The Hindu newspaper has been carrying articles by various eminent writers and thinkers on the issue of Anna Hazare ever since Anna started his fast recently. The lead article on the edit page of today’s Hindu [24 Aug] is written by Prof Prabhat Patnaik. Prof Patnaik compares Anna to a Messiah, the saviour to whose miraculous powers the masses of India have surrendered their independence. Anna is like Shekhar Kapoor’s Mr India who will single-handedly deal with the corrupt villains while the citizens of Bharat mata will stand and watch in awe-struck admiration. This is a kind of capitulation. This is not democracy. This is “Messianism versus democracy” – the tile of his article.
The lead article on the edit page of yesterday’s Hindu [23 Aug] is written by another Prof of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Prof Sukhadeo Thorat borrows the three warnings that Dr Ambedkar issued rather prophetically when he presented the final draft of the Constitution of India on Nov 25, 1949 before the Constituent Assembly. Elaborating on third warning, Prof Thorat argues that we have fallen into the pitfall warned against by Ambedkar. We have become mere hero-worshippers. Ambedkar’s second warning was about the use of civil disobedience, non-cooperation, satyagraha and fast. In an independent country such methods may become unconstitutional. Anna is behaving unconstitutionally and has also become a hero worshipped by tens of thousands of Indians. A hero, a messiah, and tens of thousands of worshippers.
Arundhati Roy had already filled in the remaining blank in the list of labels on 22 Aug in the lead article on the edit page of The Hindu. Ms Roy chose to label Anna “a saint” though of the dubious variety. Ms Roy’s views (selected, though) found wide circulation in many other newspapers the next day, a fortune that did not hit the other articles. The others are not as provocative as Ms Roy, of course. Ms Roy also thinks that Anna is a usurper of the country’s Constitution. The Jan Lokpal will be another “oligarchy,” in addition to the existing oligarchy of the parliament.
I had never heard of Sukhadeo Thorat earlier. Prabhat Patnaik and Arundhati Roy are two persons whose writings have attracted my attention very much in the past. I still admire them for many reasons. While all these writers have raised very valid points vis-à-vis Anna Hazare, I remain a distant supporter of this present day Messiah/Hero/’dubious’ Saint. I remain his supporter knowing his limits and limitations.
I have been calling him a name too: a ‘soldier.’ For me, Anna is a soldier who is fighting a just war. I don’t see it as a war against the Republic of India and its Constitution. I see it as a war against the corruption that has eaten mercilessly and relentlessly into the System. A soldier may lack the ideological outlook of a visionary. Anna too lacks that. But he is doing a job that had to be done quite some time ago by someone. I don’t like his rigidity about his version of the Lokpal Bill. Otherwise, I am of the opinion that he is doing the right thing.
What Anna is doing is not any more unconstitutional than the legal guardians of the Constitution do by their extremely corrupt practices. These guardians are subverting the Constitution day in and day out. Anna appears to be subverting the Constitution for this while in order to bring sanctity back to it as far as possible. I don’t know if the real Gandhi, the Mahatma, would have approved of Anna’s methods. But the simple, ordinary Indian citizen in me approves of it.
The simple, ordinary thousands of Indian citizens approve of it. That’s why they thronged the streets in large numbers. Not merely because they don’t think beyond the Messiah, the Hero and the Saint and the filmy miracles.
A Jan Lokpal won’t be a panacea. Nothing can be a panacea in the world of human beings. Corruption will creep in. As Ms Roy suggested in her article, even a Lokpal officer may accept a bribe by and by. But just because there is the possibility of the relapse of a cancer, we don’t decide to throw away the medication.
I won’t shout Kiran Bedi’s slogan that Anna is India and India is Anna. But I shout a silent slogan in my heart for the success of Anna’s war. That silent slogan is a symbol of a longing of those Indians whom Ms Roy mentioned in her article as “the 830 million people living on Rs20 a day.”