Beyond Anna Hazare


“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.


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6 Responses to Beyond Anna Hazare

  1. Anup says:

    as I have mentioned before, the buck stops with the people who vote for these elected representatives again and again. It is a situation where the more corrupt you are the better your chance of wining an election because people think they can get stuff done with a “development” oriented leader. There is no point getting worked up about corruption in India. It’s just the way we are. Yes Chanakya is our hero. And we are pretty good at adapting to this system, it comes to us naturally.

    PS: how come the same indians seem to play by the rules when they live outside india. may be they are just marking time and waiting to have enough numbers.

    • matheikal says:

      Anup, it was heartening to see a lot of youngsters taking the lead this time to support Anna Hazare. Do you think there’s room for hope since the youngsters are coming forward?

      • Anup says:

        I hope so. But most of the younsters I know (20-25, upper middle class) tend to have a superficial knowledge of politics and social issues and will vote for a good looking blue eyed candidate in jeans regardless of their capability and track record. I hope the rest of the young population who bear the brunt of the corrupt policies of our political parties act with more sense.

  2. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    “Politics is a business in India.” – is it not in the US, UK, China, Brazil, Chile, Russia, Greece, Portugal, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Phillipines, Thailand, Japan, France, Spain, South Africa …?

    Please read my most recent blog wherein, I have independently (of Hazare) asked for the head of ALL corrupt people, not just politicians and read my comments too.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      Raghuram, I’m merely posting here my reply to your blog [mentioned in your comment].

      First of all, Raghuram, no ERA is going to start with Anna Hazare. The era of ERAs and heroes is obsolete. We live in the era of the moment: here today gone tomorrow.

      Secondly, corruption (evil, in a plainer word) is not a new phenomenon. Think of the kings of the bygone days. Think of how they exploited the masses as and when it suited them. The king lived happily while the people lived miserably.

      Thirdly – and this is where I disagree with your blog – the past is not the present. And India need not follow any country. Regarding the past, information was not spread so easily as today. So today with all the information that’s spread so rapidly belongs to those who can handle the information intelligently. Our politicians are not fit for that since most of them are uneducated and uncultured. What you are seeing now is the emergence of a new generation that wants to get into politics, the most lucrative business, with certain goals – combine politics with business!

      About India needing not following any country – With all its youth power, an intelligent and educated power that wants change, india can be different. CAN be. I hope it will be. At least to make a meaningful change to the present scenario. The future always remains uncertain.

  3. dawnanddew says:

    Actually I can’t give any comment on the blog as my knowledge is limited. But my spirit shot up on seeing the last line. I second it.

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