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Fast of the furious


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Ever heard of the granary that was guarded by the yellow hound? Legend has it that the hound had two assistants. The first one was a rat that counted the grains and grew suspiciously fatter each night. The other was a fox that, for the most part, did the hound’s bidding. But since the hound itself could not be trusted to be faithful, an elephant sat on a windowsill of the granary and occasionally peered inside. If it found the animals stealing the grain, it harrumphed.

You’ve probably never heard of this fable. I created it as a metaphor for Indian democracy, which is represented by the granary. The hound is the Legislative, the fox the Executive, the rat the Bureaucracy and the elephant the Judiciary. It’s no secret that the landlord (the Citizens) has been robbed blind by this mix of animals. It seems that the landlord now wants to solve the problem by introducing a new animal to the setting. In the real world, this animal will be represented by the office of the Lokpal. In the simpler world of metaphors, it will perceived as Godzilla or a kitten with attitude, depending on where one stands on the issue. Some may even see it as a determined Batman who will not rest until Gotham City is cleansed of undesirable elements. Perceptions apart, it is certain that this animal will hold a whip and lash hard. In other words, the office of the Lokpal will hold the specific responsibility of punishing the corrupt.

Since the 60s, the Lokpal Bill has been tabled 10 times in Parliament. On all occasions, one or both the Houses refused to pass it. Meanwhile, the scams in Indian politics have become larger and more unabashed. It’s never been a better time to be a neta, babu, qaazi or a daroga. India is shining and the Indian political system has turned resplendent in its arrogance and unaccountability. The public, it seemed, was living in a comatose state in the outhouse, having given up all hope of salvaging the granary.

It’s all the more surprising, therefore, that a remarkable event unfolded on 5 April at Jantar Mantar in Lutyen’s Delhi. On that day, Anna Hazare began a fast unto death, demanding the implementation of a Lokpal Bill with teeth. Over the years, Hazare has transformed Ralegaon Siddhi, a village in Maharashtra, and made it a mascot for agricultural prosperity and social inclusiveness. He won the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, in 1992. In the past decade, he has worked hard (and fasted in protest) to ensure that the Right to Information (RTI) Act remained potent. Yet, not many Indians were aware of his existence when he began his fast. So the man himself may not have expected an avalanche of support for him and his views. But that’s exactly what happened.

Perhaps people were infused with hope following India’s triumph in the Cricket World Cup. Perhaps they had concluded that even Sachin Tendulkar could only give them limited happiness. Perhaps locating the fast within spitting distance of the Parliament made a difference. Perhaps a nation starved of heroes saw one in Hazare. Whatever the reasons, Indians of all hues and choler got behind the cause. Facebook and Twitter servers groaned under the strain of two buzzwords: Lokpal and Hazare. The shrillest television channels in the subcontinent then latched on to the phenomenon and took it to the next level.

I happened to be in Delhi during this time and felt compelled to visit Jantar Mantar. The atmosphere was unbelievable. There were as many OB vans at the venue as one would expect to find at Saif and Kareena’s wedding! And the place had become a kind of pilgrimage for freedom fighters, schoolchildren, unemployed youth, working professionals, bored housewives, Bollywood celebrities, saffron-clad agenda-snatchers, academicians, Left Liberals and even a cricketing legend. Anybody with enough clout to reach the mike spoke about transforming society. Even as I watched Anna sahib lean forward to catch the words of fellow-activists such as Medha Patkar and Arvind Kejriwal, I knew that similar protests were being held in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Guwahati, Shillong, Aizawl and many other cities. This had become a pan-Indian movement. My head told me that this model was unsustainable, but my heart swelled with pride and anticipation.

On the fifth day, the government blinked and conceded all demands made by Hazare. Not everybody celebrated, though. An appreciable section of the media raised concerns about the form, content and consequences of the protest. Could a single man with an idea be allowed to subvert the democratic process and blackmail a nation? Do the galvanized masses know that Hazare considers flogging to be a remedy for alcoholism? Even assuming that the man was beyond reproach, did the masses really understand the issues riddling the Lokpal Bill? For starters, how could a quasi-Constitutional body be allowed to wield extraordinary powers?

Very pertinent questions, of course. But is there cause for extreme concern yet? One expects the Joint Committee that will draft the Bill – comprising of nominated Parliamentarians and citizens – to get the theory right. For now, the comatose landlord has registered a resurgent heartbeat on the monitor. I want to celebrate that. And I will hope that, over time, the galvanized millions will gain vertical knowledge on political issues while not losing the appetite for change.

Eshwar Sundaresan is a Bangalore-based writer, freelance journalist, ideator and entrepreneur. His works are Googlable.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Eshwar Sundaresan is a Bangalore-based writer, Life Skills trainer and counsellor. He has just finished writing a romantic comedy screenplay for the Kannada film industry.

He tweets @eshwars

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (54) Closed

sharma Apr 14, 2011 07:19am
The drive towards greater transparency is unstoppable now. No Pawars, Sibals and Chidambrams can stand in our way .If the present government does not yield it will have to pay a high price. The days of "dynasty " are over too. Too many people from grassroots have been liberated to keep listening to a Gandhi - Nehru scion for long. The public is restive but in a good manner. The peaceful atmosphere after the Babri Masjid decision was also a sign that we have moved beyond the Saffron- Green divide atleast in terms of national progress. It would be hard for the government to keep India slave to politicians with all the social media in place. the literacy level has sprung to almost 75% and is expected to react 90s by next decade. All this portends good for Indian democracy.We are starting to behave in a mature manner with our neighbour and with an attitude of give and take are showing resolve to get rid of all irritants. We are strong. we are the New India, we are the Young India.
Suresh Natarajan Apr 14, 2011 12:25pm
Article on a very nice subject.
VINOD K JAISWAL Apr 14, 2011 12:34pm
After effect in India is that all hues of politicians seem to be scared and looking to find excuses. Why us....Why us only is the main cry why not others also. Answer is simple. Politicians are the root and they either force or seduce entire society to join and share the loot.
bpshah Apr 14, 2011 12:58pm
Totally agree with you Mr. Sharma; Some people are trying their level best to derail the movement. But it will grow & grow unless the basic issues are resolved. Lok janpal bill is just the begining of a new era.
Pakistani Apr 14, 2011 01:44pm
nice article Eshwar Sundaresan..keep writing... Anna Hazare seems like a ray of hope in the dark world of selfishness, money making and corruption by bypassing nation's interest and honour and self integrity....We need an Anna Hazare in Pakistan as well...The world is still going bcoz of these kind of great persons....Allah the best!
shyam Apr 14, 2011 02:59pm
Anna Hazare shown the power of one . each one of us is empowerd to eleminate injustice and corruption from the society . India and Pakistan are dogged by corruption and social injustice . We need Anna Hazares from each village, to stand up against the agenda ridden political campaigns and corruption
M. Asghar Apr 14, 2011 03:18pm
The rising of the conscious civil society along with a proactive judiciary are the need of the hour for cleaning the political-corruption mess that is provig so harmful for the general development.
shahid Apr 14, 2011 03:29pm
Fourty two years and the parliament was too busy to consider the legislation And not only congress and its allies but BJP and its allies - all allowed the monster of corruption grow from strength to strength. And when it became blindingly obvious that national wealth is being wantonly looted the ordinary citizen became restive In the era of information revolution it is good that no evil deed remains hidden for too long. The collective feelings were articulated by Anna Hajare. The ordinary citizen robbed by the thieves still can hope for justice
sharma Apr 14, 2011 04:01pm
The recent events also beg a question. What was the need of Advani to back UMA Bharti who is known for her senseless remarks that are floridly communal to visit Hazarae? Bharati who was thrown out of BJP for being unruly claims to be concerned about corruption while gives the whole moment a communal tinge.Shame on BJP for acting communally. More than Ram Mandir we Indians need development. What will Ram do if the country remains divided?? Both BJP and Congress need to be shown the door so that they can get their minds in center again. We need the third front now, more than ever. Both the parties are failing us by indulging in communalism and corruption and blaming each other. Its the same old divide and rule game that Britishers taught us.
Swapnil julme Apr 14, 2011 04:06pm
Atleast Indians have Anna and Rambevbaba to voice against our large hearted neighbours have any...or they are insisting on keeping quite and expecting Chamatkar to happen out of terrorism.
name... Apr 14, 2011 04:18pm
I can't understand that how such a corrupt media can support people's uprising against corruption. What gives right to a section of society to elect an individual or a group, to represent the whole region? Another i want to say that the section of society which are supporting this, themselves are one of the most corrupted(i.e middle class, religious fundamentalists)
indian Apr 14, 2011 05:36pm
Lets talk about India here. lets not poke into the neighbours affairs. they are our neighbours not our backyard. let them handle their politics while we handle ours.
indian Apr 14, 2011 06:07pm
i did not see any religious fundamentalists as mentioned. This was a common support against curroption and it shows INDIAN people awareness.
Daniel Apr 14, 2011 06:36pm
Exactly. I wish there were more hounourable men and women everywhere to help people rather than take advantage. PS I am against flogging.
Bangash Apr 14, 2011 07:35pm
I admire Mr Anna Hazare. His sort of peaceful civil activism is needed in Pakistan. However given the shameless of Pakistani politicians, if a Pakistani were to begin fasting like Mr Hazare, the govt would say he is just observing Ramzan early.
Logic Apr 14, 2011 07:54pm
India is nowhere perfect right now but I am really happy with the direction in which we are moving. Our economy is roaring, education levels are rising, people are showing lesser and lesser interest in religious rheoteric, our main focus is on Corruption right now and so no. There will be several irritants still in the many decades to come but I am sure we will conquer them all. I love my country.
Krishnan Apr 14, 2011 07:54pm
I agree. Why do you want to look at others all the time. We should learn to improve ourselves and not worry and compare ourselves to the neighbours. That's not helpful. We wouldnt see progress
Manish Apr 14, 2011 08:08pm
I sincerely hope that IPL does not dilute the crusade of Anna. people should not think of cricket but give power to the movement to banish coruption from our country.If UPA will sign agreement to what Anna and the civil society wants then heavens won't fall instead they will be the gainers. Wake up goverment. Infact next time let our PM to go and offer a glass of juice to civil society because now people have only faith in civil society.
Manish Apr 14, 2011 08:17pm
Well said brother ..It is high time for both country to understand our so called leaders..I could see across the world Anti government movement is on ..This is nothing but frustration ..may be way of protection is different but goal is same ....
BishnuM Apr 14, 2011 08:43pm
Why we wait for one Anna Hazare to awake 1.21 billion people to revolt against corruption.
Ajay Apr 14, 2011 09:00pm
Not many comments from Pakistani youth,guys this show the lack of interest.This is what should also happen in Pakistan....Wake Up...say NO TO Corruption.
yasir Apr 14, 2011 09:03pm
not sparing us on anything just shows the size of your heart. No comparisons are made in the article so be cool with it.
Shahid Apr 14, 2011 09:28pm
I don't know why the comments on these pages keep referring to Pakistan ? As Strobe Tallbot writes in his book "Indians need to give up their obsession with Pakistan". After all India is not such a great country as it is made out to be. This is what living in a bubble does to you. It creates a false facade. Corruption is the mindset in India and many other countries and it needs to be addressed at the lower level instead of going for the authorities. Authorities are just a reflection of a nation's mindset.
Devender Khokhar Apr 14, 2011 11:15pm
Why compare with Pakistan ? Just to get a false sense of pride ? If you compare with the majority of nations specailly the western countries we are still down in the dumps and have a long long way to go !!!
Gans Apr 15, 2011 12:21am
Very well written, kudos to Eshwar. well measured article on a well measured subject.
Srinivas Apr 15, 2011 12:33am
Well said Indian
R. Albuquerque Apr 15, 2011 06:13am
Let us admit something good has happened. Let us also admit that getting things done in a big democracy gets complicated. However like a big grinding stone that grinds slowly but grinds well, hope that with public support the mechanism to get rid of corruption will slowly fall in place.
Md Uni Apr 15, 2011 06:39am
India has managed to achieve its good name across the world by and large despite its politicians. Once can only hope against hope that good sense dawns upon not just out political class but also the masses to rid the society of base corruption.
vikram Apr 15, 2011 07:03am
Well said Pakistani Saab. We need 1000s of Anna hazare through out the world. Anna is a live example if you determine to fight corruption you can do non-violent way.
umer Apr 15, 2011 07:12am
Pakistan has had hundreds of leaders stand up against corruption. Asghar Khan, Imran Khan, Zaid Hamid etc. I sincerely expect people to educate themselves before commenting on blogs. Terrorism is something we all despise but the mindset of most Indians that Pakistanis as a whole have adopted it as a means to feel superior or something, is sickening to the bone. You guys deal with your own terrorist issues and let us deal with ours. Thanks
Ahmed Azmi Apr 15, 2011 08:20am
Anna Hazare rocks! He bent the mighty govt with simple hunger strike! And what he wanted, just to table the Lokpal Bill in its original form that will give right to citizens to bring mighty babus, politicians to court on corruption count.... no need to wait for approval by governers and president (they never give) to catch culprits. It is a second sword after right to information bill. Indian democracy zindabad!
Haneena Apr 15, 2011 08:29am
It was a good article..I enjoyed the fact that it had a sense of humor underlying it.. Anna has done something that only a few leaders can dream of...He brought the young and educated masses of the country to take a stand on an issue that had tainted the country for long,CORRUPTION...
Vivek Apr 15, 2011 09:24am
Democracy in India in true sense is only for the Rich and powerful. For the ordinary middle class and poors.. its always like being at the mercy of the corrupt. Ask an ordinary citizen and you will get to know what democracy he enjoys. If Anna does not succeed.. then probably we have no hope at all. Simply cannot afford to alllow this campaign lose steam. Lokpal with the teeth and armour is the need of hour in India.
samyak gowda Apr 15, 2011 09:49am
You have had your Anna Hazares in various forms, on various issues. The difference is, Anna Hazares will be killed or thrown out of the country in Pakistan. Cases in point : Taseer, Bhatti, Sherry, Abdul Salaam. While crazy people become heroes in Pakistan.
Akash Apr 15, 2011 10:04am
Dude, Our neighbor's online paper has recognized Anna's efforts and provided a space to post an article online. Let us focus on our own issue, still a long way to to go root our corruption in India. We shall focus our energy on this.
rdb Apr 15, 2011 10:15am
Dear pakistan, Please send a team again and finish what you started in early 2000s by attacking indian parliament.. India can't seem to produce true indians who can get rid of these leaches the hard way... Thanks,
raj Apr 15, 2011 10:54am
hope this bill is passed in the monsoon session of parliament when it is expected to be put for would be good if the results of the vote i.e. who voted against the bill is made known to the general public.and than we the public should make sure that those people are never elected again.we have had enough of these politicians taking us for a ride and its time we show them the door. raj
N.G. Krishnan Apr 15, 2011 11:00am
By saying that “perhaps people were infused with hope following India’s triumph in the Cricket World Cup.” the author is missing the woods for the tree and insulting the sensitivity of raising middle class Indian. The mass support to the movement was more to do as we migrate from the industrial era of pyramidal top-down command and control empires and police states, into the information era where “We the People” can impose home rule and boycotts that restore morality and kinship Corruption in India has grown to an unprecedented level and agencies meant to check the menace and prosecute the corrupt have been rendered toothless by the political class. Post liberalization has seen the rape of natural resources rendering involuntary displacement of lakhs of the poorest people, leaving them on the brink of starvation and forcing many of them to join the Maoists. To call Anna Hazare proposal undemocratic and Jan Local a super cop is to swallow hook, line, and sinker  the propaganda of the corrupt vested interests. No doubt the Jan Lokpal bill is small step in the arduous uphill struggle to create a just society.
Vijay, India Apr 15, 2011 11:13am
Swapnil You are out of your mind. This blog has nothing to do with Pakistan. I second what Indian has said. Swapnil bhai-Sudharo
Another Indian Apr 15, 2011 11:25am
Anna Hazare's movement has created a false sense of euphoria among the gullible youth. Let me give a reality check. (By the way, for the benefit of Pakistani readers, Hazare is a known Modi admirer. ;) 1. The corruption in India is not restricted to just politicians alone. The entire society is corrupt. 99 per cent of our great youth will jump red signals . Almost none of them, care for traffic rules. Most of them won't pass a driving licence test. Almost 90 per cent of our youth get driving licence by bribing the licence authorities. 2. Entire education system is corrupt. Unless you are brilliant, the less-than 90 per cent marks scoring students stand no chance. They have to pay in thousand, if not lakhs, to get a decent degree. Our people will get heart attack if the bribery window is closed. Bribery comes naturally to us. It takes away the pain of standing in queue, and it gives the advantage of headstart. Corruption is deeply entrenched in the habits of common poeple. It will never go away. For once, I will not blame politicians here ! What matters to Indians, is not bribes, but, someone who takes bribes and still does not do the job!
N.G. Krishnan Apr 15, 2011 11:35am
Anna Hazare movement is NOT the uprising of starving lower class but of the middle class The lower strata of the society is being easily manipulated by giving very little and they are comfortable. But not the raising middle class who form the back bone of Anna Hazare movement. The net savvy educated mass of Indian youth finding their just demands are thwarted and corruption unchecked in every walks of life were indeed awaiting the arrival of messiah and Anna Hazare did not disappoint them. The Indian leaders must be complimented for their wisdom for seeing the writing on the wall unlike the rulers of Middle East. The turmoil across Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Bahrain is caused by the inability of the ruling class to comprehend that the present generation has migrated from the industrial era of pyramidal top-down command and control empires and police states, into the information era where We the People can impose home rule and boycotts that restore morality and kin ship. as we migrate from the as we migrate from the industrial era of pyramidal top-down command and control empires and police states, into the information era where We the People can impose home rule and boycotts that restore
A Shah Apr 15, 2011 12:07pm
"A nation starved of heroes"? India has more heroes then any other nation. From sporting.heroes such as Tandulkar to our Bollywood heroes. I the writer needs to go out on the streets rather then sitting in room making presumptions.
Amit Apr 15, 2011 12:26pm
Infact the comeback of Justice Ifftikar Chowdhary and removal of Musharraf was an outcome of pure Civil society movement .. Welldone Pakistan
karun khanna Apr 15, 2011 12:35pm
India starved of heroes ??which world are u living in ,my friend?True we hv several drawbacks,corruption being the most serious, but indian heroes are coming to the fore each day in ALL parts of the world.In comparison,perhaps the only 2 Pakistanis known the world over are Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan !
Shabbir Apr 15, 2011 01:06pm
I agree with you...You're a better country...
Shabbir Apr 15, 2011 01:08pm
yes Vikram the way Gandhi ji did....
Shabbir Apr 15, 2011 01:10pm
Swapnil, i agree with you.. u r lucky nation in this regard.
Dr. Jigar Joshi Apr 16, 2011 07:23am
Dear A. Shah, These people are heroes in their field and are representing India for different things. But may be only a few has truly worked for community reasons. I would not quote the names but these people even charge many times for even good cause. By saying this I don't want to disrespect the name they gave to India on international platform. But at the same time there have not been enough movements run by them to truly work for the community. They have got the support from masses and every class, if they work for good people will back it up. But in our history not enough work seen to have began from their end. they are few incidences like this one with Anna Hazare ji and Lok pal bill, they come to just make there presence recorded.
bpshah Apr 16, 2011 09:55am
First was RTE(Right to education act), then was RTI(right to information act). RTI enabled us to bring scams in open. Now Lokapal bill that will punish the corrupt; Right to food act will be discussed in next session. Decriminalization of politics is a must. All those against whom chargsheet is filed cannot be candidates in an election. Then is required Right to recall. This idea was first mooted by JP. If morethan, say 50% electorate are against malfeasance of an elected representative, they have a right to recall. With better judiciary standard, CBI freed of political masters, police reforms & with RTI,RTE,RTF & RTR, India will truly become a mature democracy. Mr.Minhaz Merchant has eloquently wrote about the same.
bpshah Apr 16, 2011 09:59am
In continuation above, hence the struggle has just started.
Pranshu Agarwal (Ind Apr 18, 2011 12:51am
I am afraid till the day we have people like you on both the side we will have to live under the fear of nuclear war and hatred.....i really pity on your knowledge of facts Pakistani people have always raised there voice for unjust, but i am glad to see reply to your post that a lot of Indians disagree with you!! we must understand that corruption is eating both the nations, we should take Anna as role mode and do something at our level after all to eradicate corruption we will have start from base level!!
Nanu Nane Apr 21, 2011 02:32am
@Samyak: Whats with the "we are good. You are bad" style comments over every small issue? Its not like we are perfect.
Vivek Apr 21, 2011 08:00am
Hi Jigar, I totally agree with you. The Indian "heroes" have their priorities set to IPL more than that of Community services. But I am sure, The movement started by Hazare would wake up many more Hazares who are in their dormant sleep. And somewhere my heart says, that this is just beginning of the story.
R S JOHAR Apr 27, 2011 08:31pm
Anna Hazare has shown us the light to overcome the dark tunnel of corruption. A small battle had only been won by him but the war against corruption in all spheres of life still remains to be won which requires co-operation of one and all Indians. God willing we shall prevail.