Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Anna Effect: My Jantar Mantar Diary

A driver in the Indian army during the 1965 Indo-Pak war in the Khemkaran sector, is today the General of the peoples army fighting the war against corruption.
He has taken the nation by storm. From five year old class one students to those in the twilight of their lives, were all at Jantar Mantar to see a movement take shape. The government initially did not realise the gravity of the situation. Such a movement had been initiated once earlier.A similar battle cry had been sounded. But that time the movement did not succed. This time it did - at least so far. SUPER SHOCKING SCAMS But that time nobody was talking about the Rs 1,76,000 crore 2 G spectrum scam, Rs 70,000 crore rupee Commonwealth Games Scam, the Adarsh Scam, the Antrix deal and a ``clean'' prime minister presiding over what was seen as one of the most corrupt ever establishment. Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal saying with a straight face that there was no scam in 2G spectrum allocation angered the man on the street.For the aam admi prices of food, vegetables, fruits, education - daily life - spiralling out of control was a scam. The government seemed unresponsive, at least ineffective. Anna Hazare's call to combat corruption struck a chord in perhaps every heart and people came out of their homes. Media has been `blamed' for egging Anna Hazare on. Especially television media. For beaming pictures of the protest and Jantar Mantar and ``breathlessly creating a frenzy.'' The Congress party went on record to say they respected Anna's cause but not the course. Now that was a bit confusing. A fast unto death was the course that Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation took recourse to. There was no violence - no bloodshed and the only person punished was self. Yet the Congress did not agree with the course. WITNESSING HISTORY I was at Jantar Mantar every day. Saw the crowds build up - from a couple of hundred the first day to several thousand on day 4. I met school children (class IV to XII) impressionable age - they had been brought there by their teachers to learn first hand the Gandhian form of protest. Peaceful non violent fast. Children were ecstatic they were seeing history being made. One school teacher (prestigious Delhi missionary school) told me she had learnt about Gandhi only from books but her students were luckier to see it first hand. A Lesson they would never forget. ROLE OF REFORMERS A heated debate started at Jantar Mantar and in television studios the day Yog Guru Baba Ramdev sat on the platform next to Anna Hazare whether Gurus and Sants should be sharing that platform. What was unique about this protest at Jantar Mantar was the fact that every evening there would be a sarv-dharm sabha. A vedic prayer, the Gurbani, a sermon and reading a verse from the Holy Koran. It had a calming effect. We are a secular nation after all and religion plays a crucial role in our lives. Should the Babas, maulvis, Padris and Granthis have been there? My take: India has a history of Sants, Gurus, Mahatmas and teachers spearheading change. Maharshi Vishwamitra, Chanakya, Samarth Guru Ramdas, Swami Dayanand, Swami Vivekanand...the list is endless. Their role in history has not been confined to religious preaching but extends to nation building. BLAMING TV MEDIA To say TV led and `fomented' this movement is insulting not only Anna Hazare but the intelligence of the people of this country. This was perhaps a spontaneous outburst of peoples pent up anger and frustration. TV reported it - constantly - because there was interest in it. The number of people who called to ask how Anna Hazare was, how they could help, should they be at Jantar Mantar or in their own neighbourhoods...Each day the crowds swelled - not just in Delhi, Mumbai and other metros but even in smaller towns across the country. Tushar Gandhi in an interview to Headlines Today asked if the crowds were there because of the media - to appear on TV? My reading - majority were there to be a part of a process trying to improve the nation's future and fight corruption. WRONG PRECEDENT BEING SET? Well respected journalists and columnists have commented on TV journalists reporting and almost egging on the movement not realising its harmful aftereffects and side effects. I think for 60 years we have suffered this corruption and each year the problem becomes bigger and bigger. While I totally agree it is for the lawmakers to make laws but when they don't for 42 years, should we just wait another 42 years. This is an experiment. Instead of being cynical and saying it is bound to fail without even giving it a shot - lets push for it. If it fails there is not much to lose -after all for 42 years all other efforts have failed. And then the government can put on its most holier-than-thou mask and say we told you so - leave governance to us. But to pan it without trying it - almost echoes a politician's take - who are mighty alarmed being under the microscope even if briefly. Another Congress party spokesperson said today it is Anna Hazare tomorrow it can be the Jats and the Gujjars who would want a notification and civil society -govt joint drafting committee and cite this case as a precedent. Well, if jointmanship can bring better laws why not. And for anyone else to make such demands they would first have to reach Anna Hazare's stature. After all Jats protested earlier too and did we see the entire nation rise with them? Did we see one of the most well respected Indians - metroman E Sreedharan join them? Did we see CEOs, COOs and head honchos of top companies join the movement? ROLE OF TWITTER/FACEBOOK Tremendous. Much more than expected.And will have a bigger impact in the times to come. This is power to the people. The aam admi is the journalist. Your mobile phone is the camera and you are the journalist. The so called mainstream media follows social media - tweets, facebook updates, youtube. And in the times to come the role will only grow. But as J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted - with power comes responsibility. Will this street power prove to be responsible and actually bring about a positive change after camera have moved to the next big story? My take: awareness level has increased. THE ANNA EFFECT In Mumbai, a government servant was beaten up by a mob and handed over to the police for demanding an accepting a bribe from a tea shop owner. The official demanded Rs 25,000 as bribe, as the news report said. The poor tea stall owner managed to just arrange the instalment of Rs 2,000. As soon as the money was handed over- passers by caught the official, roughed him up and handed him over to the police. That's a positive step. Not the thrashing but people coming together to combat corruption. Godwilling we shall have many more stories like this in the days, weeks and months to come. Then perhaps there will be a genuine grassroots movement to combat corruption. At India Gate (crowds lesser as Anna Hazare was not there) - I asked a group of youngsters will they go on a fast unto death for their demands - to fight for justice and corruption free society. Pat came the reply: No sir - we will starve the politicians and establishment - we will not pay bribes. If the youth actually mean this and actually do what they say - the battle is won.

No comments:

Post a Comment