It was in May of 2004 when I’d first blogged about a New, Improved India, based on the belief that a highly-educated economist being elected as the PM would help change India for the better. India did change, but not for the better.
Within a few months, it had become evident that the Dr. Singh who was responsible for the visionary practices of globalization and liberalisation was not the Dr. Singh who was now the alleged “leader” of the country. In fact, over the next few years, India would see multiple scams surfacing, each trying to outdo its predecessor in terms of the millions and billions it amassed for its kingpins. And, the famous Dr. Singh was reduced to being no more than a mouthpiece for the venerable “G” clan – if at all he ever spoke!
Like thousands of others, I too saw a glimmer of hope when, a few months ago, a frail old man in a “Gandhi” cap – Anna Hazare – decided to take on the cause of “India Against Corruption” by declaring a fast-unto-death in the capital of the country. He was doing so, in support of the Lokpal Bill that proposed strong measures against corrupt practices.
Frankly, the amount of activity online (Twitter, etc.) and on-ground, at the time, was a surprise to most of us. But, the Govt. managed to postpone the problem by seeking some time to correct its steps and table the Bill. Not one to give up easily, Anna promised that if suitable measures were not taken, he will return on 16th Aug – a day after India’s independence day.
What was eventually drafted by the ruling government was a completely stripped-down version of the Bill, with ommission or reduced liability for key stakeholders like the PM’s office and members of parliaments, and strict punishments for those who “wrongly” make an allegation of corruption! And, true to his word, Anna was back.
By this time, however, the man had become a movement…
India Against Corruption was now a full-fledged initiative that sparked the imagination of millions of Indians, both here and abroad. Twitter was abuzz with activity around hashtags like #anna and #janlokpal. Thousands of people in most major towns responded to Anna’s call of jail bharo (fill the prisons), to mark their protest against the prevalent corruption. Retired IPS officers and High Court judges were pledging their support in public. Even NRIs were flying down from across the globe, in a show of solidarity!
Enough and more has been written about how India is a country that is too large and diverse to manage. And, about how every coalition government has to make tradeoffs that may not be acceptable. But today, for the first time, I feel that as a people, we have had enough. The citizens of India are demanding a better government. The citizens of India – youth and disabled included – are bunking classes and taking leave from work, to show up for candle marches and protest gatherings, at places like Azad Maidan and Tihar Jail…
800+ voluntarily got themselves jailed in Mumbai, just a few days ago. Thousands have been detained in Tihar Jail already. Hundreds of thousands are spreading awareness via SMS and tweets, to their friends and family. 1.5 million have pledged their support via the Facebook group – Jai Ho! And, more than 13 million have registered their voice of dissent via missed calls, as reported by the IAC website.
Yes, some of us are still wishing that this is just a phase, and that “this too shall pass”. Some of us are still squabbling over semantics, and questioning the “unparliamentary” manner in which this movement has grown from strength to strength. Some of us are still arguing that as long as we continue to grease palms to expedite things, we have no right to protest against corrupt practices.
But, there is no denying that, what started as one man’s fight for an India that deserved more, has become a movement for which Anna is but a symbol – a face. Nearly a century ago, a man named M.K. Gandhi taught us that you can shake a nation from its slumber, and oust a colonial ruler, by non-violent means. Today, Anna is using those means to re-ignite a spark in millions. And, he’s doing more for our society than most of us ever will in our lifetime.
I support Anna because Life is hard as it is, and for decades, we Indians have (mistakenly) lived with the belief that we are like this only. I support Anna because it takes a lot to get the youth of our country to even care about what’s happening to it. I support Anna because he may be our only hope, in our fight against corruption and injustice, and an ineffective government. I support Anna because, years later, when my grandchildren ask me if I had any role to play in the “freedom struggle” of my time, I want to be able to say “Yes, I did!”
I do hope that this flame does not die out too soon… for your sake and mine.
Wikipedia on Jan Lokpal Bill (Anti Corruption) of India
Answering Anna’s critics: 10 posers and rebuttals