As Indians rise in protest and rally
around Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption, the corrupt and
the opportunist are looking for cover. The swelling resolve to
birth a movement that would usher in real democracy with
transparency and accountability as hallmarks is slowly assuming
And yet, there are a few voices coming up to sow dissension in
this tide of popular discontent against the venal
politician-bureaucrat-corporate nexus that has not only fattened
itself on public money but has also perpetuated a system that
carefully looks after the interests of the privileged and the
powerful, often denying just basic rights to the majority.
There are, in essence, three major points in the murmur of
criticism against the civil uprising sweeping the country.
First, the cause is just but the method is undemocratic and, some
have suggested, fascist. These civil society leaders are not
elected and thus have no locus standi to demand change. Second, if
we allow such pressure groups, instead of established institutions
and channels, to dictate terms to government, there would be
anarchy. And third, a mere law will not be able to curb
It is understandable that the corrupt would slyly, when not
brazenly, try to derail any move to tame them. But what is
surprising is that some so-called liberal commentators have also
raised similar "concerns".
Let us take them one by one and see the hollowness of such
arguments. If the cause is just then why have all the "democratic"
methods failed to curb corruption in the last 63 years. Why is it
that almost all institutions today stand tainted and their
functioning mired in scams and scandals? Corruption has been
institutionalised, flowing through every artery of the state. How
absurd then it is to talk about an elected lawmaker, with
ill-gotten wealth and criminal charges, having a better locus
standi than a mass leader of impeccable integrity and transparent
If just being elected puts that person above the rest, as it
practically does an MP or an MLA with all those VIP status
symbols, red-light-mounted cars, bodyguards, fantastic privileges,
including high-wire fenced free homes, and turns them into masters
instead of servants, then there is something terribly rotten about
Also, judges, including those in the Supreme Court, are also not
elected and yet they, through their judgments, change course of
history, make or mar a corporation or a government and above all,
take away life by handing down a death sentence.
It is true Anna Hazare is not sitting in an air-conditioned office
surrounded by flunkeys but lying in this hot weather in a street
corner and going without food, and thus perhaps not to be taken as
seriously as the creepy elected politician. Anna Hazare has simply
called upon Indians to reclaim their right, and that is to have
real democracy where elected representatives are servants of the
people and truly accountable, and not new masters as they have
wangled to be in independent India.
The second argument is even more specious. Pressure groups or
lobbies have always influenced Indian governments and continue to
do so. Arms dealers to corporate entities have long entrenched
themselves in every sphere of government. The Bofors gun kickback
scandal and recent Niira Radia tapes are ample proof of how
pressure groups operate deep inside government.
For the cynics, such pressure groups are perfectly acceptable but
not Anna Hazare and his millions of ordinary Indian followers who
are pressuring the government simply to do its job - and that is
to protect the interests of the people rather than serve the
shadowy lobbyists and corrupt politician-bureaucrat mafia.
It is already anarchy for the poor and the under-privileged in
this country of 1.2 billion people. The majority feel they live in
a state of lawlessness and despair. The state and its machineries
are seen mainly as oppressors by the vast rural masses in India's
hinterland and urban ghettos.
That is why Anna Hazare's call for a relentless non-violent
struggle for a corruption-free society resonates with so many
different sections of the society. It is one burgeoning pressure
that is beginning to shake government malfeasance. And thus should
be welcomed with open arms.
Lastly, when all their arguments fail to hold water, the cynics
say that a mere legislation will not end corruption. Of course,
not. It will take a whole new protracted freedom movement to
reinstall a truly participatory democracy in India. The good news
is that a beginning has now been made that is aimed at empowering
There is something unique about India's experiments with
democracy. The simple Gandhian has been able to galvanise the
whole nation around an emotive issue. The Anna Hazare solidarity
vigils are cropping up across the country with novel ways of
protest, where the youth feels energised to be agents of change.
From little school children to a shy homemaker to old pensioner to
outraged professionals to harassed citizenry - all are in this
together. It is a giant step toward making India a true beacon of
(Sudip Mazumdar is a foreign correspondent. He can be contacted at