Seeing images of a stubborn Anna Hazare conjures up images of India's long struggle against imperialism and domination to break the shackles and emerge a free nation.
Sixty four years later, we find ourselves in a similar fix. Mahatma Gandhi pioneered the method of fasting to get his way and everybody else is just following from the field guide he left behind.
Corruption or the “C” word has become a huge phenomenon managing to stay in the news for more than six months now. The whole Lokpal campaign has reduced into nothing more other than both sides duelling to the death in an attempt to impose their methods of mitigating the “C” word from commonplace dictionaries. Thanks to Anna Hazare's defiance and the widespread support he has received from seemingly blind intellectuals has degenerated a game-changing bill into nothing more than a legal and organised witch-hunt. Heads are going to roll whether it's “Jokepal” or the real deal.
Much as they'd like to over look it, it takes two hands to clap and similarly takes two to give and accept a bribe. The inconvenient truth lies in the fact that corruptions and bribes are not paid by officials to themselves but rather are paid by greedy members of our own society just so they can skip all the queues.
Look into the future — Nine men; a confederacy of dunces wielding supreme power; getting judges and prime-ministers alike to cower in fear in front of them. A witch-hunt; an India engulfed by a newfound passion against corruption.
In Nazi Germany, people often made calls to the Gestapo (secret police) accusing their rivals of being anti-Nazi. The same will happen in India; each one accusing the other of being involved in corruption. It would become a new trick school kids would play: call the “Lokpal Hotline” and accuse your teacher of giving a bribe and then watch with joy as she is whisked away.
Millions of people are employed with the government. All of us have our own fatal flaws; some are greedy, a few are opportunistic. Though we accuse the government and bureaucracy, of being slow and ineffective, we wouldn't last a minute in their positions and with the workload they bear.
Sometimes, we have to be cruel to be kind. In this case cruel being that allowing them to get away with a single corruption-related offense because they are irreplaceable and their day to day tasks are inconceivable by the “common man.”
Anna Hazare called the Bill in its current form “fractured” but how can it be so if it's not even born yet; at best it can be said that an initial ultrasound has revealed certain deformities.
We cannot have a Lokpal dominated by just one side. Anna Hazare representing the “common man”, with the “Imperialists” Government on the other side. Anybody who doesn't see eye-to-eye with the Gandhian finds himself pushed into one corner and silenced. Branded undemocratic and unpatriotic; his right to freedom of speech is transferred to another vocal supporter.
In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy purged alleged Communists creating and inciting fear in the minds and hearts of millions of Americans. The same is happening in India today if we look closely. Sun Tzu writes in his book “Art of War” that all warfare is based on deception. If the Hazare team claims that the government is misleading the people what gives Hazare and the janta the credibility to make such claims and to lead the people in the opposite direction. In the middle of all this, we have the Opposition who true to their name support anybody who opposes the government oblivious to whether they make sense or not. But, being as they are a political party, when in crisis they will develop an uncanny urge to stick together and make a decision that is in the interest of the “Indian Democracy.”
Albert Einstein when asked about Gandhi said “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.” It seems 50 years has passed and Mr. Hazare is eager to take Gandhi's place on banknotes and on the walls of government offices. No doubt in his 30 years of peacefully crusading against the system, Anna Hazare has done his share of good for the village and State.
But in the end Mr. Hazare must realise that India is not an enlarged version of Ralegan Siddhi. India is not a one baker, one butcher, one barber nation. It is a diverse nation with people from every caste and speaking every language. The Hazare team must remain cautious and careful for if the Bill is to have true power it must reach every village, be a part of every panchayat or else it will just be another one of the thousand Bills drafted in the history of India. The government is an integral part of this step for no other single body has the expanse and influence throughout the nation.
What hasn't struck anyone is that it takes two hands to clap. For every hand that taketh there is a hand that giveth. Why not penalise the bribe-giver and not the one who is bribed? Why not penalise both? A. Raja is in jail while Nira Radia is not. If you're ever caught by a police officer would you rather go to the station and collect your license later or pay a small “token of your appreciation” of the man's work, get your license and drive away.
Neither side is wrong but also no side is right. The best way to go about it is to inculcate values against corruption at an early age and not by holding somebody at gunpoint and threatening them if they do accept bribes. We are not under British rule and as Mr. Kejriwal has let his tongue conveniently slip and urged us to “take to the streets” and “keep the fire burning”, we are left wondering if the people have been caught in a war they don't have the time or inclination to fight.
In the end, we Indians are left with the schoolboy's dilemma of whether to be popular and do as the “cool side” (Hazare) directs us or dare to be different and build our own opinions from the facts known to us.
ARYADITA BALAKRISHNAN, a 15-year-old student of a Mumbai School