I am a middle class Indian. And I can’t get myself to care about Anna Hazare’s present protest. I can’t help but mock at the participants in the many marches. The over-hyped candle light vigils are yet to make their presence felt in this campaign. But I don’t think they are too far away. Does this make me an unpatriotic cynic?
Friends in the course of conversations and on social media have urged me to wear a black band, change my profile picture to that of Anna Hazare and copy paste messages to showcase my solidarity for the cause. What cause, I ask. Fighting corruption, they say. But I raise a red flag. Aren’t all the protests about the Jan Lokpal? The response though is re-assuring. It’s all one and the same, I hear. Really?
My mind goes back to an extremely well made Tamizh movie called Ramana, where the protagonist sets up an Anti-corruption force to, as the name suggests, battle corruption. The force sets about kidnapping the top few corrupt officials from various government departments & killing the most corrupt one, setting free the rest. Corruption magically reduces as fear sets in in the minds of the government officials. In a remarkable final scene, the protagonist rejects an offer of pardon, saying that if he took it, he would be going against the very principles that he’s been fighting for & that justice should be served. I wonder if Team Anna had seen this movie. If they were anyways going to jail, they might have as well attempted to maximize their impact when out in the open. Or will someone else rise to do that job. Who will play Bhagat Singh to Anna’s Gandhi?
As I sit and ponder over these many questions, I realize that my cynicism traces its origins to events which happened two years ago. November 26th is a date etched in the minds of every Indian, for all the wrong reasons. The strong public reaction was a bright point, though. Rallies were taken. Peace marches were held. News anchors scoured over every single detail. There was widespread anguish over how the government acted in the whole episode. And less than 6 months later as the country headed to its next general election the whole nation looked to Mumbai to see which way she would vote, or at least how much she would vote. The results were shocking, again not necessarily because of who was voted in, but because so few were voting. The people just did not turn up to vote. Cynicism found its abode in my mind. Did we actually expect that the voter will wake up and make his way to the polling booth? This was right in the middle of the Indian summer, as against a much more pleasant climate prevailing in late November. The comfort of the air conditioner & the luxury of an unexpected middle of the week holiday was of course way too alluring compared with the onerous task of electing the next government.
When the whole movement against corruption was kick-started, the Lokpal bill was seen as a possible solution. It was but the backdrop against which a larger fight was being launched. The cause was exemplary, and the solution, acknowledged as not being perfect, was put up for discussion to refine it. All’s well till this time. Then the government suddenly froze and the opposition parties were in a quandary whether to support a bill which they knew would come back to haunt them at some point or let go of a Anna given opportunity to get on the government’s back. Anna’s team suddenly forgot that the elimination of corruption was much more complex than a single law & instead fixated itself on the Lokpal bill. Unlike corruption, which is fed by excessive give and take, in this fight both parties refused to budge. An uneasy impasse was created, and despite the flurry of activity over the past two days, the deadlock remains firmly in place.
So, would it be fair if I ask that in this fight between bloated egos & botched up government machinery, why should I be forced to take a stake?