From The Archive: For Those Who Care to Read

(This was the piece written for The Himalayan Voice, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, when I was asked about my comment on Anna’s arrest in Aug 2011 for their blog publishing. Shiv Rana)

Million Shades of Grey !

It is easy to criticize Anna Hazare and his team to create chaos in the streets of Delhi and other cities as well. But try to understand the reasons why people of all genre, young and old, men and women, urban and rural folks, Indian living abroad are on streets supporting this old and fragile man. It is also very easy to put rule books and Indian Constitution to defend the course of action being suggested by high and mighty of the Govt.

The support is for Anna for his movement against corruption. But the person out on street is because he/she has been touched by the corruption in his/her life sometime or other. He/she has found a tool to vent out the pent up anger that was throttling all this while. That is why he/she is in street.

Always put yourself in others’ shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too. This is specifically to those who matter and sit in glass houses and legislate. It is for those who have the authority to prosecute or impede your smooth work. They possibly have never faced such obstacle in their lives; for they always have had their ways and even if they had to grease some palms, it was done by one of his or her cronies. And it was never a matter of any concern because he/she has already ill gotten money in the coffers so that it does not pinch.

This is a great concept, putting ourselves in the shoes of others. Consider an old mother who murdered her autistic son because her husband had walked out and she struggled on her alone without assistance for years, and now in her fading years the future of her son bothers her, helps us to understand the desperation that she was feeling. Judging her as a murderer is dead easy. Understanding and accepting her actions as all too human, requires thinking.

I request readers to metaphorically put on the shoes of the people they do not understand. It can be very fulfilling to feel and understand the pain of others. Life really isn’t black and white at all. It’s truly a million shades of grey.

My Perspective of the Anna movement. (beyond from earlier comments…..)

Manny compare Anna movement to JP movement of seventies. And morning swoop on Anna on 16th Aug 2011when he was on his way to JP Park for his fast and “Dharna” was compared with the midnight arrests of “Emergency” days. In my opinion both the comparison are untenable.

JP’s movement was against a political party which was in govt at the time. It was against their policies and treatment of other political parties. And therefore the movement touched only those who were politically inclined and ideologically involved. It is no denying that the movement was most popular mass movement after independence. Many present day leaders like Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Sushma Swarj owe their prominence to JP flip. The common man was not affected by the movement as the subject of JP movement was related to politics. In the case of Anna, the subject touches every man and woman in metro or mean dusty streets of small villages and towns, powerless, the dispossessed and angry, who is being encumbered by the corruption for his daily life. No one is untouched by it. Be it journalists, writers, students and other young people, business people, political leaders, farmers, ex-servicemen and even Parliamentarians. Everyone or his/ her family is a victim of the menace called corruption. It is this reason that the people are on street to support him. Young sees his future in stake. Old has suffered somewhere down the line.

The arrest of Anna in the morning also cannot be compared with the emergency because then, during emergency, the personal liberties of citizens were suspended. It was total negation of human rights in a free and democratic country. Can one imagine a crowd swell of the type we saw after Anna’s arrest in the time of emergency? It was people’s cry and shout which forced Govt to withdraw Anna’s arrest by the evening. Nothing could be imagined like this at the time of emergency. One could be in jail then and not know what was next for him/ her and till when.

Having said that, I support Anna’s movement to the extent of bringing menace of corruption to the forefront of public consciousness and cajoled the Govt to sit up and listen. But I do not agree with him or his team’s views that it is either his “Jan Lok Pal Bill” or no Bill. And second to bring about the anti corruption Lok Pal bill by the end of Aug. That is being naïve and maddeningly erratic.

The way forward is negotiation. It must be understood by Team Anna that legislation will have to be passed by both houses of Parliament before it becomes law. That is time consuming.

But let us analyze why this standoff has occurred. It was nice, peaceful and dignified till Anna’s first movement in April this year. When Anna was got around to end his fast, the Govt seemed to have given in for the Lok Pal Bill. (Now in hind sight it might have been a tactical move to buy time) Anna’s Team was serious but Govt Team did not appear to be so. Inauspicious and incompatibility of teams appeared right from the beginning. Congress party spoke persons launched a vitriol and open attack on various members of Team Anna to defame them, which caused simmering public anger and distrust of Govt Team members. Mr Kapil Sibbal and Mr P Chidamaram, both known and prominent lawyers, began a coordinated attack to discredit the team and their efforts. They did not consider many of their demands and insisted upon to only send their (Govt members) Jan Lok Pal Bill to the Parliament. Intransigence of Kapil and Chidambaram brought the two teams to stiff face off. This created chasm of incomprehension and suspicion on both side. Detestation of each other appeared bottomless.

Initial call by Anna to start a second fast on 16th Aug 2011 appeared to have received a lukewarm response from public. Media did not appear too enthusiastic about it. Therefore Govt (read Sibal, Chidamaram) became bold in their rhetoric and legal jargon to explain as to why Team Anna was wrong in all their demands.

The game changer event in the whole episode was gaffe by the Govt to arrest Anna in the morning of Aug 16th when he was going for his peaceful Dharna and fast. That action totally turned the table in favour of Anna. His arrest was seen as a violation of individual liberty and freedom so provided under the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. That galvanized not only the fence sitters but also the critics of the way Team Anna was insisting on his Jan Lok Pal Bill to be adopted. The Bill became secondary and Human Rights Violation became the primary and the focus of one and all.

This is the reason why public is enduring all hardship and supporting the movement. If someone asks the question to most of the people in the street as to what is the difference between two Bills? Most will not be able to answer. It is the corruption which has brought people’s support to him (Anna) and it is the violation of human rights that has angered the public psyche.

In this age of technology most people in cities are tech savvy. Team Anna has used mobile phone, internet, face book and twitter very effectively. Team Anna’s media management team has used it to whip up support and water down some faux pau which are natural in the course of such large movement. On the other side Govt has failed to comprehend the power of technology. They have no media friendly spokes person and the responsibility fell on the team itself all the time to explain to the public as to the moves of the Govt. Congress party’s spoke person did no good to quell the passion on streets. Manish Tiwary’s out of sync utterances did more harm to the party and govt than good.

Negotiating team members must have gradual, trusting relationship and avoid cynicism as defence against disappointment. Any movement connected with the public needs a delicate handling and human touch. The use of Rule books and legal provisions cannot be only mechanism to deal with such mountain of anger and resentment of public. They need to avoid exaggerated expectation and experience and then suffer deflated outcome.

Why did we reach to such impasse where the Govt had to bite the dust for their action? And also why did the large number of right thinking people were opposed to the manner in which Team Anna was asking either its way or highway. Both teams need to learn iteration of struggle to convince the other and skills of negotiation. Both need to be patient and understanding of people wrath and process of functioning of any democracy.

What needs to be done? In my opinion

Govt has to be serious in tackling corruption and not only be serious but be seen as being serious. It must show and media manage as to what it is doing to achieve that.

It must engage with the Opposition parties to get them around to have safe passage of whichever Bill is presented to the Parliament.

Anna needs to understand that legislations are not created over night and they need serious thinking and debate inside and outside the Parliament. Therefore it must agree to more time to be given to the Govt to fulfill its promised enactment of legislation.

In the meanwhile Team Anna with the support of Govt must get down to all parts of country to educate the people to live a straight life and not be part of any corruption like giving bribe.

A last word to the Govt.

Please learn a lesson not to include any lawyer, more so Sibal or Chidambaram, in any future negotiation where grass-root sentiments are involved.

About Shiv Rana

Retirement life is series of transition: from Olive Green to civvies, being woken up a buddy to fetching morning milk from the milk booth. And now trying to adjust with new-normal due to pandemic - CORONA.
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