A veritable wave of 'Annamania' has
swept an angst-ridden, urban, middle India, specially in
'Annapolis' (read Delhi), giving the illusion of a new era
christened 'Anna Domini,' marked by 'Annalia', mixing
anti-establishment hysterics, populist entertainment and the
romance of a revolution.
The over week-long spontaneous uprising against corruption
shepherded by a fasting 74-year-old self-styled Gandhian has
spawned a new vocabulary of protest and bred a popular mythology
that is seductive but may not survive a reality check.
Since India's 64th Independence Day, Anna Hazare has morphed into
a contemporary icon thanks to a direction-challenged government
and an angry, disillusioned, ignored middle class that flocked
around him over the mantra of the anti-corruption crusade.
Anna's mantra-like formulation, "India's second independence
movement", regardless of the accuracy of this self-deluding label,
has struck a powerful chord with middle India who have been
swelling in numbers with every passing day, making a former
soldier and a grassroots campaigner, pushing his version of
anti-graft legislation, a national hero.
Anna's apostles too have been astute enough to invoke mythology to
feed popular imagination, building him into a modern-day messiah.
Swami Agnivesh has compared Hazare to Lord Krishna. "Where was
Lord Krishna born? In jail! And Anna came to Ramlila from Tihar
jail!" Agnivesh told thousands of cheering supporters at at
It isn't just Anna Hazare and his comrades who are minting this
new-fangled vocabulary, but an overheated media has let the
imagination run riot and crafted seductive banner headlines and
labels like 'Annalia,' 'Annapolis' and 'Anna Domini'.
Trying to unravel the Anna phenomenon, some analysts and
commentators have compared the Anna-led anti-corruption crusade to
the J.P. Movement of the mid-1970s that led to the imposition of
the draconian emergency and cited the mishandling of the agitation
by then prime minister Indira Gandhi and her minders that made
Jayaprakash Narayan's call for "total revolution" so appealing to
But the contexts and provocations were different: the Anna
movement, if it can be called that, lacks the pan-India appeal the
JP Movement had.
Stunned by the scale of mass mobilisation and the making of a
contemporary icon, the international media also latched on to the
Anna phenomenon, with some of them comparing the upsurge to
India's "Arab Spring" - an allusion to spontaneous SMS-inspired
popular movement that toppled dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia
and that threatens to dislodge more totalitarian regimes in the
But the comparison, except for the use of new social media and a
near spontaneous mobilisation around the issue of corruption, does
not survive closer scrutiny. For one, Anna and co is not pitching
for a change of regime but only for stronger anti-corruption
Neither are they fighting for democracy; they have become a
phenomenon precisely because of the exuberant Indian democracy
that can also indulge in anarchist rhetoric and still retain its
character. Nor is the government, like some of the bloodthirsty
dictators in the Middle East, using live bullets to crush
But revolutions or pseudo-revolutions, for that matter, are not
based on logic or facts; they often peddle fantasies and utopias
of classless society - a corruption-free India, in Anna's case -
and that sometime becomes a veritable nightmare for its subjects.
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