16 Oct 2011

The Indian and International politics on Anna Hazare

NOTE: This article was written on 9th September 2011. Thus some facts might not be correct. Any error is deeply regretted.

News channels do not seem to be tired of airing virtually the same content everyday. Every channel that you switch to, there are discussions by expert panellists on the future of JanLokpal and whether Mr. Hazare should be ending his fast. There seems to be a unanimous response for the latter with almost everybody saying that Mr. Hazare should end his fast. Some people rather critical of Mr. Hazare pass comments on how it is unconstitutional, which it is, while the others urge him to end it as the idea behind the fast has been accomplished.

What was the idea behind the fast and all that followed? The real idea behind the entire event seems to now be lost in the cacophony of theories of government conspiracies against the 'civil society', opinions on how this entire event is now turning into an anarchist display of anti-corruption fa├žade and proposals of alternative bills. The people at the moment seem to be disconnected with the real idea. They have caught onto a definition of the event which is a work of minds angry at the lack of government action on issues of corruption, terrorism and other events.

Individuals are singing vande-mataram slogans at the moment while allowing themselves to be intoxicated by the talk of this being the second freedom struggle, which it certainly isn't. This struggle which started off as a journey by a single individual, Mr. Hazare, against the government's inaction on corruption now seems to have acquired definitions and thoughts which are miles away from any initiative to get the country rid of corruption and other such malpractices generally thought to be performed by public servants.

Yes, this entire event had been sparked by the anger of one person over the ever increasing corruption that India seems itself to be surrounded with. The individual in question, Mr. Hazare, went on a fast and it soon garnered public attention. What I feel is that where public is there, it is imperative that news channels be there for that is the only way that they will be able to establish a connection with the wider society. Thus media crews descended upon the site and soon there were high-TRP shows on every news channel that was on air.

As the coverage increased more and more people flocked to the place and to their television sets. Soon the government found itself in the midst of a storm and they tried their best to fight it. Arrangements and settlements had to be made and thus the government and the civil society came to an understanding and the movement for the time being ceased. A Drafting Committee was formed to look into the matter. However, there was no further concrete action by the government on the issue which resulted in Mr. Hazare once again threatening to go on a fast on the 16th of August this year if the bill wasn't passed till then.

In the meanwhile, Baba Ramdev also went on a hunger strike. He demanded that all the black money that was stashed abroad in tax havens by Indian citizens be brought back. Followers gathered at Ramlila Maidan, the location of his agitation. The crowd grew. Kapil Sibal, a cabinet minister, asked him to stop the agitation. However, Ramdev continued on and even hardened his stance. Till now, tremendous public awareness had been generated on the issue and even the youth started taking to their various forms of protesting be it online or forming groups and marching. 

Around midnight the Delhi Police entered the place and resorted to 'lathi' charge to disperse the mob. The government came under fire and the common man took the stage. There were mass-rallies against the government and it was said that the government was being autocratic, a charge which I find ridiculous when we look at the real situation.

The real situation was that, had the police not started the crackdown at Ramlila Maidan than in the morning the place would have been an anarchist's heaven for people gathered and aggressively pitched their anti-government stand. The very basic right to freedom of expression was being manipulated over here to suit the  anti-government supporters. There was simply no sense of sensibility in the people that night at Ramlila Maidan to put it frankly. 

Mr. Hazare was arrested on 16th August just before he was about to commence his fast. Neither the opposition party and nor his supporters took kindly to this decision and there were wide spread protests across the country and at places, people voluntarily courted arrest. Under heavy pressure the government released him. 

The protests continued and so did Mr. Hazare's hunger strike. The government and the civil society tried to negotiate over the text and other provisions of the bill but there were repeated break-downs in talks and later on the parliament passed a resolution agreeing to the demands of Mr. Hazare and decided to  reffer the matter to a standing committee. 

INDIA

I am disappointed looking at the manner in which the citizens of India have responded to this entire event. As per a survey done by a newspaper, only 2 out of 5 JanLokpal supporters were actually even aware of what the bill proposed. This apathy towards political institutions, be it the government or 'civil society' is saddening. Individuals came out with the national flags. Waving it as if with every thrust of it, they were proving their  patriotism which existed in their hearts for the country.

How is a person waving the national flag going to stop corruption in its track is a phenomena that is beyond the understanding of my rather practical mind. Yet the supporters of this media hyped campaign claimed that it was changing the mindset of the people. Sure it was, but how was it really going to manifest itself in the daily day to day happenings in the lives of these individuals?

While having my morning breakfast one day, my grandma raised an interesting point. She said that if everybody (almost the entire country as claimed by Mr. Hazare and Co.) in this campaign was not corrupt then, who was corrupt? It was quite interesting to note this point which I had seemed to have overlooked. Even as I pondered on this topic, I couldn't help but think about the real situation that was unfolding.

Groups of people were surrounding the houses of MPs (Members of Parliament) demanding that this bill be passed, without as much as even a proper discussion. This group consisted of people, half of whom I wouldn't like to see near my house. They were the simple common youth who had been simply brainwashed into believing that Mr. Hazare was the only individual against corruption and that the political and elite class would not be benefited if this bill were to pass. Thus the 'struggle of the common man', as the news channels had suggested, continued with a fierce boost.

According to me, these groups that were forming chains and surrounding the houses of the MPs were resorting to harassment. Had I been a MP then I would have gotten appropriate action taken against all of them because that is not the way of asking something from your elected representative. The individual is a representative and not a servant of the people. If people need to demand something from him, they should go through the appropriate mechanism of doing that. It would involve first taking an appointment with the representative and then addressing the issue at the appointment that you wish to make your representative aware of. At a point of time, there were even calls to surround the house of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister? He is the most important person in the country. Terrorists could have easily taken advantage of such a situation and then assassinated him. What would the consequences have been? They would have been severe. Curfews and complete police control over activities.

Although such a thing did not happen while the government tried to unsuccessfully stop the protesters from surrounding the house of the PM by stopping the metro train services in nearby areas and by cordoning off the area. I think that there is no explanation whatsoever to justify such an activity that was carried on by supporters of Mr. Hazare. Common sense and normal practice says that these picketers should have been arrested on ground of disturbing peace and acting as a threat to the PMs security and should have been dealt with accordingly.

As these events were unfolding it was very much evident that the common man had simply lost his ability of reasoning and the anger over the government poor handling of situations involving corruption and terrorism was flowing down the pot and was acting as a boost to the already racing adrenalin. These situations arise very often in democracies and need to be dealt with in a manner that is neither harsh nor soft but sets a tone for the proceedings.

Thus even though Mr. Hazare like a true gentleman said that all the proceedings should happen in a non-violent manner, it is difficult to ensure that people's excitement won't get the better of them and that they won't turn violent. It needs to be noted that very many of these non-violent protests end up becoming violent when a single individual loses his control and attempts to act as the legal guardian of the law through ways that are not legal and a clear violation of the provisions of the constitution.

Hence, the lesson that the political class and the people should get from this entire event should be that of being legal in whatever they do. Of course many from the political class can find loopholes in the current slightly outdated legal structure but what they must keep in mind is that though they may get away for the time being without being caught but a time may come when they may find themselves in a corner and the anger of the people flowing towards them like molten lava. Thus, the political class must take the responsibility of acting in a manner that is clean and fair towards the country. There should be zero tolerance for unfair advantage which the politicians use to create a better lifestyle for themselves.

While at the same time, the people should also not be allowed to get away with any and every practice that they may follow. What they should do should be within the legal framework of the constitution and the UN Charter on Human Rights and should not be a manipulation of the duo. The people are the most important element of the state and thus it is essential that they follow the correct path for if they as much as even get slightly distracted from the correct path then there will be chaos, pandemonium and anarchy. The people cannot take everything into their hands. They need to utilise the correct provisions, procedures and mechanisms as provided to them by the legal bodies for the overall good.

PAKISTAN


Pakistan is an example of the path that one country should not head for. However, it is not in the hands of individuals to stop or change the direction of the route that they have taken. They can only manipulate it to either suit themselves (example Mr. Gaddafi's earlier practice used for suppressing rebellions, now rather unsuccessful) or the country. Pakistan has been in a state of chaos for a long time now. Every other day individuals opposed to the stringent laws that are established by a certain religion are killed, journalists investigating into the frauds of the government suffer the same fate and the people there are scared to openly criticize the government or the extremists. It's basically a no man's land.

However, there is no authority that can take over and try to control the situation and ease the stress. Here is where the Indian connection comes in. The country though has a human rights body but it is more or less like a body set up to ensure that the provisions of the constitution are maintained. Though it has no authority over the happening of the country and due to the extremist state of affairs that is prevalent in the country, there is a lot of fear.

Here, now a powerful body, something like what Mr. Hazare is proposing can be brought in. But what needs to be taken care of is that this body should be primarily for the Human Rights of the citizens as an all powerful body like the JanLokpal (as proposed by Mr. Hazare) can become autocratic in its functioning. Thus over here only the police force should be under this department and there should be no political interference in the matters it deals with. However to ensure that it does not become autocratic in nature, provisions, mechanisms and many loopholes would need to be worked on.

Such a body can easily function in matters related to Human Rights in Pakistan and once the people are not afraid then it is the government that would be afraid. In India due to the vast presence of Human Rights activists, the governments are scared to take steps which may be deemed as anti-human rights and try to avoid them as much as they can. But for a country like India an all powerful body to deal with matters related specifically to corruption would be like inviting a lion for a feast. The lion may enjoy the feast and become your best friend or you may become its feast with the chances of the latter being higher.

CHINA


China can be best described as a country that is still waiting for a spark. Thus it is no surprise that the party is trying to do everything that it can to improve its image that has taken a beating after the train accident which took place recently. Though however much the party tries to come across as a non-corrupt set up whose sole purpose is the betterment of human life in China. It is exactly the opposite that most people believe.

People in China have since long identified the party as corrupt at the grass root level. Senior leader in the party are thought off as non-corrupt and honest individuals but yet it is the grass root politics everywhere which influences the people. No revolution takes place because the country as a whole is doing bad but because every region as a whole is doing bad and a similar situation though however much exaggerated it may be by the Chinese critics is slowly but steadily developing in China.

People have started questioning the motives behind the party's continuous attempts to remain in power. Though the party may try to come across as working for the people but the question is that how long will the people be contend with this face that the party is showing. Soon there will be protests. Its a matter of time that some incident takes place and the entire country erupts. In this modern age of the internet, it is difficult to segregate a group of people by simply cutting off the internet connect and this is fairly evident from the situation that we can see in Libya.

However, what can the party do to improve its image? One of the suggestions that people give is set up an anti-corruption body with ultimate power but every where it is the same issue that ensures that talks fail. That issue is of the amount of power that can be allotted to this body. No government in its right mind would be favorable to giving unlimited power to such a body for the simple reason that the power of the government might become weak in front of it.

While at the same time, it is said that China has been funding these events that have been happening in India. However, there has been no proof of this theory yet it is a theory that dominates the discussions of the conspiracy theorists. If it were to be true, then though there won't be any major effects on the relationship that the two countries, India and China share but this will certainly act as a thorn.

India may not directly take any action against the Chinese for this reason but behind the doors a lot of action may happen such as India providing excess funding to groups hell bent on creating troubles for the party in China. However this is a very remote possibility since any such action by the Indians would have direct repercussions due to China's growing assertiveness.

Thus the Indians may just stop supporting China all the time on issues in the international sphere and may take positions at times which may not please the Chinese. Hence all in all this is a very complicated issue which for all one knows may not at all result in anything and might just end up being ignored by the Indian Government which is ever ready to promote peace and stability in the region.

USA


USA is considered to be the most successful democracies of all time and it is true. And hence it is only justifiable that the US would do things to help the democratic setup in other countries and we can see that it is doing work in Afghanistan and ensuring that the new Afghan set up continues to get the much needed oxygen. However there have been allegations by some members of the Indian National Congress (party in power) that the USA was indirectly funding the Anna Hazare movement.


So serious were the implications of this statement that the US came out with an official statement that it in no way was supporting Mr. Hazare. It is true that at the moment, the US cannot afford to have its ties with India strained, especially at a time when most of the middle-east takes an unfavorable view of the US, India is the only friend that the US has who has the ability to influence policy-makers in the middle-east.


Apart from that, Indian co-operation is something that India would soon need desperately in the UN and other International bodies as China starts to flex its muscle and counter the US and at the time being, India is the only counter balance that USA has to the mighty dragon. However, there is a major conflict of interests in this regard.


India and China are seen as the face of the developing world and that is a fact. In every major convention or event, the developing countries look up to these two giants for support so that their demands are looked at and seriously considered instead of being dropped and lost in the bureaucracy. And thus it is quite essential from point of the developing world that India and China continue to show the same co-operation that they had shown in Copenhagen.


While from the US point of view, it is essential that the US try to get India to tilt even if by just a few degrees to its side if it is to maintain its position in Asia and the Pacific.


Thus all in all, so great was the Anna Hazare episode that it promoted almost all the countries which share a special relation with India to respond or to act in a particular manner. Only time will tell how the world economy and the politics take shape as more and more countries slip into the euphoria of the Jasmine Revolution and demand greater freedoms.