By SHANKER DUTT / CNN- IBN
The great middle-class Indian iconolatry is an amalgam of feudalism, Bollywood and
corporate glitz that piggybacks Boswellian media attention. As a corollary, the persona becomes larger than the issue. The issue or the institution recedes to secondary significance, if occasionally it is not completely lost. The star is bigger than the film, the CEO is bigger than the company, the minister is bigger than the ministry and the activist is bigger than the cause.
There are not many people who would have the gumption to openly support corruption. Such practices are usually covert unless one has enjoyed power and privilege for too long to seek sanctuary in their own stupidity and become immune to discriminating nuances of shadowy human conduct.
Neither would too many oppose corruption against the high and mighty for fear of
retribution. Yesterday’s newspaper carried the story of a very courageous woman from Bhopal, Shehla Masood being gunned down when she was driving out of her home for a local resistance against corruption. Of course her story will probably disappear from public space by the time I sip next morning’s cup of tea.
Just the manner in which Irom Sharmila’s outstanding courage has become a photo-negative. Most of us are sadly, weakly human and would like to lead uncomplicated lives, minding our own business, going about the habitual and the mundane without inviting obstacles to peaceful coexistence.
So when someone takes up the cudgels to resist the all that divides unequal India from more than equal India, it is appreciable. For this Anna Hazare needs to be applauded. But there are some compelling questions that come to mind. This is related to the very foundations of parliamentary democracy. The people of India elect representatives to Parliament with the mandate to enact laws of governance. Civil society (the nomenclature has been debated often) now wishes to appropriate that responsibility.
The other issue that is disturbing is the basis on which certain individuals have appropriated the right to represent ’civil society’. Who has authorized this representation? The third issue is whether this is a middle-class, city-based movement which excludes unequal India.
The fourth is what motivates the Indian media to focus 24/7 on this set of civil activists and not someone such as Irom Sharmila? The fifth is the completely ham handed manner in which the government has conducted the negotiation, arrest and release of the man who has assumed the leadership of this movement against corruption.
The sixth is the responsibility of Parliament to be sensitive to the voice of the people.
What is the way out? The civil activists can send their draft of the Lokpal bill to each
Member of Parliament and let it be debated on the floor of the house. And let a law
without too many loopholes be enacted. Orchestrated civil coercion can never be a
substitute for parliamentary debate in a free country.
And for those that compare the present civil disobedience with Gandhi’s anti-colonial struggle, it seems to be a Martian metaphor.The colonial government was not voted to power by the people of India. This Central government, like all state governments, for good or bad, enjoys the popular mandate of free people of a free country.
Few would support corruption but its eradication must not become a greater evil.