How Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Co took the unassuming people of this country for a ride
[Click on the headline to hear Shambhu Dutt Sharma speak]
The 5-8 April spectacle at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, was nothing but a corporate conspiracy of expending the energies of the Great Indian Huddle-and-Muddle Class, as mass mobilisation by Baba Ramdev and satyagraha by veteran Gandhian Shambhu Dutt Sharma was making them increasingly jittery. The unfolding of the events also suggests, at least in hindsight and going by the confessions of a drunk journalist, that the UPA Government was complicit in the act of trickery.
|When the pressure was building up: Baba Ramdev addressing|
a rally at Ramlila Maidan on 27 February 2011; the group went on to
submit a memorandum containing 10 demands to the President
To grab maximum eyeballs, the show was timed conveniently to fall between the end of the ICC World Cup tournament and the beginning of DLF-sponsored Indian Premier League. If the organisers had been driven by conviction, the India against Corruption (IaC) conveners would have dared to stage the programme in the middle of the World Cup. And a heavy attendance at New Delhi's designated spot for demonstrations despite the occasion's clash with a popular TV spectacle would have proved how concerned the assemblers actually were about the sorry state of the country.
The 93-year-old veteran Gandhian, Sharma — also the founder of Transparency International (India) — had been pressing for the same bill (Lokpal) and more for ages at the spot where IaC conducted its show later. His team, called the Gandhian Seva Brigade (GSB), had been on a relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar for the last six months of 2010, pressing for the implementation of recommendations of the 1999 Law Commission report, which included confiscation of property of government functionaries found guilty of corrupt acts and proscription of candidates facing prolonged trials related to corruption from fighting elections [the last demand has incidentally found support from the last four Chief Election Commissioners as well]. When into their sixth month of peaceful demonstration, members of GSB came across those of IaC, and some information about the struggle were shared with the latter. This writer does not have information regarding the people IaC's members met in the period between that meeting and 30 January 2011.
On the Martyr's Day, IaC was supposed to arrive at Jantar Mantar to meet Sharma and seek his blessings for an anti-corruption drive. However, the rally they had called at Ramlila Maidan drew such a massive crowd that the whole lot couldn't possibly proceed to meet the Gandhian. Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and a few others made it nevertheless.
The mention of an incident that happened backstage that day is warranted here. Some enthusiastic youths had brought to the Ramlila ground posters of much-maligned Suresh Kalmadi and A Raja so that they could be blackened in a display of protest and bring indignation to the alleged masterminds behind the Commonwealth Games (CWG) and 2nd Generation telecom spectrum allocation (2G) scams respectively. The organisers protested. With the alibi that the posters were going to turn the movement political, they ordered their removal. A fellow activist who was witness to the cover-up wondered how serious these people were in fighting corruption. Also, a former Supreme Court advocate, who has long left his flourishing practice of law to devote all his time to social causes, refused to share dais with IaC conveners after he detected an agent of the Tata Group, sullied by the infamous Niira Radia tapes, in their midst.
Anyway, Anna Hazare's motley team, leaving other demonstrators behind, did meet Sharma that evening. They sat at his feet and requested him to handover the charge of his movement to them so that they could further the agenda on a bigger scale. Impressed by their zeal and a promise for a better support system for the protest, an unassuming Sharma obliged, only to find within a few days that the issue was derailed with a politically significant climbdown from the demand for the law to mere representation in the bill's drafting committee. The IaC, clearly firing shots from the shoulders of a noble but uneducated Anna Hazare, did not even feel it fit to take the conceiver of the movement — who happens to be a qualified lawyer as well as a veteran of both the 1942 Quit India Movement and Jayaprakash Narayan Movement — into confidence to decide whether it would be morally (or even practically) right to give the people's movement such a sudden, arbitrary and distracting direction.
|The sheep that didn't know where they were being herded:|
Much of this crowd (photographed by the writer on 5 April 2011)
comprised RSS swayamsevaks and activists of Bharat Swabhiman
Outside Delhi, the television channel crews hurriedly huddled a few people at various spots and photographed them to purport the idea of 'popular' support for Hazare, even as the residents of those respective cities wondered where, if at all, the shows were going on!
In fact, The Indian Express wouldn't have bothered, had one of the well-meaning members of the otherwise fake uprising, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, not gone about the town maligning the Reliance Industries. Things were perfectly fine for the said newspaper till the time Sonia Gandhi and her acolytes alone were IaC's targets. But how could Mukesh Ambani have allowed the newspaper, which is virtually his show, to sit back and watch the proceedings as a mute spectator when it was his reputation at stake, quipped more than one senior journalist whom this writer met with to organise the aforementioned seminar. Ergo, Pratap Bhanu Mehta's intellectual reservations about the Jan Lokpal Bill was not enough; the image of the Bhushans needed to be tarnished in retaliation so that their allegations regarding the legatee of the 'polyester prince' lose steam. Of course, the father-son duo must explain why they should not be deemed hypocritical for being a part of a movement that, among other things, aims at curbing the political executive's discretionary powers when they have themselves enjoyed the fruits of such discretion by the Uttar Pradesh Government. But why should the rest of the country miss the wood for the trees?
|End of farce: Government negotiator|
Kapil Sibal claiming an equal share
in 'victory of democracy'
In the meantime on the government front, a drama of reluctance was being staged, which was only in accordance with the play's script that had to wind up before the IPL so that Kapil Sibal's team could claim an equal share of grace by touting the government's 'sensitivity' and hailing the 'victory of democracy', and the assembly of part-time, bleeding heart patriots could go back home to watch pop cricket, and resume their jobs in the corporate sector (whose corruption does not bother them). The negotiators in the government panel like Law Minister Veerappa Moily and the communications minister knew very well that the likes of civil society representative Kejriwal stood no chance of winning any round of negotiation while encountering their legal brains when the drafting committee would get down to work, irrespective of the latter's bona fides. Out of the legal eagles in the 'civil society' panel — Shashi and Prashant Bhushan, and Santosh Hegde — the first has not been physically fit enough to stand gruelling sessions of bargaining. The second and third have already contributed to the cause by drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill, IaC's version of the proposed/demanded law; they have nothing more to add. Now, how are you going to deal with two of the sharpest legal brains of the country with the handicapped team of a former IRS officer and a former driver in the Indian Army? [No offence meant for any of the professions; it's just a question of educational qualification and professional competence]
Finally, let me also share what the government thinks it has done to the people. A senior journalist of Hindustan Times, known for his proximity to the Congress 'high command', accidentally or on purpose, stumbled upon the head of NGO 5th Pillar, after the latter had conducted a Delhi chapter of his public awareness programme at the India Habitat Centre in collaboration with TI. The journalist has similarly been in touch with the leaders of many other public movements in the country, those in particular who are Delhi-based. After a few drinks, this is what he came out with (overheard): "Revolution? What revolution? We have spent people's energy already. They think they have done their patriotic bit... They're not going to come out of their houses and offices before another 10 years."
Meanwhile, GSB has been maintaining a benign silence in the public on the issue despite lamenting the act of treachery in private circles. Some concerned citizens are of the view that, IaC's act of betrayal notwithstanding, Hazare's team cannot retreat now; for, a movement after being launched perforce becomes public property and ceases to be its leaders' intellectual property. Hazare, though a Gandhian, is no Gandhi. No Chauri Chaura can lead to a withdrawal of this age's Non-Cooperation Movement which is overdue. If for nothing else, to prove that allegations such as the one made in this article are false, IaC has to abandon its behind-the-scene allies and forward the baton of an impending people's revolution, just as the Congress could no longer afford to remain a mere interface between the British Empire and its Indian subjects, and keep acting as a safety valve that releases indigenous resentment off and on, a few years after it was established by AO Hume.
|The original: Shambhu Dutt Sharma (second from left of|
the frame) fasting at Jantar Mantar, where Team Anna
would hold their demonstrations much later, after having
usurped the issue from him
Dear patriots, to overthrow the Mafia that rules the country at present, the power of any one of you will not be enough. Forget your little differences and join hands for the legitimate rights of the people. Nitpickings can wait, freedom can't.