Not quite Gandhian

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A private man without wealth, without property, without official title or office, he is not a commander of great armies nor ruler of vast lands, he can boast no scientific achievements, no artistic gift. Yet… These words are lifted from Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi but they could also describe Anna Hazare, the man who has shaken India with his self-proclaimed second freedom struggle, a movement against corruption that has earned the support of tens of thousands and rattled the central government.

Last Sunday, more than a lakh people cheered Hazare in Delhi’s Ramlila ground. Rich people flew in from Bombay and Bangalore to mark the weekend spectacle. Hazare’s fast for an anti-corruption Jan Lokpal bill has connected in an unprecedented manner with people across different backgrounds. One slogan calls him the country’s second Gandhi.

“Anna is a spiritual life force of the universe that has appeared in a moment of great struggle,” says Pradeep Thakur, the Ludhiana-based author of Anna Hazare: The Face of India’s Fight Against Corruption, the only book on Hazare available in the bookstores at the time of writing this article. This author has also written biographies of Angelina Jolie and Madonna.

The flash success of Hazare’s movement is credited to the nature of the cause that touches everyone’s lives, and also to the blunders of the Manmohan Singh government, which arrested the old frail man and sent him to Delhi’s Tihar jail, the final address of murderers, rapists and terrorists. It didn’t help that Tihar rhymes with Tahrir, the revolutionary square in Cairo.

But what about the man who has become the face of the anti-corruption movement? Anna Hazare is 5 feet four inches. His mother tongue is not Hindi (it’s Marathi). He was a driver in the Indian Army and performed no award-winning feat there during the Pakistan war in 1965. Until a few months ago, he was barely known outside his home state Maharashtra. What is it about the 74-year-old that has struck a chord in a country that has more than half of its population under the age of 25? Is it because of Hazare’s Gandhian persona? Is it the way he speaks, or the stern way he frowns or wags his finger – like a tyrannical but lovable dadaji?

In an apartment in Ghaziabad, Delhi’s satellite town, lives a retired man who quoted a verse from Tulsidas’s Ramayan for me to describe Hazare:

Nirmal mann so jane mohipawa

Mohi kapat chhal chid na bhawa

(I like the one whose mind is pure/ I like the one who is without cunning and shrewdness)

Meanwhile, TV news channels have been beaming sound bytes of eager youngsters – seemingly in search of heroes – exclaiming that they have seen a second Gandhi.

In an opinion piece in The Hindu, author Arundhati Roy wrote: “While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are certainly not. Contrary to Gandhiji’s ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister…down to the lowest government official. The Lokpal will have the powers of investigation, surveillance, and prosecution. Except for the fact that it won’t have its own prisons, it will function as an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.”

In the same piece, I discovered the best understanding of the current crisis. Read this: “For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people.”

What if Gandhi were to be alive today? I talked to Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson who lives in Chennai. He said, “Gandhi would have been nauseated by corruption, its ramifications, its deep percolations, its stubborn entrenchments, particularly, in the political class. He would have been nauseated by the larger role of money in our national life, from our elections to our day’s daily rhythms.”

Would he have resorted to a fast like Hazare?” Gopalkrishna Gandhi replied, “He would have drawn attention to not only how ‘bribery’ corruption is unacceptably rampant in politics and in government, but also in its ‘non-bribery’ but more sinister forms in our corporations, in NGOs, in benign-sounding trusts, high-sounding societies, big-name institutions, degree-selling colleges, and media.”

As I’m writing, Hazare, who is on the 8th day of his fast, is playing stubborn and refusing to eat. It helps that his health is being take care of by a medical team led by Dr Naresh Trehan, one of India’s most expensive doctors. Meanwhile, ‘Team Anna’ is acting as if they are the only righteous people left in the country, and if we are not with them, we are anti-Indians.

Would Gandhi have been equally unreasonable?

Gopalkrishna Gandhi said, “He would have made the ending of that fast not such a difficult proposition. He would have been firm on principles, not stubborn over procedures; unrelenting on the destination, not inflexible about the number or duration of intermediate stations.”

Even if Hazare was humble, polite and reasonable like Gandhi, I still would have been skeptical. I’m hundred per cent sure that if Gandhi were alive in 2002 when thousands of Muslims were being killed in Gujarat, he would have immediately sat on a death fast. Hazare did not bother. He will never be my hero.

Mayank Austen Soofi lives in a library. He has one website and four blogs. The website address: thedelhiwalla.com. The blogs: Pakistan Paindabad, Ruined By Reading, Reading Arundhati Roy and Mayank Austen Soofi Photos.

12 COMMENTS

  1. The larger picture is not that he’s Gandhian or not.
    He’s doing so for a good cause, u cant say that a 90% correct (anna ji ) and a 1% correct (politicians) are both equal because they are not 100% correct.
    once these issues of corruption (scams and govt. org) are solved then we’ll proceed further about NGOs and Media, but we can’t sit idle while deciding what is best way to proceed ignoring one of the better opinions. Being critical is not a solution ,but whats happening right now is an solution (up to some extent if wee go be your ideas)

  2. I suppose this article must be a vent for some of your personal bias, because it is so badly written and so

    completely devoid of research and rationale or logic, that it is almost amusing. It is not even rhetorical, it

    reads like a five year old having a tantrum – " I know becuase I spoke to Gandhi's grandson, so I must be right".

    Interviewing Gandhi's grandson, whose biggest claim to fame is that he is Gandhi's grandson, and writing down his

    conjectures on what Gandhi would have done is not research.

    It doesn't matter in the least whether Anna is your hero or not. One doesn't have to be a Gandhi to be correct.

    Despite how far he has come, Anna Hazare will fail as of now. Most of us, including me, are so unaffected by the

    deepest dirt of Indian government that this movement will never be ours – the middle class – we are happy in our

    bubble – the MacDonald fries and the FRIENDS like sitcoms – and of course no movement has ever belonged to the

    rich. Finally, the "revolution" that will bring about wide sweeping change will be by the poor. The good but well

    off citizens, like you or me, will do their duty – write internet pieces, play token roles in social programs,

    sometimes do better and go the extra mile and actually make deep impact social changes, But we will never bring

    about the moral, sweeping revolutionary change that India needs, because most of us have never been the direct

    victims of unconscionable governance.

    And so, let us all have the humility to acknowledge what this man has accomplished.

    Finally a fact checker: Regarding the muslims: I am not sure if you have read your history on Gandhi and his

    attitude towards the partition.

  3. So wht annaji shd do ? Shd he remain silent keeping d eye closed 2wards d currupted system ? After all some thing possitive is happening.. I dont knw wht arundhati roy think herself ? Y she didnt any thing against d gujurat incident ? All d people of india r against curruption..arundhati roy shd support d movement n shd insist with team anna n suggest if she think some thing different. Anna n his team r just a symbol nw..d issue is curruption..mrs roy shd keep her vision clear abt d curruption instead of giving controversial statement.. GO AHEAD ANNA.. WE D YOUTH OF INDIA R WITH U.. If arundhati roy will do some thing to check communal mishaps den we do support her too.. Bt shut up 4 nw. Bibhuti bhusan dash.
    India.
    Mob no- 9938321145

  4. Anna’s fight against corruption will also help muslims to live a FAIR LIFE who have otherwise fallen victims to corruption.

    He received in 1990 Padma Shri, 1992 Padma Bushan which is the third highest
    civilian award in the Republic of India from the President of India.
    World Bank and Transparency International has also awarded him for his service to
    the nation.

    Pls stop following Arundhati Roy blindly. Ms. Roy has done no good for India and is abhorred by the educated indians.

    According to wikipedia “The Government of India plans to start a training centre in Ralegan Siddhi to understand and implement Hazare's watershed development
    model in other villages in the country”.

    Anna Hazare should be a hero not only for the millions of Indians but for the rest of the world because of his bravery, his guts, and his nonviolent ways of taking head on the mighty government, the all-powerful corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and
    their rotten system of governance.

    ANNA, INDIA SALUTES YOU.

  5. Fast against Gujarat riots? why not fast against poverty? Fast against killing of Pandits in Kashmir? Fast against Bombs? Fast against Maoists? Fast against Dowry? Fast against infanticide? Fast against…if one has to go on fast for everything that Anna can forget eating all his life….

    dear fellow – one has to tackle one problem at a time……

  6. so what to do criticize anna for not being gandhi ,what rubbish ,every man is different ,even gandhijis son is not like gandhi.you all just talk and do nothing.if u really have something to do with gandhi just protest against the system and try to change it without expecting anna to be gandhi.

  7. I am surprised that none of the comments are on the bill being so vociferously supported by Anna Hazare. Does the text of this bill, if implemented, not create a parallel government in India? Everyone is trying to have a piece of the author (M.A.Soofi) as if he supports corruption by opposing Anna Hazare. My understanding is that he opposes the procedure adopted by Anna Hazare and not the principle he stands for. Give the writer his due for not joining the bandwagon of those who do not hesitate to "grease palms" of gov't officials to make their file move forward. Corruption, by and large, is a social ill, which can't be cured purely thru legislation.

    • One is not saying that he (Soofi) supports corruption. One is simply saying that the article is badly written, badly thought out and written without reflection. It is an article that sets out , very childishly, to prove that Gandhi is superior to Anna, which is a completely irrelevant issue.

      • It is ok to say you do not approve of Anna's method, but you cannot rob him of the credit due to him. Soofi's dismissal of him is puerile and one dimensional.

  8. Yeah…its true that and i agree that whats the guarantee that Jan Lokpal won’t be corrupt and will and will function without corruption,if they will have all the powers means they can exploit too…!!!

Comments are closed.