Victory For People And Parliament Of India
The movement against corruption under the leadership of Anna Hazare is the largest ever non-violent movement for a clean public life in twenty first century India. Millions were mobilised for the cause. People across the length and breadth of the country remained non-violent and displayed amazing discipline to sensitise the Government and Parliament for setting up a Lokpal for eradicating corruption from our country.
Anna Hazare went on fast and suffered himself to awaken those who were entrusted with the responsibilities to govern the country. He was seen by many as someone who is following the father of our nation in fighting against corruption. In fact, before he was to commence his fast he went to the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat and sat in meditation for quite some time.
The support of millions of people to his fight against corruption was reported in the world media. A New York Times correspondent wrote an incisive front page news item in that newspaper which very strikingly captured the essence of Anna Hazare’s movement. He wrote that in a country where people are incessantly engaged in pursuing wealth, position and status and where Bollywood stars and top cricket players are considered heroes, it is rather fascinating to see somebody remaining tuned to the values of Mahatma Gandhi who renounced the world and at the same time fought against the injustice and exploitation being perpetrated in this world.
The fact that a very humble man from a remote corner of India without any credentials as a scholar or an intellectual could fire the imagination of people to fight non-violently for removing bribery and dishonesty speaks volumes for the genius of India to rise to the occasion and show to the world that people of this country have the ability to teach the arrogant rulers, in a civilised way, the values of life.
Anna, like Mahatma Gandhi or Sardar Patel was not a product of a celebrated educational institution of Britain. He even did not study in any of the wellknown colleges and universities of our country. None remembers him for his cerebral capacities to write great essays or articles. None can ever say that he is a man of letters and learning. His only credential is that he is a simple man leading a modest life and doing something constructive for his village Ralegaon Siddhi.
He suffered jail sentence in Maharashtra for his fight against corruption and refused to apply for bail. Deeply influenced by the life and work of Swami Vivekananda he always derived lessons from his worldview based on Bhakti, Gyan and Bairagya. More than that that he was inspired by the remarkable non-violent struggle of Mahatma Gandhi and followed his life pattern for shaping his own life.
The way ordinary people of India rose against corruption on the call of Anna Hazare restored our faith in people’s power over the power of Parliament or any other institution. It was on the strength and energy of the common citizens of our country that such a non-violent movement could make the Government and the Parliament respond to the people of India. We must remember that people’s power is the ultimate power. The framers of our Constitution wisely prepared the preamble to our Constitution by invoking the words “We the people of India”. Therefore, the people of India are supreme.
If they are aroused and their energy is harnessed anything can be achieved. Our democracy is based on the strength and power of people. Mahatma Gandhi could mobilise the whole country and made an enduring impact on the world due to the strength derived from ordinary people. When he came to India from South Africa after his first Satyagraha he was asked a question, “How would he fight against the mighty British empire” ? He famously replied that he would fight it on the strength of dumb millions.
The fight of Anna Hazare in twenty first century India is truly a fight based on the strength of the “dumb millions”. The “dumb millions” who followed Mahatma Gandhi were truly dumb. They had no access to education. The literacy rate of India at that time was less than 15 per cent. They were victims of recurrent famines. Mortality rate of Indians was very high and life expectancy in India was below 27 years.
In spite of all these unfavourable factors they could shake the British Empire and finally put an end to it. Mahatma Gandhi set the first ever example of a movement based on non-violence and ordinary people’s power. He could do so by completely transforming his own life and leading the life of a common person. By following certain principles of Yoga such as truth, non-violence, non-possession and non-stealing he experimented with truth and saw truth in the sufferings of people.
He declared that he would attain truth by removing sufferings of people. With profound understanding of India he remained tuned to the beauty and simplicity of our culture shaped by Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all other religious groups. People rallied around him and the world for the first time witnessed the unprecedented non-violent struggle for freedom and independence. He had unrivalled moral stature and in the words of Albert Einstein “he confronted the brutalities of Europe with the dignity of a simple human being”. It is the dignity of a simple human being which is more powerful than the might and authority of high positions.
How victory came about
Three personalities, two of them are spiritual ones, have played an important role in the country’s movement against corruption. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare have not only led the movement in their own style but also worked hard to get the results. Anna Hazare has broken this myth that only political parties or organisations can run mass movements and leadership can be developed only within an organised set up. Due to this perception many good meaning individuals were forced to keep out of political process. Many political parties are disturbed from this development. Anna’s movement has broken another myth that we cannot get government to accept demand without any violent protest like Naxals and Maoist movements. Anna has shown that a peaceful and non-violent movement could also be as much fruitful and effective. The ground for the mass movement against corruption was prepared by Baba Ramdev through his yoga camps. He had also performed a pad yatra of one lakh kilometres throughout the country during which he had met crores of people and exhorted them to rise against corruption, his canvas was much larger. His fast also created great awareness among the people and when it was crushed by the government through police action, general mass got agitated. This agitation also found its outlet in the form of support to Anna’s movement. Similarly, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also played a vital role in this movement. He was present in all the event from the beginning and was meeting various key persons for an outcome that is favourable to the country. His followers provided all kind of logistics and physical support.
Anna Hazare has been criticised since the very beginning of his movement for several reasons. During his fast at the famous Ramlila Grounds, he and his whole team were criticised for acting against democracy, particularly parliamentary democracy. It was said that maybe Anna was correct but his way was not correct. However, Anna and his team had made it clear several times that they were not against the Parliament and its working but all they wanted was a strong Lokpal bill. Their movement was an apolitical one, but they started their dialogue with the political parties to convince them in favour of Jan Lokpal bill. Gopal Agarwal, a founder member of India Against Corruption (IAC) and convenor of BJP’s economic cell, says: “It was a strategy of the government to term IAC as anti-democratic and a threat to the Parliament. They wanted to club this fight against corruption with a fight against Parliament. But once BJP lent its support to IAC and Anna, the scene changed.” BJP leaders were in the support of Anna Hazare and his movement but they had certain reservations about certain provisions of Jan Lokpal bill. On August 25, Nitin Gadkari wrote a letter to Anna Hazare announcing the support of BJP to this movement. In the evening of the same day a meeting was arranged to bridge the gap between Team Anna and the BJP. As a facilitator and witness to that meeting, Gopal Agarwal says: “To resolve the issues between them a meeting was held on August 25. From BJP all the senior leaders including Nitin Gadkari, LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and SS Ahluwalia were present. While from Team Anna Arvind Kejariwal, Kiran Bedi, Manish Sisodia and the Bhushans participated. The dialogue was conducted in a very healthy atmosphere and both sides arrived at a consensus.” Later on the BJP announced its unconditional support to the movement and Team Anna expressed their satisfaction to the development.
With this meeting the UPA, which had become adamant on its stand after the all-party meeting, came under pressure. On August 26, when Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj gave notice u/s 168 in Rajya Sabha and u/s 184 in Lok Sabha respectively, Congress, which was dilly-dallying earlier had no option but to accede to Anna’s demand and pass the resolution. It was not a mere success of a person but it is a success of democracy of this country. —Ravi Shankar
Anna Hazare recaptured the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and his simple life style and did wonders. The might and authority of the Government and Parliament eventually responded to the demands of Anna Hazare. The way the Parliament of India considered with an open mind his three points proved the idea that Parliament has to remain connected to the people and their aspirations. The then President of India Shri KR Narayanan had said that the Parliament is the institutional embodiment of people’s will. In positively responding to the demands of Anna Hazare, Parliament has risen to the occasion and once again established its credentials as a representative body of people.
A leading newspaper of our country The Hindu gave a caption on its front page “Triumph for Anna as Parliament backs key demands”. It meant that without the backing of Parliament success for any protest movement was not complete. Shri Arvind Kejriwal, one of the key architects of the India Against Corruption under the leadership of Anna Hazare profusely thanked Parliament and the Government for their understanding and accommodative attitude. It is this spirit of give and take which strengthens Parliamentary democracy.
Mahatma Gandhi had written on December 6, 1928 “Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it: and the public can, as it is its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call it’s servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator, as it likes.” Later in 1948 a few months before his assassination, he boldly said that indifference to corruption is criminal. All those observations of Mahatma Gandhi are of everlasting significance. When Anna Hazare started his movement I felt that those prophetic words of Mahatma Gandhi were being proved right.
In fact, the late President of India Shri KR Narayanan used those words of Mahatma Gandhi in his first Independence eve address to the nation in 1997. At that time many incidents of corruption had come to light and people had been justly agitated in seeing the declining standards of public servants. The late President thought it appropriate to invoke Mahatma Gandhi to sensitise the nation against corruption. While doing so he appealed to the people to launch a social movement against corruption for restoring moral values.
The Movement under the leadership of Anna Hazare is nothing but a great social movement witnessed in our country against corruption. It is a movement which recalls the words of Mahatma Gandhi who had said “public can, as it is its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion of corruption, call it’s servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinise their conduct, as it likes”.
The demand of Shri Hazare’s movement for a strong Lokpal and the resolution adopted by Parliament for establishing such an institution constitute a victory for our people, Constitution and parliamentary democracy. The people’s movement against corruption is a movement for strengthening our unity, accelerating our economic progress and enriching our parliament and parliamentary democracy. It is a movement for revitalising the contact and connectivity between people and Parliament.
Recently I was reading a book on Constitution and Coalition Government in the UK. It is stated in the book, in that country the UK Parliament remained disengaged from people and people in turn lost faith in Parliament. If this is the situation in the UK then one can well imagine the extent of problem in India. Among other measures the movement of people for their democratic and human rights can better connect parliament with people.
The right to establish a corruption-free society flows from the rights enshrined in the Constitution of India which have been given to the nation by the people of India. The movement against corruption is a by-product of massive and constrictive exercise of the rights guaranteed to the people. None ever believed that Anna Hazare who was well known for his work in his village will make such an electrifying impact on the whole nation.
No wonder that Dr Ambedkar had said that our democracy would produce many impossible. One such impossible phenomenon is the movement against corruption popularly known as ‘India Against Corruption’. And the impossible person behind it is Anna Hazare who made us all tuned to the ethos of freedom struggle, the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and above all the mighty and majesty of people’s power.
By Satya Narayana Sahu
(The author was OSD and Press Secretary to the late President of India, Shri KR Narayanan and served as Director in the Prime Minister’s Office. He is currently Joint Secretary in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. The views expressed by the author are his personal.)