Now playing at Ramlila Ground...
Varghese K George, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 21, 2011
Krantikari Manuwadi Morcha (KMM) is one of the organisations
mobilising people for Anna Hazare's movement against corruption.
Krantikari means revolutionary, and Manuwadi means adherer to
Manusmriti — the ancient text of law which many say forms the
theological roots of Indian conservatism,
particularly related to caste and gender.
But there is no contradiction, says RK Bharadwaj, who founded KKM in
1990 to oppose caste-based reservations, and is now a zealous
campaigner for Anna. "Reservation is the root of all corruption. The
real revolution is in establishing Manu's merit-based society."
Bharadwaj says he has travelled to 30 cities in the last two months to
mobilise support for Anna. "Those who get reservation indulge in
corruption. Those in the general category are the sufferers," he
Voices that link corruption to caste are not lonely in the Anna crowd.
"Those who must have been cleaning shoes are making others clean their
shoes and ruling and looting this country," said another person, who
did not disclose his name.
As in KMM, in Anna's movement too, krantikaris and the manuwadis
converge. "Each one understands corruption differently. It is a vague
concept, but then all mass movements are vaguely defined," points out
Arvind Kumar Mishra, associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru
University and a social psychology expert.
Manifestations of corruption according to various speakers at Ramlila
Maidan where Hazare is sitting on a fast include India's nuclear deal
with the US — 'nothing but a ploy for politicians to make money.' The
Unique ID — that many say will dramatically reduce corruption — is
merely a 'government tool to snoop around.'
The gathering is of those who have lost their faith and then suddenly
found it again in Anna. Anna will deliver them from evil, they
believe. Among the pantheon of saints, philosophers and poets invoked
at Ramlila is Jesus. For the believers in Anna, Indian democracy is an
undelivered promise — like Jesus who has not come back. Anna Hazare is
like the TV healer who commands, "in the name of Jesus, be freed of
cancer." It's politics — or faith — of the Here and Now.
The slogans have evolved accordingly. "I am Anna, you are Anna, the
entire nation is Anna," was an initial one. In a latest, Kiran Bedi,
police officer-turned-key aide of Anna put it simpler. "Anna is India,
India is Anna."
"The prime minister of India says he has no magic wand to end
corruption. Why is he the prime minister?" screamed one protestor.
Anna has a magic number, Bedi explained to the crowd. "After the Jan
Lok Pal, you can dial 101 the moment someone asks you for a bribe.
Within minutes a Lok Pal vehicle will come and arrest him. Our fight
is for 101," she said.
In the Jan Lok Pal narrative, an India free of corruption, like a
pizza, is just a phone call away. But the Anna movement is not at all
restricted to the dial-a-pizza middle classes, as it has been widely
Messiahs unite people. Anna's movement has the young and the old;
Brahmin and dalit; the highly educated and the illiterate; the elite
and the lumpen — in fact, even a dash of pickpockets too. They are all
united in the fight against 'corruption."
The core of believers in Anna include romanticist youngsters — people
like Harry Lal, a 29-year-old lawyer from Kochi who first travelled to
Ralegan Siddhi — Anna's village near Pune — last month and now to
Delhi. "I am going to be with this movement for as long as it takes,"
he says. Amit Raghav, 21, a computer science student of Delhi is in it
because he "wanted to be part of a revolution." Vaibhav Gupta, a
22-year-old engineer came with his parents on Friday and Saturday —
after office hours — waving huge national flags in support of Anna.
Mostly affluent — the Guptas have four cars — these young idealists
with an urge to "do something," but unsure of what, make up roughly
half the crowd.
An angrier section in the crowd is linked to the new economy in an
inequitable way — those who are forced to work longer hours for a
pittance and those who lost their livelihood to development projects.
Then there are political workers who are frustrated with their
respective political parties. (See profiles, above)
Corruption, by no account is new and there is nothing to suggest that
corruption has increased suddenly. Corruption affects everyone. The
question then is why Anna captured the imagination of so many, unlike
many other anti-corruption crusaders who have come and gone without a
whimper. The saturation media coverage that Anna is thankful for, only
partly explains it.
Around the core of young idealists are many who have a recent
grievance against corruption — two doctors travelled all the way from
Jalandhar in Punjab, agitated over frequent transfers. Someone has not
got his passport in time; someone paid a 'donation' for the kid's
admission. "Even after paying bribes, we have not got the payment for
our wheat the government procured," said Yashwant Patel, a farmer who
owns 18 acres near Jhansi.
A conversation with any Anna supporter soon slips into the stronger
cause of the anger that they share, beyond the slogans. Except the
seriously rich, others become animated as they list price-rise as
their most serious concern. RL Atri, retired government official,
says: "Inflation and corruption create a vicious cycle. How can you
blame an official for taking bribes when his grocery bill goes up by
Sociologist Dipankar Gupta says: "An average salary earner in this
country has to actually cut his basic food consumption, making for a
lot of resentment." In the last year, milk has become 13 % costlier,
egg, meat and fish 16 % and fruits, 22 % . All EMIs have risen. "When
distinction between the personal and collective frustration is
blurred, its stirs a movement," says Mishra.
On all issues other than 'corruption' and price rise, the beliefs are
different. "The nuclear deal must happen," say the Jalandhar doctors;
"cast reservation is necessary," says a Delhi university law student.
"The mobilisation behind Anna is based on a single agenda. The
movement will collapse if they are tempted to expand it into a wider
political platform," explains Gupta.
By harping on corruption in exclusion of all other politics, the Anna
Camp is keeping the flock of believers together. But the krantikaris
and manuwadis can't cohabit as easily in real life as they can in a
With inputs from Vikas Pathak and Shreya Sethuraman Anna's people
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