23 Aug, 2011, 02.01AM IST, ET Bureau
Jan Lokpal Bill: Does the fear of space loss make public intellectuals
and unsuccessful leaders oppose the Anna Hazare's anti-corruption
NEW DELHI: Looks like it is the turn of public intellectuals of the
Arundhati Roy mould and unsuccessful leaders among Dalits to get
fidgety over Anna Hazare's growing popularity as the new CEO of
India's Grievance Inc - after the government found itself in a
strategic bad spot.
While Ms Roy castigated the movement as an "awful crisis" that has
stemmed from "the utter failure of India's representative democracy",
so-called Dalit leaders such as Kancha Illaiah and Udit Raj, National
President of the Justice Party, see Anna Hazare's impromptu mass
mobilisation as a conspiracy of forces owing allegiance to "manuwadi
Roy went to the extent of saying that "the aggressive nationalism and
flag-waving of Anna's Revolution are all borrowed, from the
anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the
celebration of the nuclear tests". For his part, Illaiiah told a
newspaper, "The Dalits, tribals, OBCs and minorities have nothing to
do with it . We oppose it."
Sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan says both these camps - who often find a
common platform - are missing the point. "This is a fight against
corruption and I am sure there is indeed an adequate representation of
all classes in this struggle, but one doesn't need to count and figure
out any such representation."
"At this point it is premature to talk about caste," he says, adding
that people's anger at the collapse of delivery systems and the
government's own 'arrogance' can't be looked at as a farcical act.
"This mobilisation has a lot of passion. This is something new and
intellectuals shouldn't categorise this as a naive phenomenon. They
have to wait and see." Roy said in Hyderabad on Sunday that she felt
uncomfortable over the developments in Delhi.
Across Delhi and other parts of the country, people continued to
throng thoroughfares to march in support of Anna Hazare, who is
fasting unto death to push the government to accept the Jan Lok Pal
bill, which is aimed at curbing graft. The ongoing fast by Hazare
reached the seventh day on Monday.
Visvanathan feels that many intellectuals have understood the
significance of Anna's movement and are sympathetic of it. "Forget the
person. Forget ideologies. Look at the issue. Look at the facts. There
is something that you can't ignore. People are out there offering
their support. I only hope that it doesn't get intolerant by some
chance. So far it hasn't been."
Besides, he adds, "no movement has to have representation of the whole
of society". While no one has done a caste-based survey of the
protesters to substantiate their viewpoint, the so-called Dalit
leaders and opinion leaders like Roy, like the government, see ground
beneath their feet slipping as Anna manages to mobilise masses
discontented with political parties.
Visvanathan says that the media is to blame for putting the spotlight
on "usual suspects" among Dalits and so-called intellectuals such as
Roy who come out with 'old-fashioned' statements about an entirely
'new phenomenon'. Two politicians, a Congress leader and a CPM
functionary, said that intellectuals like Arundhati Roy fear for
erosion of their space as so-called keepers of the other India's
conscience and champions of subaltern politics.
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