Why I’m slightly disappointed with Anna Hazare

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Just two short weeks ago I, or for that matter most Indians, hardly knew that a man called Anna Hazare, a former soldier turned social activist, existed in our country.

Unlike most serving soldiers who achieve fame on the battlefield only after fighting hard battles, he became a hero, off the field, long after his service, without firing a single shot.

On the fifth of this month, when he launched his ‘fast-onto-death’ to press for the passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill that would enable every ordinary Indian citizen to hold the high and mighty rulers of the land accountable for any misdeeds, hardly anyone believed that his movement would cause any tremors in the echelons and corridors of power. But contrary to my own misgivings, I saw a mass uprising, the kind of which we have perhaps never seen in independent India for any cause, making the man seem like India’s modern-day mahatma.

The impetus this time, seemed to have come from the success people saw of revolting groups braving the bullets and bombs of despotic dictators in the Middle East, a region which is undoubtedly the most notorious example of repression of citizens’ voices and rights.

No town or city across the length and breadth of the country was left out, with every one of them seeing groups of people meeting or marching in support of Anna’s call.

Although most Indians had for decades given up any hope of successfully weeding out the monster of corruption that has been stifling the breath of our country, this time they seemed all set to pound their plowshares into swords in a dramatic reversal of the proverbial act.

The government at the Centre too seemed a little shaken if not completely jolted by the tremors sweeping across the country. But just when we thought that we had made a breakthrough in its resistance, came disappointment.

Our hero who seemed to be pressing for nothing short of complete transparency and accountability in administration at all levels, made a sudden volte-face by announcing his list of ‘exemptees’ that included the President, Governors of States and high ranking judges among a few others.

He also said that since the Parliament, which had stalled and rejected the Bill five times in the past, was supreme and therefore he would accept its rejection this time too if it chose to do so.

Now, my question is why should we leave out some posts untouched by our attempts to wipe out an evil?

Does an evil become an acceptable virtue when it is committed by a creamy layer of high-ranking public functionaries? What if they happen to be holding our highest offices? As human beings, they are not necessarily infallible and they too can do wrong as we have been seeing from time to time.

It is a well-known fact that quite a few of our Governors have demitted office in disgrace while two of our high-ranking judges are right now facing impeachment for acts of commission and omission. And the whole purpose of triggering off the mass movement that we all saw and supported was to pressurise the Parliament to pass a useful and workable Bill that would serve its intended purpose in full measure.

Now the net result of this softening of stand by Anna Hazare is that the mass movement that we all saw for a brief while as the final solution to our most disgraceful and shameful problem, seems to have lost all its fervour and momentum. It is perhaps because people have rightly begun to feel that having a much watered down and diluted Lokpal Bill is as good as a no Bill at all and is therefore not worth supporting anymore.

I am sure that the Bill that will eventually go through our Parliament after much hounding and pounding will only be of cosmetic value. In its utility, it will be no different from the many paper tigers in our long list of laws and penalties and will remain useless while the real man-eaters who continue to rule the roost, will remain untouched long after Anna Hazare and we who have stood by him are all gone.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today