Monday, August 22, 2011

Looking beyond Anna..

Need to shift political system which work collectively By Vidya Bhushan Rawat India at the moment is at the cross roads. Anna Hazare and his team have presented a Janlokpal bill which according to them will wipe out corruption from India. They feel that corruption is the root cause of all our evils. Now, one does not know whether they consider the caste system, untouchability, dowry as corruption or not. We do not know whether billions of rupees of cash, Gold and other treasure in our religious institutions are corruption free or meant for something else. Anna seems to have caught the fancy of India’s upper caste upper elite and middle classes. Right from the film stars to our business tycoons every one is taking oath to fight against corruption. The local businessmen, dibbawallahs, auto-drivers, taxi unions, doctors and government servants also seem to agree with Anna and want that corruption should be ended. The Prime Minister of India also want the corruption should go. Advani and Gadkari want to hang the corrupt except Yadurappa. Anna wants to hang them but do not have the courage to ask the same treatment for Ramdev and Ravishankar or any other religious guru or corporate leader if they are found guilty. He also wants to keep safe the ‘civil society’ from any charges of corruption. This seems to be well planned exercise with solid backing from India’s corporate. Now, it is coming to lime light and sources are alleging that the Tatas and Anil Ambani group may be behind the campaign. Both of them are resourceful and can make our media men and TV anchors workless hence the TV cameras have to be there all the time and make it a truly ‘national event’. The number of people in the ground was never twenty thousand as Times of India describe. It could be around 5000 to 10,000 at the peak hour. Anyway, political rallies have always been huge and to compare it with the political movement lead by either JP or VP would be too na├»ve. At least VP and JP had an open agenda and asked people to vote. Anna seems to be working on a hidden agenda and that is the real cause of worry. The Lokpal bill that is produced by Anna’s team has positive side but the one important draw back is a super structure which is unaccountable to Parliament. We want balance between different power structures who compliment each other and do not pull leg of each other. We want a Lokpal who can seek responses from officers for their failure. I completely agree that this government had tried to shield corrupt officers. The bill presented by the Central government in Parliament is a betrayal in fact. It punishes the whistleblowers and save the corrupt officials. May be, because the ministers and officials are normally hand in glove together in the corruption cases and know the history of their cases. The question is not of including prime minister or judiciary into the Lokpal bill but we do not want another department harassing and exploiting people. Therefore, a bill need to be prepared after due consultation. Anna’s civil society never bothered to speak to others and take opinion of diverse sections of civil society, social movements in the country. It was the case basically that Sonia Gandhi appointed one set of high profile ‘civil society’ to National Advisory Council which was a ‘super cabinet’ and therefore those who have been left behind in that must have felt that it is time we must have ‘super duper cabinet’ which has ‘people’s mandate. And that is why such a big ‘reality’ show being organized in Delhi. Sonia’s advisory council have elite ‘social activists’ and Anna’s team too had the same criteria. So, there is nothing wrong to say if you call it upper caste upper elite clash of interests. Not every crowd turns into a revolution. We want to look this event as revolution and the reason is that Gandhi, India’s fading icon, must be placed on top despite the known facts that the same upper caste actually hated him and killed him. Gandhi and Gandhisim are the best way to control our mind, preach us fictitious morality of the barbaric age which none of these ‘revolutionaries’ will ever agree in their own personal lives. The caste and religious character of the entire protest is well known to be described here. As reported in many dailies, the main organizers of this crowd management team are not just the corporate jars, former anchors and reporters of television channels who are producing Anna package to the country but the micro level management is also being taken care of by the religious fanatics who have deep rooted hatred towards the Dalits and minorities of the country. It is this class of people who have no interest in India and who are ready to ditch the country for their profits and benefits which are swearing by the tricolor and raising hatred towards the Dalits. Many of my friends have actually disagreed with my contention that Anna’s movement has caste and communal contours but they too agreed that some of the people might take benefit of it. But facts are not that simple. Neither is history that evaporated from us when we have seen the Sangh parivar and its elements intruded in the mainstream politics and got legitimized through electoral alignments in 1975 and 1989. That an organization such as Youth for Equality which has been spreading continuous hatred towards the Dalits and OBC in the name of opposing their legitimate quota in AIIMS and other institutions is a shocking reminder of the nature of the politics being played at Anna’s August Kranti. To add further salt to injury is another hate monger organization called Krantikari Manuwadi Morcha. One can understand from the very ideological ground of this organization how they continue to think that there will not be an India with equality as even today they continue to believe in inequality. How have those who used to clean our shoes are ruling us is a common refrain for the political system. The egalitarian political system is the bone of contention for these caste minds. Anna’s movement actually exposes openly the hidden apartheid of India. If you see the crowd and many of those who are speaking you can find their arrogance and feeling that this country is ‘theirs’ and now they have found Anna who will not allow these politicians to do ‘corruption’ which in other way means ‘vote bank politics’. My fears have always been that the Lokpal case would have more cases against the reservation and if Lokpal is not accountable to Parliament then he is bound to indulge in notoriety which would attract appreciation of the upper castes but would definitely be against the interest of the Dalitsand particularly against OBCs. Lot of anecdotes about Anna’s greatness are being talked about. Anna himself glorified himself and his ‘sacrifices’ for the nation. He said ‘I did not marry for the shake of country.’ Most of those who are there at the Ramleela ground, are using this as a point to promote Narendra Modi, who is not married. Question is if the Indians think that marriage is bad for the country then why are we over one and a half billion. All this could not have happened without marriages as living with out marriage is still not an acceptable idea in this country and children out of wedlock will never be accepted here. Another question is if being unmarried is greatness then why the same upper caste do not respect Uttar-Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and her mentor Kanshi Ram? There is no law, no rule for these forces of stats quo. They only have their interests and hence can bend their ideological positions to suit their interests. And you can see this during the current campaign. Anna’s many formulations are flawed. There is no doubt that the Congress party behaved in an arrogant way and political leaders claims that they only speak for the people is blunted by Anna’s campaign yet we can not mock at the form of democracy which Anna and his team is indulging. As a civil society you can suggest to the government various points and do things but did Anna and his team ever spoke to any other fellow civil society people. Or this was an attempt to hijack the entire issues of civil society and become their leader. Today, the corporate has provided space for the likes of those who were supporters of civil society as leaders of civil society. That is the danger of the new economic disorder, which claims to makes and unmake leaders. It creates mass hysteria, create news through these histrionics’ and paralyze the administration. It blocks the opposite views as it is an embedded journalism. It is an activist journalism which can not be accepted. Such brand of journalism with hidden agenda and deep rooted caste prejudices exist in the shining India and promote ideas which are detrimental to the interest of India. It is surprising that none talked about the issue as how is this big movement being funded. Who are the forces supporting it from the back? Has any one tried to find out? Yes, an Indian Express story exposed many chinks. So much so that Anna and his team continuously talks about corruption of political class but refrained from talking about the corrupt corporate and the corrupt religious gurus who are happily sitting with Anna and claiming high moral ground. How is this none of us ever think of challenging those who are becoming our moral guardians. The big land owning Babas and Sanyasis and hugely corrupted corporate who were responsible for most of the corruption in the post liberlisation phase remain untouched by our elites. It is because, in today’s packaging, these corporate are required for running a middle class movement which is essentially against government and all praise for the likes of Ambanis who never hesitated in saying that they used the loopholes of the government institutions to promote themselves. Such hysteria on a particular issue is dangerous. Times of India reported that the only solution is to ask for referendum. The Times forgot that there is no difference in the government and opposition on Lokpal at the moment. And you can not discuss nitty-gritty’s of the bill in the referendum. Secondly, if the government is accepting the demand for referendum then there are major issues in the country and many states who want it. Whether it is Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur or Telengana, the government must listen to people’s voice and come to a conclusion or organize referendum if the demand of Times of India and those who are calling for it, is accepted. India’s problems can not be resolved through a Lokpal or more bureaucrats. The failure of Indian political leadership is happening because our parliamentary system is actually based on a minority voting pattern. First past the Post system is the weakest link of our democracy. You can win election through cobbling together a few people and dividing the other votes. Therefore, India need to switch to Proportionate Electorate System, so that its diversity is represented in is Parliament and assemblies. That will pave the way for state funding and reduce the burden. The current form of democracy is giving way to individualism and any system which is based on individualism is going to be fatalistic. The fancy of an individual become the root cause of our evils. Therefore, it is important that India’s minorities, the Dalits, OBCs, the Aadivasis and other communities get fair representation in it. Unless that is done, these issues raised by certain group of people would snow ball into bigger threat for those who disagree with it. Anna may say that his Lokpal is to cleanse the system but a majority of Dalits, Aadivasis, Muslims, other minorities and OBCs have growing fear of that this campaign is fast turning into a caste-ist campaign whose agenda is not corruption but reestablish the supremacy of the erstwhile ruling elites of India who are losing their grip over power in the parliamentary process and who are looking to control levers of power through non parliamentary process. Such a thought would be dangerous and will be responsible for a caste war in India.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Remembering Shehla

Woman with conviction and Courage By Vidya Bhushan Rawat Shehla Masood became the latest victim of the corrupt Indian system which is unable to defend those who are trying to expose the corrupted. On August 16th, she fell to the bullets of an unidentified assailant near house in Bhopal. The police in Bhopal are on a hunt to nab the killers but have not been able to do so. We do not know whether they would be able to do so or not as the perpetrators of this ghastly crime may have their access to high and mighty. I came to know Shehla several years back and developed an instant rapport with her as she was very keen to do things. She asked me to contribute for her blog ‘Miracles’. She was a curious student to know new things and wanted to do things differently. She has been interested to build a strong organization for wild life and actually discussed with me in April. She shared her frustration also particularly when the state authorities never took action against the police officer she complained. She wrote a letter to home ministry about the said officer and there was no response from the ministry she said. Though she ran a company yet her intention were to build up an international organization for wild life. She called me and we met in Delhi to discuss things further to do our work. She was very happy to inform me that she had now shifted to Delhi and that we would be able to work together. Unfortunately, April and May had been quite engaged tour for me and we spoke once after that when she was in Bhopal. I saw Shehla as a dynamic woman and a role model. In a country where there is a dearth of such strong personalities, I felt she was not utilizing her worth and could really be a source of inspiration of thousands of women in the country in general and Muslim women in particular. And we spoke passionately how Muslim women should be united and organized in their struggle. She had desired to organize something for them in Bhopal. She felt that political interventions are necessary for the empowerment of women and that they must get reservation in Parliament and Assemblies. Last time when we met in Delhi, she was a bit hurt and displayed a sense of betrayal from her erstwhile colleagues. She felt that some of them were using the information collected under RTI to strike a deal. She was very disturbed with it. When I met her in Bhopal to discuss things which we could work together, she was very eager yet I found some thing was missing. The problem I felt was that she lacked some of the friends who had same passion as she had. She realized that some of the friends might be using her and may be leaking some of the information. We all know that she was living in Madhya Pradesh and had to depend a lot on the people who might not have liked her ideological positions or efforts to nail those who were close to power. That was actually her frustration when we met in Delhi and she asked me to do something together particularly on the issues of wild life and forest conversation. She was all appreciation for the then environment minister Jai Ram Ramesh and often talked about her meeting with him related to Bandavgarh Tiger range about which she complained to Ministry of Environment and Forest. Shehla became fifth victim of the mafias who are afraid of getting exposed. But at the same point of time, her brutal murder also reflect how much threat we face in the streets if we raise the issue of corruption in public life and on particular individual issues. Her death also shows how individual activists face threat to life and need to be more careful. There is a growing temptation for media coverage in the individual cases which has made the lives of activists threatening. These issues need the getting of like minded individuals who do not compete with each other for publicity but compliment the work and also keep each other updated about their activities and complains so that in case of difficult time they can be supported. We know that work on human rights is very tough and each of the human rights activist need protection for their life. While we demand protection from the government, we also know that such theoretical formulas do not solve the issue as a society which is deep nick in corruption can not protect individuals fighting against corruption. Therefore we need to be more vigilant and work together. The tragedy of the RTI is that every individual is filing cases and publicizing them and before things are taken to a conclusion he or she become the victim of it. Local media blow issue out of proportion and make the lives of these individuals more dangerous. Therefore, it is essential for all those who are fighting against this to address the issue in broader term and not become a kind of ‘tu-tu main main’. The individual fight would always result in chaos and make life of the complainants more vulnerable. Shehla was bold and daring. She wanted to do things differently. She had passion. And she wanted to do things. I am extremely disturbed and pained at her untimely death. We wanted to do things together and I was more than happy when she said that she was shifting to Delhi. I felt, I will have a friend who is daring to fight against system and have new ideas. Alas, that was not to be. The brutal murder of Shehla has taken her away from us but the ideas always remain. She will always remain a shining star, a woman who fought passionately and with great courage. She will remain a role model for many. Those who killed her must understand that by killing a person they can not kill the ideas, they can not kill the power of people. Shehla had dream. Dream of a society where men and women are equal and complete harmony with nature. She dared to do things differently and I can say she became immortal her death. We salute the spirit Shehla and hope that youngsters who dream for the society will take some lesson from her life. At the end, I am demanding a thorough investigation into the probe of Shehla Masood. The perpetrators must be brought to the books. Madhya Pradesh government should form a special task force to investigate the matter or if they are unable to find anything must hand over the inquiry to CBI. The role of the officials against who she filed cases must be investigated. These officials include forest and police department. Maybe, the information could be gathered from office in Bhopal and the colleagues who were working with her on RTI. While I deeply moan her death, I hope the real tribute to Shehla would be when the people who she filed complaint against, goes to bar and face the court. It is time that the government must ensure protection to the activists. It is equally important for the activists too to take enough precaution in their battle against the corrupt. There is no place for a Dharnaa or protest. There are no TV cameras. There are no newspapers when you are vulnerable. The tragedy is that you become news only after death. The issue raised by Shehla could have been used by media but it did not do that. Today, she has herself become news. That is the biggest irony of people who work for the rights of others. They bring out news but that is rarely used by the media. They become news once they are killed. It would be advisable to all our friends to please take care of yourself and work in unison with others and share your information with friends and organization. We do not want to lose you dear friends. Each life is important and lives of those who live for others is more precious. That is what I would speak to each one of them. The loss of Shehla is tremendous and will be felt by all of us in the coming days. Let us hope that her sacrifice is honored by the government once it is able to reach the culprit and provide her justice.