Today, I am writing this note to publicly apologise to Mr Hazare for my angry rants over the last several weeks against his anti-corruption movement, against the Jan Lokpal Bill that he proposes and against his method of occupying an open space in the cramped capital of India and then daring to flood it with people, whom I thought were mostly misinformed and “right wing”– so pathetically elitist of me.
I also disparaged his ideal model village “Ralegoan Siddhi” for its draconian moral policing and other high-handed social corrective methods.
I talked against him on Facebook, I emailed against him to friends, I actively engaged in a lot of so called “anti-corruption-talk”, where I drew from history, philosophy and political science to show theoretically and epistemologically that Hazare’s movement is not “anti-corruption” in essence.
I had picked up many political fights with dear friends and made the cardinal sin of calling them “neo liberal” on their faces, though, later I had to buy them drinks to settle scores.
I had celebrated Arundhati Roy’s recent article on Hazare in The Hindu to the chagrin of many of my friends who do not like her stands on Kashmir and Maoist issues, and consider her to be an opportunist and limelight-hogger herself.
I detested the merchandise that mushroomed around the Hazare brand and thought it was pretty consumerist of him to profess an outward Gandhian simplicity while endorsing all kind of market-driven ploys around his movement.
And finally, there were times when I, very uncharacteristically, found myself defending the current corrupt Congress government and paying attention to what Rahul Gandhi had to say on the floor of Parliament.
I spent so much intellectual calories by being an avid consumer and contributor of news and social media chatters around Mr Hazare over last several weeks.
However, after all this drills and drivels, today, I realise, to my dismay, that I was wrong throughout, and I have no ego qualms to accept it and declare how sorry I am to Mr Hazare for my behavior bordering outright hatefulness.
Being a self-critical yet reason-driven person I will explain below why I feel sorry.
As I was browsing the news on this issue, I had an epiphany. I saw a pattern emerging, where I see Mr Hazare being used just as a symbol, a mask by vested interests that have a lot to gain from this movement. I know I am sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but please hear me out.
Recently I heard an old YouTube posting dated June 18, 2011 of the TV show Aap Ki Adalat, where anchor Rajat Sharma had Mr Hazare as his guest. I found whenever Sharma was asking specific details of the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by “Team Anna”, Mr Hazare was prompting Mr Arvind Kejriwal, sitting next him, to take over. Mr Hazare was only speaking on general topics such as “the evil of corruption” and the “value of nationalism”, while it was Mr Kejriwal who was engaging in any details on the proposed Bill.
Then I looked at many interviews in the print and audiovisual media, and I found the same pattern — our beloved Anna was missing from action when it comes to the details of the Jan Lokpal Bill; he was only playing a role to “promote” it. Does that mean Mr Hazare himself is not sure of the content of the Bill? Has he read it himself at all?
Make no mistake, the current anti-corruption movement has identified the Jan Lokpal Bill as the only anodyne for corruption, so it is important that the person spearheading the movement is aware of the content of the Bill. But, the more I checked news and interviews, the more I became convinced that Mr Hazare is being used as a window-dressing to channelise popular anger against corruption in favor of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which has been drafted by a few Magsaysay Award-winning technocrats and former bureaucrats who, incidentally, also head their own NGOs.
I must add that Mr Hazare was very sweet on Aap Ki Adalat, and in fact I found him very inspiring and a fond personality that drew people. I was surprised that he invoked Bhagat Singh and Rajguru many a times in the interview to discuss the value nationalism, which I thought was remarkable for a “Gandhian”.
Now, all the core members of “Team Anna” have received foreign funding for their NGOs, and the Jan Lokpal Bill does not bring the NGOs in its purview. Though NGOs receive quite a bit of government funding and tax exemption for employee salaries and other revenues, they remain outside the scope of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Even if they are getting foreign loans, no tax or other accountabilities are bestowed upon them. There is no formal overseeing body that covers all NGOs.
Being a social worker myself who has founded, ran and worked in various NGOs in India, I can say that a majority of them are very personality driven. Medium to small NGOs in India may profess democratic principles in their decision making, but usually they are operated autocratically by a handful of founder members. And it is no secret that scores of NGOs often get blacklisted for account misappropriation by the donors themselves. The case for including NGOs under Lokpal is very strong, yet they remain outside its control. So are the NGOs operated by the technocrat members of “Team Anna”.
Therefore, I realised that Mr Hazare, a 74-year-old man in Gandhian attire and inspiration drawn from Bhagat Singh and Rajguru, should not be the target of my anguish generated against this Bill. The clever manipulation of authentic public anger against corruption in support of a Bill that has neither the input of the public nor of Mr Hazare should be deplored for its lack of merit.
The invisible hand of the technocrat “Team” that has been formed around “Anna” should be the target of any critical anger. And not Mr Hazare, and definitely not the hundreds and thousands of people supporting him.