When I asked my mother if India would ever have an Egyptian-style revolution, she replied: "No, Never! You need "men" to do that and Indians are not enough of men for something like that." I'm sure my mother's idea of "men" is a slightly feudal one. However what she also meant, if I understood her right, is that Indians by and large are far too spineless to have a revolution.
Tell me who your supporters are and I'll tell you the kind of leader you are. The criminal classes that define what India is all about -- big business, media, film industry, the right-wing party BJP whose corruption matches that of Mahmud of Ghazni who looted India back in the 11th century -- these are the people who claim to support Anna. This is my point: who is Anna Hazare fighting exactly if the very people who are enemies of this country are his back-end supporters!
What happens if the government signs the Jan Lokpal Bill meant to curb corruption? Practically speaking, nothing! The government knows that. The media knows that and the wealthy in this country know that. There is a remarkable scene in the movie The Great Dictator when Hitler and Mussolini are having a heated argument about the former willing to sign a document only if the latter took his troops away from the borders of Osterlich. At some point when the argument is going nowhere Herr Garbitsch (the Goebbels-figure in the movie) tells Hitler, " Sign! Sign! It's a mere scrap of paper." This is exactly how the government in the heart of its heart feels about the Jan Lokbal Bill that the Anna Hazare movement is all so worked up about. It's just a "scrap of paper." The people can do nothing about it.
The government is not afraid of Anna Hazare or the anti-corruption movement which does not have as many people to its credit when you think of the sheer numbers in this country whom you need to convince for a movement to shake the foundations of a corrupt system. Most of the supporters are the urban youth types worried more about imagery than anything else. They can clearly see that the poor are groaning under the weight of rising prices and terrible deprivation. They just don't like this image, that's all. They are keen about the Shah Rukh Khan image of "cool" India where you don't see beggars on streets or house maids exploited by their bosses for peanut wages. More and more the Indian poor are beginning to look like the Hebrews in the Old Testament slaving for masters on whom the ten plagues are yet to descend because their Moses is yet to emerge and lead them out of bondage. The reason the government is suppressing the movement for whatever little it is worth is because of what it might lead to -- a real revolution of the poor and not this media-driven façade of a movement.
Speaking of the death of Samir Kassir, a "writer, philosopher, academic, intellectual, reporter" from Lebanon, Robert Fisk says in his article, "A man who lived by his word -- and died by it:" "Samir Kassir misunderstood his future killers"As a reporter or columnist, you can take on governments or armies or corrupt politicians or secret policemen or clergymen or multinationals. But the one thing reporters must never attempt is to take on organised crime. Kassir's enemies in Lebanon created and lived in a world of bribery and stolen wealth"We are talking about corporate crime"This involves a multimillion-dollar nexus of wealth which defends itself against any assault. Money protects itself, ruthlessly and lethally. The pen is not mightier than the sword. The sword is far more powerful." It is a dark fact of life that the sword is far more powerful than the pen and there is no need to be ironic about it. I remember the murder of two Right to Information activists, one Amit Jethwa from Gujarat who was working against illegal mining and another more recently Shehla Masood from Bhopal. In both cases I'm convinced that they might have come too close to "take on organized crime" though with the latter the investigation is still in process.
In India corruption is "organized crime" with the powerful living "in a world of bribery and stolen wealth." Unless you live in the awareness of inevitable death it's not possible to fight the corruption of organized criminals in this country. You can criticize the government, accuse them of human rights violations, attack the media and attend conferences and meetings where you are allowed to speak on "revolutions." If Anna Hazare is any indication the system is not averse to allowing someone to go on a fast-unto-death either. To write about it is okay and to win prizes over what you write is also okay. The day you dare come close to disturbing the "cash nexus" be prepared to know that your ending is not far away. Only a revolution has the capacity to confront head on the cash nexus because the masses have both the physical and psychological prowess to smash this nexus and put a decently-run egalitarian social order in its place.
Anna Hazara, Delhi flickr image by vm2827
The Czech Marxist Karel Kosik speaks of masses versus their manipulators. The manipulators have faces and names attached to them while the masses are faceless and nameless. Says he: " The people are not born as the masses; they become that only later in a system that carries out a practical division of society into two categories: the category of the anonymous majority and the category of the manipulators." Leadership is about acknowledging masses with names and with selfhood of their own. The one-man shows are outdated. They may sound profound in a soliloquy or a dramatic monologue but not in the politics of real life. Vanity is not the privilege of the young and Anna Hazare might unfortunately love the attention given him by urban dogs who smirk behind his back. The real leadership he can assume is not in New Delhi but in a remote corner of India where the people are terribly poor, the "dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse/ Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. "Those are the spaces of martyrdom as the poet Auden sees it.
Just because Anna calls himself a Gandhian he won't become Gandhi. Gandhi's protest was silent and dangerous. He had a will of steel and a mind of his own. The comparison is futile. Gandhi above all was a "man" in the sense in which my mother defines a "man" as someone with honor, courage, love for the weak and infinite sense of justice. Neither Anna nor his followers could ever be that. More importantly Gandhi knew how to protest. The Indian rich and the middle classes hated him and continue to do so because his non-violence forced them to become aware of what they really are. If Anna's protest is seriously non-violent along Gandhian lines it must reach out to the poorest of the poor, awaken in them a sense of pride and refusal to accept being exploited and treated as less than dogs.
If Indians are not enough of men it is because they will accept anything and everything that comes to them from above. Nothing is more disastrous than when a nation refuses to unite in the face of a despotic government and an evil class of wealthy and powerful men who will do anything to retain their privileges. The storm however is there. Most people are tired of the miserable day-to-day life where you experience the most unpleasant characters on this planet from the moment you wake up until you descend each night into that Kafkaesque nightmare called sleep. The Anna Hazare movement is a cup of tea that will not make a difference to the storm.