'Anna Hazare's movement is anti-social justice, manuwadi'
Avijit GhoshAvijit Ghosh, TNN | Aug 19, 2011, 09.53PM IST
NEW DELHI: The anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare has found
huge support across the country. But several prominent dalit
activists, intellectuals as well as those writing regularly on dalit
issues have severely castigated the movement. They say it is casteist
in nature and against representative democracy.
Dalit columnist Chandrabhan Prasad says Team Anna seems to have a
profound contempt for constitutionalism. "The Anna Hazare phenomenon
is leading us to the rejection of representative democracy itself. The
movement is an upper-caste uprising against India's political
democracy. That apart, vesting so much power in the Lokpal, a
non-elected person, could lead to a dangerous situation," he says.
Hyderabad-based dalit-bahujan thinker Kancha Ilaiah offers similar
views. "The Anna movement is an anti-social justice, manuvadi
movement. The Dalits, tribals, OBCs and minorities have nothing to do
with it. We oppose it," he says.
Dalit activists insist that corruption means much more than just
bribes and kickbacks. "For us casteism is corruption,
caste-discrimination is corruption, not filling up reserved seats as
per constitutional norms is also corruption. Is Anna and his team
willing to talk about all these?" says Anoop Kheri, coordinator of
Insight Foundation, that helps Dalit and adivasi students in higher
Adds Rajesh Paswan, a JNU doctorate in Hindi, "The movement has raised
fears among Dalits, adivasis and minorities that similar methods can
be used to create laws against them in future."
Kheri feels that the idiom used by protestors has a distinct casteist
tinge. "The language, symbols used by the movement clearly reflects
its upper caste Hindu nature, a very rightwing Hindu patriotism is
being used to get the entire country against corruption. And as a
dalit, I have a problem with it," he says.
The activist also feels that rather than seeing corruption as a social
problem that needs comprehensive social churning and cultural changes
to fight against, those involved in the movement want everybody to
believe that only politicians are corrupt. "This is a false premise,
very escapist and also dangerous for our democracy," he says.
The activist is also sceptical about the efficacy of the Jan Lokpal
bill. "In a democracy we don't want anything that appears
extra-constitutional, someone whom the masses of this country have no
say in electing or disposing of. Democracy in India might be highly
flawed but it is the only weapon in the hand of the marginalized to
challenge the status quo. Whatever rights we have got, we got from
democracy, and not from any self-styled 'civil society', Kheri says.
D Shyam Babu, former fellow, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation offers a slightly
different perspective. He believes that the movement is not
anti-Dalit. "It is basically a mix of misplaced patriotism, ego and
total disregard for established authority," he says.
A positive outcome of the movement, he says, is that the government
can no longer take people for granted on the issue of corruption. "But
the flip side is that there is a thin line between 'popular unrest'
and anarchy. This is also habit-forming in the sense that whenever a
group finds a cause to highlight, it only has to enlist the services
of some 'Gandhian'. Don't forget Dr Ambedkar's caution against
'satyagraha' as the 'grammar of anarchy'," says Shyam Babu.
Many protesters have named the ongoing battle against corruption as
the second freedom struggle. Ilaiah differs. "This means they are
recognizing Jaiprakash Narayan's 1974 anti-corruption movement and VP
Singh's similar movement in 1989. Both these movements had ideological
basis of socialism and social justice," he says.
Prasad also counters Team Anna's claim of representing civil society.
He says, "The real question is: has India really evolved into a civil
society? Was South Africa a civil society in times of apartheid? Was
US a civil society in times of slavery? Was England a civil society in
times of serfdom? If the answer is no, then can India with the caste
system still in place, be called a civil society?"
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