“Heroes do not make history but history makes heroes,” said Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in his eminent book Civilisations. Let me quote him in a little more detail: “You can tell the values and trends of an age by the heroes it chooses. In the eighteenth century, for instance, the English idolized explorers and ‘noble savages’. In the nineteenth, their heroes were engineers, entrepreneurs and inventors.” [Pan Books, 2001, page 538]
A few pages ahead in the book, the author says, “Civilization is skin-thin: scratch it and savagery bleeds out” [page 546]. On the same page he quotes Jacobus Delwaide of the Catholic University of Brussels: “The next century… will be better than this. Of course it will – we’ve made such a mess of the world that there’s no way out but up.”
India has now made a hero of Anna Hazare. There was no other way. India had stooped so low that there was “no way but up”. This is not to belittle Anna Hazare. He deserves the status of a hero. But will he outlive the decade as a hero? In India?
Heroes today have as much shelf life as a new gadget.
Anna Hazare’s victory was a foregone conclusion. On the one hand, corruption had become too obvious an issue in India for a Hazare to go on a fast-unto-death. The issue demanded attention long ago. The public support that Hazare garnered was only a natural outcome of the delay on the part of the government to do anything noteworthy in tackling the issue. On the other hand, there were political parties and organisations that tried to gather some mileage out of Hazare’s fast. It is to Hazare’s credit that he succeeded in keeping such outfits away from hijacking his movement.
But the way certain political parties tried to hijack Hazare’s movement is an indication of how politics works in India. It is also an indication of what will happen to the Bill that Hazare’s movement will get passed.
M F Husain’s sketch in today’s [9 April] Hindu newspaper is an indication of that future. The dragon of corruption is only scratched on the skin. Indians will fly jubilantly in the vacuous air led by an amorphous Durga.
Today’s Hindu also carries a significant headline on the front page. “Lead by example, CAG (Comptroller and Auditor-General) tells political leadership of the country” is the headline. The CAG, Vindod Rai, is quoted by the paper as saying, “Political leaders have an onerous task of leading by example. They must display exemplary values and behaviour in their personal and public conduct.” The CAG was speaking at the National Conference and Annual Session of the Confederation of India Industry (CII) in Delhi.
There are too many criminals in Indian politics. And very many more are poised to enter it. I challenge you to try to get a party ticket to contest an election. You will be asked to pay in crores. [A crore is ten million.] Anna Hazare’s latest victory won’t make any difference to that. Why is one willing to pay that amount to gain a party ticket? Of course, to win the election. Why does one want to win the election that way? Of course, to make worthwhile profits. The crores are an investment. Politics is a business in India.
That’s why Anna Hazare will remain a short-lived hero. He has won for the time being. He mentioned once that although he is a Gandhian he also advocates the kind of violence used by Shivaji – hang the corrupt. Will the new Bill go to that extent? Of course, it won’t.
I know that a lot of great people like Nobel laureates and Magsaysay winners are to be in the process of judging the guilty. My fear is that the intellectuals will get sick of the politics they will encounter once they enter the foray. My fear is that politics will find a way out of the new legislation. That’s how India has worked all through! Beneath the civilization of India lies a kind of savagery that the Mahatma, the Father of the Nation, could not purge out. Chanakya/Kautilya is India’s all-time hero.