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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mahatma Anna Hazare?

The villages surrounding Ralegaon Sidhi have decided to confer Kisan Baburao Hazare the title of 'Mahatma'. There are several proponents of such a move.

It was the greatest thinker of his times, poet, writer and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who first addressed MK Gandhi as the 'Mahatma'. Tagore was perhaps influenced by Gandhi's association with giants who walked that epoch such as Leo Tolstoy. On Gandhi's death, Albert Einstein had famously said: "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth". The following encounter of Gandhi with a British Civil Servant explains the basic difference between Bapu and Anna:

"Kinnoch: With respect, Mr. Gandhi, without British administration, this country would be reduced to chaos.

Gandhi: Mr. Kinnoch, I beg you to accept that there is no people on Earth who would not prefer their own bad government to the good government of an alien power."

Gandhi used his form of Satyagraha to rebel against the British, the foreign oppressor. He was a 19th century Bar-at-Law and had experienced life in three continents, before he began his work in India under the tutelage of Gopalkrishna Gokhale. He spent as many as seven of the 30 years he devoted to the freedom struggle behind bars without a single word of reproach against the British.

Even an incident like the Jallianwalabagh massacre evoked no strong words of recrimination against the killers. His ability to express the most profound political thought in the simplest language is noteworthy as when he says: "Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.

Some other important differences are that Gandhiji never went on a fast on a public platform and he always preferred to be alone. Also, Gandhi used to resort to other means to prove his point. Hazare however has little hesitation in inviting even Bollywood actors to the same platform.

Anna uses Satyagraha to fight against his own people. He has stated more than once that the country is run by traitors and that the freedom movement has resulted in precious little. He speaks from the rostrum with the air of someone who has himself done unimaginable amounts to alleviate his fellow denizens from all ills.

When he asks a simplistic question as to what has the country achieved in all its years of independence, he disregards major achievements of our natios such as the country's abiding allegiance to secularism, socialism, the Bhakranangal & Hirakhud Projects, the Damodar Valley Corporation, Nagarjunasagar, Tungabhadra, Almatti, Srisailam, Sardar Sarovar Project, Chambal, Rihand, Sindri, Chittaranjan Loco Works, various mining sites, Bhilai, Rourkela, Durgapur, Ranchi, HAL, HMT, BHEL, BEL, the success story of the Indian Railways, Air India, VSNL, BSNL, MTNL, ITI, BGML, Hutti Gold Mines, VISL, HPCL, BPCL, ONGC, the Indian banking sector that stood firm while world financial citadels collapsed, Neyveli, IITs, IIMs, Amul, Kaira Milk Union, Indian space development programme, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the nuclear programme, Green Revolution, the metro, the burgeoning private sector, the growing middle class, the communication revolution etc.

A former driver in the Indian Army, he has little formal education. His greatest contribution is to improve the availability of water in his village and to provide education for fellow villagers. His inability to articulate complex issues is met by his loyal lieutenants like Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan who fill in the gaps. Since this is his 16th fast, questions are asked as to where his men in arms during previous agitations have been left. He mouths inanities with alacrity, assuming the veneer of a freedom fighter (which he admittedly is not), a distinguished citizen and a giant moralist. There is an old saying that "hamam mein sab nange hain"- this does not apply to Hazare or his supporters, who are fully clothed and will show the rule book, the moment somebody has something truthful, but nasty, to them. They, however, have no qualms about using the choicest expletives against whomsoever they please to.

The Justice PB Sawant (Former Judge, Supreme Court of India) Commission appointed by the Government of Maharashtra under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 on 1st September, 2003, submitted its report on 23rd February, 2005, while indicting four persons for corruption - Sureshdada Jain, Minister (Food and Civil Supplies), Nawab Malik, MOS (Housing), Padmasinh Patil, Minister (Irrigation) Maharashtra and Anna Hazare. The law is meant to have an equal effect on all persons. All persons are equally liable to face punishment if an act of corruption has been performed by them. However, a stark difference is noted in the manner in which the three ministers resigned from the cabinet and were shamed.

Anna Hazare, who did not hold any public office, but was equally indicted for corruption moved from strength to strength, he is today known as India's foremost crusader against corruption. The extreme extra-constitutionalism of Hazare was noted by the Sawant Commission which noted the manner in which Hazare had arm-twisted the Government of Maharashtra to appoint the Sawant Commission:

"The agitational activities have however to be carried on by observing certain norms. Not only have they to be peaceful, but also legal. A care has also to be taken to see that they do not lead to anti-social activities or become extra-constitutional centres of power. Such a development will itself encourage lawlessness and spell out the end of the rule of law. The mode of agitation has further to vary according to its object and the social conditions obtaining at the time. Else, it will not only achieve its objective but will prove counter-productive. It has to be remembered that the agitational activities also constitute a social power, which is as much liable to be abused as the political power. When the social power is used irresponsibly, or to subvert the constitutional authority, it is hardly distinguishable from terror... (Pg. 22)."

Anna Hazare was himself indicted on charges of committing a corrupt act. The Commission noted: "As regards the allegation that the funds belonging to the trust were spent for celebrating the 60th birth anniversary of Hazare, we find that there is no valid defence of the trust to the said allegation. Admittedly, an amount of about Rs 2.20 lakh was spent in the year 1998-99 when Hazare was felicitated on his birthday. Abhay Firodia, a businessman, gifted an equivalent amount to the trust subsequently. A defence was sought to be raised that since the entire amount spent for the birthday was received by the trust subsequently, the trust cannot be said to have spent any of its funds for the birthday celebrations. The defence is deceptive.

In the first instance, the amount was received from Abhay Firodia many days after it was spent for the birthday celebrations. Secondly, Abhay Firodia gave the said amount as "donation" to the Trust. Therefore, even that amount belonged to the Trust and no amount belonging to the trust could have been spent for the purpose concerned..... We wish that such an argument was not advanced. This is obviously an illegal utilisation of the Trust's funds. It may further be noted that the trust has obtained a certificate of exemption from the Income Tax Department to the donors, for the donations made by them to it. Abhay Firodia must have earned the requisite benefit in his tax liability, for the said donation. (Pg. 270-271)" "...The expenditure of Rs. 2.20 lakh from the funds of the Hind Swaraj Trust for the birthday celebrations of Shri. Hazare was clearly illegal and amounted to a corrupt practice. Pg. 365".

Hazare, besides being indicted above on corruption, has also been indicted by the Commission on 23 counts of 'maladministration', which the commission defined as "Corruption is only a species of maladministration, which besides corruption, consists of the negligence, the lack of supervision, carelessness and waste and inefficiency, among others. Broadly speaking, the improper conduct of the affairs of a public institution, adversely affecting the interests of the public or the beneficiaries will amount to maladministration." and 9 counts of illegality. There is no public response to this finding by Hazare, he chooses to ignore these findings, despite the fact that Justice Sawant has spoken on television to state that these allegations have been held by him to be true.

Recently, Anna Hazare has referred at least two Congress leaders to the mental asylum, Digvijay Singh for stating that the RSS was backing his movement and Manish Tewari too. The RSS Sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat stated on 9th October, 2011 that the RSS had fully backed Hazare's movement. Again, Hazare has remained silent to the confirmation of involvement by Bhagwat. On 3rd September, 2011, he described P Chidambaram as a "Khodsai," a Marathi word which means "mischief monger". He has stated on 8th September, 2011, that he feels that both Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru ought to be hung publicly. It is perhaps while describing such personalities as Hazare that Gandhi said: "It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence.

If Hazare has rightfully fulminated against corruption, surely he must also have a word to say about the misconduct of CAG Vinod Rai in misleading and misdirecting the nation for a period of two years by sending the Supreme Court and the investigating agencies on a gigantic wild goose chase. Similarly, he chooses soft words off reproach against Narendra Modi who has incarcerated a defenceless police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, almost like an Atal Behari Vajpayee who helplessly urged Modi to follow the Rajdharma.

But Hazare saves the very worst for the Indian National Congress (of which Mahatma Gandhi was the President in 1924) against whom he has launched a no holds barred war. If he accuses Manmohan Singh of being remote controlled, he avoids mention that the BJP is remote controlled by a non-elected caboodle. This attitude gives rise to the belief that the RSS which has long been accused of killing Gandhi has done its part to resuscitate a pretender to the level of a Mahatma. Some are however convinced that he is secretly hoping to step into the high office of President of India helped by a future NDA dispensation.

His opportunism is visible from his recent call for the defeat of the Congress at the hustings in Hissar. It has been largely missed that the seat had elected Bhajan Lal on a Haryana Janhit Congress HJC ticket the last time around, the only seat to have been lost by the Congress. In the Indian milieu, it is highly improbable that Kuldeep Bishnoi, Bhajan Lal's son, would be defeated in the seat at a time, so close to his father's death. From that standpoint, despite the fact that Kejriwal has been able to draw crowds of only fifty to a hundred, it's a win-win situation for Hazare, who can project the victory as his own.

Meanwhile, the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potentials, a publication that began in 1972, has listed about 12000 world problems clustered into 320 overlapping hierarchies and running into 1200 pages. Corruption is only one of those problems.


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