For and by the people
Thursday, August 25, 2011 AT 10:33 PM (IST)
Tags: Anna Hazare, Lokpal Bill, Jan Lokpal Bill, Corruption, Satyagraha, Santosh Hegde, Lokpal Bill, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh
During the last few days, the country has seen lakhs of people, especially youths, coming on the streets in support of the Anna Hazare-led agitation for the people's lokpal bill and to demand an end to corruption. What was most striking is that these people marching on streets of various cities and towns are not led by political parties or politicians. The morchas, silent marches or the candlelight processions do not have the familiar flags of various parties like the Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, Shiv Sena or other major political parties.
Instead, the protesters are proudly carrying the tricolour -- a thing we are accustomed to seeing only when India's cricket team is battling out against a foreign team. The high-pitch slogans raised at these rallies do not scare any section of society because they are not directed against religious or linguistic minorities or migrants.
The post-independent India has witnessed many national-level and regional level socio-political upheavals. The movements for organisation of language-based states engulfed the country in 1950s. It witnessed unrests in various regions, leading to the creation of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and other states. The naxalite movement in the eastern sector has lasted over two decades, claimed many precious lives and posed a threat to the country. The movement against Babri Masjid and construction of a Ram mandir at Ayodhya has dominated the socio-political life for two decades. It led to a division in society on communal lines.
Prior to the imposition of Emergency, thousands of youths had joined the agitation in Gujarat and other parts of the country when socialist leader Jaiprakash Narayan gave a call for "sampoorna kranti." The atmosphere was indeed surcharged against the Congress-ruled government at the Centre.
India experienced widespread unrest against the ruling Congress in mid-1970s. This led to the imposition of Emergency. Indira Gandhi relaxed Emergency conditions and announced a general election in February 1977. It led to large-scale protests against the party. Youngsters came onto the streets to welcome the Emergency heroes -- opposition leaders released from prisons. The ire of the people was directed against the Congress and the party was voted out of power at the Centre and in many states.
There is a marked difference in the style of previous popular agitations and the agitation led by the Anna Hazare team. The post-Emergency polls outcome was a peaceful political revolution. But the people's anger was against the misrule of the Congress. This time, the anger is against the omnipresent corruption. The present protests have no place for rasta or rail rokos, arson, damage to public property. It is reminiscent of the freedom struggle during which common people were never made to suffer.
The people who come to the streets now know very well that corruption is not confined to the Congress regime alone as was manifest in the recent Spectrum-2 or Karnataka mining scandal cases. So naturally there are no leaders of any major political party leading the lakhs of people on streets in the countrywide battle against corruption. Few politicians would like to take up the fight against corruption to its logical conclusion. Opposition political parties would have been quick in hijacking any popular agitation against the ruling party. But none is doing that because none is ready to take so clear a stand against corruption.
The spontaneous participation of youngsters and people of other age groups has dispelled the notion that the masses are apathetic to corrupt practices and other socio-political ills in society. They needed a social activists like Anna Hazare and his team members Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and others as catalysts to arrive on streets and demand improvement in the situation. The Anna team has fired the imagination of the masses and made them aware that they can seek positive changes in the system. The nationwide peaceful agitation could be an unique event in the world. This is an agitation not seeking change in political leadership but an end to the social evil of corruption.
It is too early to say whether the agitation would lead to the passage of the lokpal bill drafted by the Anna team or whether this enactment would help curb corruption to some extent. But the agitation has made people aware of their collective power and that they need not depend on the ballot box or their elected representatives to usher in social and political reforms.
The people's outrage against corruption will certainly serve as a dire warning to all those involved in corrupt practices. The spontaneous agitation on such social issues will also help to mould civic-minded new generation. Major socio-political movements spring up future leaders. The current agitation will give lessons in leadership to thousands of people and provide future leaders in various walks of life. Whatever the outcome of the popular upsurge, it surely would not be the last time the commoners will come on the streets to press their demands. The present agitation has already won attention of crusaders in other parts of the world and in future, India's model may be replicated elsewhere.