I am not (yet) Anna

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
06 September 2011 02:21 IST

Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade is definitely a milestone in the history of socio-cultural movements India has witnessed. It has a potential to become a real movement of mass-level churning, provided it breaks the ambit of political boundaries and seeps deep into each household of India.  But it needs to go beyond ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’. The slogan – I am Anna – needs to get into the heart of each individual Indian.

Difficult; but not impossible.

When Anna started his crusade, quite a few called it a revolution; but it is not.

Revolution, as Oxford defines it, is either “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system” or “any fundamental change or reversal of conditions.” This, obviously, does not include Marxist definitions of Revolutions, where the whole economic system is overthrown and replaced with a new political order, based on a new economic foundation.

What India Against Corruption demanded was within the existing system. In fact it is a movement to set the basic principles of the system of Parliamentary Democracy in place. In short, it’s a clean-up operation. The dirty people were bound to prohibit it. In fact, they would continue doing it. And we need to be alert till the Lokpal bill is passed. However, nowhere the anti-corruption movement sounds of overthrowing the existing social order or favouring a new eco-political system. No fundamental change or no reversal of conditions. This, thus, cannot be termed revolution at all.

The revolution also takes place from within. It is just not power-related, where the rulers are changed. The CHANGE takes place from top to bottom. I wonder whether the anti-corruption movement is a wholesome movement, pertaining to ALL. It was more of anger against the political class; and not the corrupt class. Have the ‘revolutionaries’ bothered to introspect and root out corrupt attitudes within ‘us’? Or it simply pointed fingers at ‘those’ ruling us and looting us?

May be the anti-corruption movement had a limited agenda. But it was genuine. The parliamentarians had become arrogant. They thought they could do anything and get away with it. Just like what we witnessed in Goa in the form of a regional plan or are still witnessing in the form of illegal mining and all sorts of looting. It is just not the Congress alone; everybody is arrogant. No political party or a politician wants the Lokpal bill. In fact they would continue creating hurdles in getting the Janlokpal provisions included in the Lokpal bill. The supremacy of Parliament is the argument stretched beyond limits to protect the interest of the looters. That’s the reason IAC leaders are facing privilege motions today.

Formulating legislation with participative process is not a new phenomenon in the country. In fact, Goa has set an example in this direction. Goa Children’s Act, the first of its kind in the country, emerged through the participative process. The NGOs and the government functionaries set down together and drafted it. The bill was passed unanimously on 30 April 2003. The same thing could easily happen at national level. But, unfortunately, the talks failed. The selfish interest of Parliamentarians, combined with their arrogance, reigned supreme over the spirit of our Constitution – We The People!

I remembered a similar situation that had emerged in 1997 in Goa. The 40-member Goa Assembly was ‘unanimous’ in passing India’s first dynamic Right to Information Act; with a draconian clause of punishing the ‘disseminator’ of the information for its ‘misuse’.  The then Congress government led by Pratapsing Rane actually wanted to bring legislation on the lines of Tamil Nadu act, which was blocking almost all the important information. But pressure from the media compelled them to go for a draft proposed by Justice P B Sawant, the then chairman of the Press Council of India. In retaliation, all the 40 MLAs targeted the media. The ‘shooters’ included the Congress, the BJP, the MGP and even other MLAs. The draconian clauses were deleted only after a strong state-wide people’s movement initiated by the Goa Union of Journalists and the Editors’ Guild.

When Anna entered the national capital to sit on fast-unto-death, it reminded me of the historic agitation Goa had witnessed in 1989, demanding resignation of an alleged molester politician - then Speaker Dayanand Narvekar. He was alleged to have been involved in sexually exploiting his lady workers in the Legislature Secretariat. The non-Congress politicians came together to take political benefit out of it as fresh Assembly elections were approaching. It included the MGP, the Janata Party, the Gomant Lok Pokx, the left parties etc. The fast-unto-death announced by a woman social activist upset their plans. They tried their level best to persuade the activist to backtrack from her decision, but all in vain. She was later joined by two more – an old freedom fighter and ninth-standard girl student - at Azad Maidan in Panaji.

The scene at Azad Maidan was no different from Anna’s fast at Ramlila Maidan. All the cross sections of Goan society voluntarily came out in thousands. The students, the workers, the women, the youth, the freedom fighters…. There were spontaneous protests in several villages and towns. Not only the ruling Congress, even the opposition parties supporting the fast tried to pressurize the trio to withdraw their fast at every stage – when GPCC resolved that Narvekar should resign, when Narvekar offered to resign and even when Narvekar actually resigned. But the hunger strikers did not end their fast till Narvekar’s resignation was published in the official gazette.

The whole Goan media acted as an activist during this whole agitation. The only difference was that there was no TV media at that time. And the agitation was limited only to Goa, a tiny state. But the people’s mood, the anger, the spontaneity, the arrogance of ruling Congress, the hidden compromising attitudes of the so called opposition parties was no different from what we witnessed at Anna’s fast. Times have changed; but the attitudes of politicians have not. From Delhi to Goa, the tribe is the same. Ruthless, egoists and simply arrogant.

No doubt the whole episode of Anna’s anti-corruption crusade taught a lesson to the arrogant political class in the country. But there is no point if it does not translate into ‘individual actions’ even thereafter. It   should not end at passing of the Lokpal Bill, even if it is verbatim the Janlokpal bill or the Lok Ayukta at state levels. Because corruption takes place at three levels – the government, the private enterprise and at personal level. Sometimes we are the ‘givers’ and sometimes the ‘takers’. Who is to be blamed the most is the useless issue like what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Both are to be blamed and both need to be controlled.

And here is the real concern. It may not happen in spite of Anna telling the people: “You cannot become Anna by merely wearing a Gandhi cap with a slogan – ‘I am Anna’. You need to transform yourself with pure thoughts, pure behavior and selfless attitude”.  

To blame the political class and to get them punished for corruption, all of us had become ‘Anna’. But when recently there was a fuel shortage and hundreds of Annas had lined up at petrol pumps, there was not even a murmur of protest when the pump owner was charging almost 20 to 40 per cent extra to the desperate vehicle owners. This is not a corruption at government level. It was an ‘unholy deal’ between a private enterprise and the consumers. The Anna cap simply evaporated with fuel fumes.

And came Chovoth and the goodies distributed by the same political class. The BJP did it in Canacona, the NCP did it in Vasco, the Congress did it in Shiroda, the Yuva Morchas did it in Bicholim and an Independent did it in Curchorem. The bags did not contain sweets; but grocery packs of one or two kilograms each. It was quietly taken home by all – those who cannot afford it, those who can easily afford it and those who don’t even need it. Hardly any protests. The Anna caps turned upside down, to quietly receive the ‘corrupt goodies’, procured by ‘corrupt means’ and distributed by ‘corrupt politicians’ to the ‘corrupt voters’.

Though my house was one of the few to refuse it in Canacona, I still wonder whether I can call myself Anna. Because this Anna is just not Anna Hazare. This Anna is equivalent to non-corrupt human being with “pure thoughts, pure behavior and selfless attitude.” I may proudly state that I have not involved myself in any such corrupt activity till date, right from copying during examination to getting a job or paying underhand less than the official fine for a traffic offence and also not falling prey to temptations thrown up to journalists by corrupt politicians.

But yes; I have paid the railway ticket collector extra to get a berth to sleep at night and I have also entered the doctor’s clinic with a favour by breaking a line at the OPD of Goa Medical College, keeping hundreds waiting outside helplessly. I might have done many more such things in my life at different stages.

Until I stop doing even this small (?) corrupt thing, I simply cannot call myself Anna. I cannot dare to ware that cap. I am not Anna. Am I?

The first step towards becoming Anna is the question I should ask myself, that too in affirmative – Do I want to become Anna?

And, if yes, then let’s be! 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Prudent & Goa365, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities. After retirement from day-to-day journalism in 2020, he is into Re-Search Journalism (पुनर्सोद पत्रकारिता), focusing on analytical articles, Video programs & Books.

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Previous Comments

No, you are not Anna, and will not happen Anna in your entire life...

- raj, India | 06 th October 2011 15:20


this writer is the cleanest in entire India.he is cleaner than Anna,as Anna was also challenged by some guys for spending more than rs.2 lacs on his b`day.justice sawant commission also blamed Anna.he also blames the exploited consumers for the `unholy deal` as he calls it.he does not blame the oil dealer and the oil cos`.corrupt officers` unholy deal but even after paying 20% or more ,he blames the victims--the consumers.and blames them as if they are hand in glove ,with the exploiters.GREAT.! in heart of hearts,he hates Anna and his team,supporters,but cannot do it as the readers wd abuse him,and wd speak the bitter truth,the pay roll.so,he wants every body to be holier than thou. i remember a gr.scientist had said about a gr.soul.quote"a generations to come will scarcely believe ,that such a man ever walked this earth."it applies like a bullet,to this writer.

- firoz, dubai | 06 th September 2011 18:17


Well said!!!!

- Abhijit, Pune | 06 th September 2011 12:15


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