It does not matter if the NDA was as corrupt as the UPA or less. This shameless government sucks. It does not matter if Team Anna is a bunch of right wing and/or foreign-funded megalomaniacs. They want to end corruption. It does not matter if thousands of Anna supporters are out on the streets to earn their few moments on TV or a righteous high. They support the cause.
Yet, the “second freedom struggle” leaves the aam aadmi feeling cheated. Much more aam than you and me, they are not both victims of corruption and potentially corrupt; for example, not your regular three-wheeler guy who fleeces you and is in turn get fleeced by cops. The more aam Indian, the majority, is rarely even in a position to offer or demand bribe. So why do they feel cheated?
Is it because the aam aadmi has been offered a Hobson’s choice: Suffer corrupt politicians who handpick corrupt bureaucrats to loot the country and countrymen on behalf of corrupt business interests; or back a group of self-appointed, ham-handed dictators who blackmail the democracy with a fast-unto-death to accept their panacea of a law?
Is it because some (not-so-aam) people want the rest to believe that the end justifies the means? Ironically, this approach is the first sign of the corruption that Team Anna’s fascist “means” so dramatically aim to “end”. When a few men want the Parliament to accept a law they drew up in their drawing (or conference) rooms, it corrupts the democracy itself. If successful, it will be a dangerous precedent since most Indians have compatible experience in fasting and many are far bigger crowd-pullers (read mobilisers) than Anna. And few of them even pretend to be Gandhians.
Does the aam aadmi feel cheated because Anna and his team refuse to contest polls? The aam aadmi can rarely fight elections successfully but she can and does swing results. But to swing in real change, the aam aadmi needs better options to choose from. Voters have not been able to make Kerala a heaven; they could not have irrespective of the regularity with which they shuffle if they have only two cards to deal with. Voters braved political corruption of the worst magnitude in West Bengal to end the Left rule, but a single available alternative means they may not be adequately rewarded. Since Anna’s team claims popular support, they should have offered options, however small, to voters. Instead, Anna preferred to idolise Narendra Modi, whose Gujarat is high up there on the lists of Indian states based on sundry development indices, and corruption.
Or is it because the media showcases a few thousand largely middleclass Anna supporters in a few cities to brand a “mass movement”? Step out of comfort zones of news studios and Jantar Mantar, millions of aam aadmi just cannot afford to appreciate this urban concern for corruption that is limited to bribery – not-so-small and very big. Just like the not-so-aam supporters of Anna cannot grasp the fact that corruption in fact means total disempowerment – socio-political and economic, including loss of livelihood and lives -- for the majority of the Indians.
Does the aam aadmi feel cheated because Team Anna’s crusade against corruption limits itself to politicians and bureaucrats? All over the world, politics and governance are dictated by big money. We know all political parties are backed largely by the same set of business interests. That is why the level of corruption does not fluctuate dramatically with changes in the government.
So what does the aam aadmi make of an anti-corruption movement that keeps mum on big money, publicly praises a political ideology (RSS-BJP) and launches its campaign when the rival political coalition is at the Centre? I am not sure. I suspect the aam aadmi is too busy just surviving to care for all these nuances.
In a country obsessed with Bollywood and cricket, it is rarely that the media sustains interest in a cause. When the media does, it often calculates the coverage cost involved against the potential gain such as TRPs. Lets not presume that media houses lapped up Anna’s “mass movement” because it was “home delivered” to them in the Captal and in other cities. Lets not also presume that all of those thousands who turned out in different cities in support of Anna were inspired by the hungry presence of hundreds of news cameras.
But it is one thing for the media to brand an urban picnic campaign against bribery as a “mass movement” or for the people to walk down a couple of blocks flanked by cameras, quite another to play blind and deaf when the aam aadmi fights for survival in different corners of the country after being denied their bona fide by the government and the judiciary.
Of course, it is a small triumph for democracy when thousands walk the city streets, not necessarily to support the Team Anna’s dictatorial demands but to protest against the government’s ever-swelling arrogance that does not allow any room for dissent. But shameless administrations have been quashing protests in far more undemocratic, often barbaric, ways across the country. The aam aadmi is getting arrested, thrashed and killed not only for opposing or demanding new laws but merely demanding that the laws of the land be followed.
Where were the cameras when children and 80-year-olds braved the forces by lying down on scorching sand, every day for weeks, to protect their land that cannot be touched, as per the laws of the land, without their consent? How many of those who are now fawning over the “second freedom struggle” on way home from office or college joined the aam aadmi’s battle of livelihood and survival against Posco in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur? Or “gathered spontaneously” at any of those numerous sites where India’s land, forests, minerals and rivers were doled out to big money -- desi or foreign -- and entire communities were forced to destitution?
The Orissa sellout to Posco could end up in the region of Rs 3-4 lakh crore: a much bigger loot than even the 2G Spectrum mega scam that apparently triggered the protests on our city streets in support of Anna. The aam aadmi cannot cite figures and tabulate costs of lost lives and livelihood to demand primetime attention. But she feels cheated when her not-so-aam fellow citizens in the cities and the media finally wake up to fight corruption and yet do not stand by her in her battles.
Yes, the aam aadmi feels cheated because the not-so-aam refuse to leave their comfort zones even while claiming to fight an aam cause. But then, it sounds cool on broad Delhi roads when you ask the corrupt to quit India. In goddamn places like Jagatsinghpur, it is more like do or die.
Mazoomdaar is an independent journalist