on his hands by the fellow workers of his trade unionist father, to project the ongoing agitation like a revolution while mobilizations much bigger in scale and with wider demands are blacked out (http://pragoti.org/node/4300), to measure the success of a campaign by who tweets in solidarity are reflections of the superficiality of the movement. If left without critical questions they have the potential of making the very political process shallow and farcical, excluding the concerns and aspirations of the toiling masses. Efforts must be made to utilize such occasions to raise and popularize legitimate and real questions which plague our country. And success in my view can only be achieved by popularizing partisanship in the favour of the sufferers and calling for and enforcing more democratic accountability, not the lack of it. Class assertion is a necessary condition for these ideas to materialize, but definitely not a sufficient one. Those of us, who want to transcend this class ridden society must think deeper and evolve ways to connect to the masses and build popular agitations and defeat the bourgeoisie in its game of creating flashpoints like these to confer radicalism upon itself, which can very well be used as a safety valve at times.
Karl Marx had said, “To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter”. Whether it is corruption or anything else not engaging with the roots beneath can be anything but radicalism, and caution must be observed not to lower the guard.