It is cliché but let’s say it. Celebrating October 2 has become just like any other national holiday in India, be it August 15 or January 26. Customary advertisements in media, small and big ticket events of varying scales and a holiday for working folks – the notions that once flourished, now reduced to their most rudimentary anachronism where even the highest of the ideals are not able to sustain their relevance in the cycle of slump. They have to monitor the wheel for when it is taking the turn of history to push the ideals to the forefront again.
Can it be the time?
Can we correlate it with the Gandhian Thought embodied in the Anna phenomenon?
Okay, we saw a renewed interest on communication platforms with almost of the news channels and newspapers allocating significant time and space on Gandhi focused programming and pegging it with the Anna surge but the final product seemed more an attempt to cash on the revived notions of Gandhian Thought with a symbolic figure in Anna on this October 2. Bizarre themes like conspiracy theories, the bullets used to kill the Mahatma, comparing Anna with the Mahatma, telling Anna the next Mahatma – what else we can say! So we need to wait and watch for that, specifically, in the light of the developments post Anna’s August Fast. After the mass mobilization on an issue of common man, free of any prejudiced feelings, i.e., corruption, we have seen the gains in concrete term of political realization are not much. The ball is again with the government that talks to look in hurry but is burdened with so many problems and infightings at the moment that a reform out of its mould to reform the chaotic administrative system is certainly not going to be a priority. Just see how it spreads its tentacles this time to compromise the gains of the mass momentum. A slowed momentum may prove as acidic to an initiative (Jan Lokpal in this case) that it may consume the basic objective of the cause.
At the same time, Anna Hazare and his team is diversifying its agenda. That may look good on airwaves and in ink but, certainly, it is not going to expedite the introduction of ‘Lokpal’, the very basis of the mass unity. Without achieving the goal of ‘Lokpal’, they have started talking of other black hole of India’s governing machinery – electoral reforms and on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, Anna Hazare told in a TV interview that he was going to inspire and field young and dedicated candidates in upcoming elections contesting as Independents supported by Anna and that Anna would campaign for such candidates. Good idea but why now?
Why to divert the focus from the root cause – the ‘Jan Lokpal’?
Why to divert the energy and resources without gaining real term gains on the monstrous issue of corruption when the whole country has been the witness to the cunning, delaying and sabotaging intentions of the ruling machinery?
Focus is important. The Mahatma started from the basic, experimented with him and his life first, then took it to small groups, mobilized them together in South Africa and returned India with positive learning after the significant gains earned by an otherwise oppressed Indian community in South Africa. But he did not jump immediately on the national scene of Indian polity of Independence struggle. He took his time, kept him focused to learn Polity basics about his country unknown to him for over two decades of his stay in South Arica. He started with small but symbolically huge ‘Champaran Movement’ that showed the people that the British could be made to relent. Mahatma’s focused non-violent protests in South Africa and during his initial days of return to India consolidated his concepts of protests through non-violent means that later on epitomized in the most potent tool of the man of the century – Satyagraha, something that has again become the buzz word with remarkable support to the Anna Symbolism.
And this ‘remarkable’ adjective is to be preserved. For, the outcome on the corruption ombudsman issue has suddenly started looking so routine and vulnerable to be manipulated by the ruling machinery unlike the fervour in the wake of culmination of Anna Symbolism on August 28 that it may well reduce to a flicker of hope. Though Anna has again given the ultimatum that if the government would not pass the ‘Lokpal Bill’ in the Winter Session of the Parliament, he would start his agitation with campaigning to vote Congress out. But it doesn’t say much. Referendums on ‘Jan Lokpal’ are being done in different constituencies. But it doesn’t say much, until we see the organized movement that touches and works to aware the rural India.
When the Mahatma had returned from his tour of India and was asked to address a meeting of Congress, he said some simple lines in his brief speech and that flattened every other decorated speech preceding his. The crux of his address was that India would not get its Independence by organizing such meets in some cities by some lawyers and high voltage addresses unless it echoes in the sentiments of the inhabitants of the villages and small towns, the major chunk of the Indian population. It is equally relevant even today. Still, 69% of its population is from rural areas. Even the 31% of the urban population has its share of many small sleepy towns not on the radar.
The ideal next step would be the efforts to galvanize the momentum gained to this population base to cover as much coordinates as possible. It would prepare the ground for the ‘Lokpal’ as well as an effective platform to launch other reform movements like electoral reforms. This one was the real strategy driven requirement as most of the population base and the geographic areas would not be in the ambit of social networking and media connect owing to sociological and infrastructural disconnects. But that is not happening. It is disappointing but we need to accept it.
Post August 28, there should have been efforts for further mobilization, even away from the media glare, in territories still pariah for the social networking revolution. And it makes us feel the urge for Gandhi’s vision even more. You need to be there where a Facebook can’t reach, where a TV camera would not go to cover an ordinary but significant worker of the movement to mobilize others. Gandhi’s ‘3rd class travel’ is its burning example. That is not happening after the gains of the August mobilization.
We should not forget it’s a long battle. According to former Election Commissioner GVG Krishnamurthy, “The issue of creating an ombudsman to fight graft had come up for discussions at 3rd All India Law Conference at instance of Nehru in 1962. “The session on ombudsman was presided over by M C Setalvad, the celebrated Attorney General of that time, and it was unanimously resolved and adopted that an ombudsman be appointed to deal with charges of corruption at both political and official levels,” Krishnamurthy said in an interview recently. But why Nehru couldn’t take it forward, only Nehru could tell. It was when Congress had majority and unbridled run in India and Nehru had emerged as a towering personality barring his clashes with Sardar Patel. So we do not have reasons to wait for the Winter Session, for, we, still cannot say what would be ‘Lokpal Institution’ finally. If the government backtracks again, as it has been doing in the past, the further movement needs to be large enough to echo as the voices of Indians of all formations.
We need to stay focused. The Movement needs to grow more focused! Let’s gift the Mahatma something concrete on his next birth anniversary.