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Why Anna Hazare should be ignored (and fed)

August 23, 2011

Anna Hazare goes on a hunger strike to pass the misguided Lokpal Bill and frustrated millions rally behind anti-government and anti-democracy under the banner of ‘Fighting against Corruption’. This is a round-up.

Of the few, by the few

The various drafts of the Jan Lokpal Bill are, very frankly, an institutional nightmare. To be fair, the bill is a work in progress. But the general premises that underlie the various drafts border on being daft. They amount to an unparalleled concentration of power in one institution that will literally be able to summon any institution and command any kind of police, judicial and investigative power. Power, divided in a democracy, can often be alibi for evading responsibility. But it is also a guarantee that the system is not at the mercy of a few good men. Having concentrated immense power, it then displays extraordinary faith in the virtue of those who will wield this power. Why do we think this institution will be incorruptible? The answer seems to be that the selection mechanism will somehow ensure a superior quality of guardians. Why? Because the selection committee, in addition to the usual virtuous judges, will have, as one draft very reassuringly put it, two of the “most recent Magsaysay Award Winners”. Then there is no sense of jurisdiction and limits. It is not going to look at corruption only. It can even look into “wasteful” expenditure. They can, potentially usurp all policy prerogatives of democratic governments. So many accountability institutions, in the name of accountability, are not distinguishing between policy issues and corruption. They are perpetuating the myth that government can function without any discretionary judgment.

But the demand is premised on an idea that non-elected institutions that do not involve politicians are somehow the only ones that can be trusted. This assumption is false. Institutions of all kinds have succeeded and failed. But the premise of so much accountability discourse is not just contempt of politicians, but contempt of representative democracy

Anna Hazare’s movement is anti-social justice, manuwadi

Dalit activists insist that corruption means much more than just bribes and kickbacks. “For us casteism is corruption, caste-discrimination is corruption, not filling up reserved seats as per constitutional norms is also corruption. Is Anna and his team willing to talk about all these?” says Anoop Kheri, coordinator of Insight Foundation, that helps Dalit and adivasi students in higher education.

Adds Rajesh Paswan, a JNU doctorate in Hindi, “The movement has raised fears among Dalits, adivasis and minorities that similar methods can be used to create laws against them in future.”

I’d rather not be Anna by Arundhati Roy

Meanwhile the props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna’s Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the celebration of the nuclear tests. They signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not ‘true Indians.’ The 24-hour channels have decided that there is no other news in the country worth reporting.

‘The Fast’ of course doesn’t mean Irom Sharmila’s fast that has lasted for more than ten years (she’s being force fed now) against the AFSPA, which allows soldiers in Manipur to kill merely on suspicion. It does not mean the relay hunger fast that is going on right now by ten thousand villagers in Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear power plant. ‘The People’ does not mean the Manipuris who support Irom Sharmila’s fast. Nor does it mean the thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur. Nor do we mean the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley. Nor do we mean the farmers in NOIDA, or Pune or Haryana or elsewhere in the country, resisting the takeover of the land.

‘The People’ only means the audience that has gathered to watch the spectacle of a 74-year-old man threatening to starve himself to death if his Jan Lokpal Bill is not tabled and passed by Parliament.

Why I Do Not Support Anna Hazare (and You Shouldn’t Either)

The last time I checked, India was a democratic country. We elect our governments. If we believe that the government is corrupt, we have the right to elect a new government. We also have the right to stand for elections ourselves if we deem none of the parties worthy of our votes. Anna Hazare proposes that a body more powerful than the current government be established. This body will not be elected by the people (and they will have no say in the matter of who comprises of this body) but appointed by judges, IAS officers, Padma Bhushan winners and so on.

Akhil Gogoi and Anna Hazare, will you dare to fast with Irom Sharmila

The question to Akhil Gogoi is why he is so adamant in having Anna Hazare in the Judge Field. It is indeed true that Anna Hazare has done nothing for Assam and has probably never even heard about the problems of the North Eastern Region. […] Just as no farmer would like if his cultivable land is converted to a sports complex overnight, no sportsmen would like to see a sports ground being destroyed due to a rally. And as a leader of farmer’s association, Akhil Gogoi is yet unable to understand this.

Where was Akhil Gogoi when Irom Sharmila was fasting for the last ten years? He never supported her or took any step to save the rural people, whom he claims to represent and who suffers most from the brutal AFSPA. Now he is keen in fighting for the sudden nationally acclaimed figure, Anna Hazare’s meeting but he has never dared to show any support for Irom Sharmila in her fight against the Indian State system. Akhil Gogoi, would you or your hero Anna Hazare dare to fast with for Irom Sharmila? We are sure you won’t because fighting against corrupted people, though essential, is easier than fighting against the Indian Army and the Indian Government. More than corruption, you now fight for a playground for your ego while Irom Sharmila continues to battle more pain and hard times to saveguard human life.

Aarakshan, Anna Hazare and Narendra Modi

It [Anna Hazare’s movement] eschews those things which fundamentally divide civil society, and instead taps into popular outrage against corruption in politics and daily life. Everybody is against corruption, just as everybody is for peace and harmony. The solution Hazare’s movement offers in the form of the Jan Lokpal bill is as naive as Amitabh Bachchan’s classroom-in-a-tabela. […] The establishment of the Lokpal as envisaged by Hazare, Bedi, Kejriwal and the Bhushans, will do almost nothing to curb corruption; if set up in the form the activists want, it will only add a layer to India’s bureaucracy, a layer which will soon turn as corrupt as all the other layers.

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