Hazare - Some thoughts

There seems to be a lot of resentment and angst against the Anna Hazare movement. There've been shares and reshares of articles which are clever to attribute some of the aspects of the movement for their personal gain. Although I am a cynic in the sense of the change that can happen, being an avid reader of Gandhian principles, I think I understand the nature of this movement. So a little bit of discussion on what my understanding is.

1. Gandhian satyagraha by nature is individual and inflexible.

Satyagraha was a weapon only to be wielded individually by persons who are strong and can withstand the rigor of the movement. It is inflexible as it is built on a strong self-belief of a set of principles and is aimed at bringing the other party to the table for negotiations. It is not a one size-fit-all revolution or as some mention, saying that why cant he give up his fast as so many public is demanding it. Looking at how Gandhi wielded this weapon, he went on fast so many times and was unyielding till his demands or met or a way forward is identified. Dandi march started off as a single man's protest against salt tax and snow-balled into a people's movement.

What we are seeing is very similar, Hazare is unyielding as he believes in a strong lokpal. It snow-balls into a movement by mostly middle-class people and students who find a way to take their frustrations out on an antiquated system. It is a way forward he is advocating.

For those of you who like fast food or fast cars, Gandhian movements are bizarre and can not be understood. One woman who decided not to stand up when asked sparked so much of protest in Alabama, it ended in desegregation everywhere. That is the nature of Gandhian protests.

2. We are not going to change everything overnight.

Gandhian principles advocate incrementally moving forward towards one's goals. It means overnight revolutions are violent and can not be advocated for the same reason. For Gandhi it took about 30 years to move the country towards freedom. It was incremental and slow process often frustrating his keenest followers.

But the point of it all is as Gandhi himself has said, knowing what we want, persevering towards it without violence, needs a lot of purification of one's self and hence cannot be rushed forward. He stopped the Civil disobedience movement when one police station and a few policemen are torched in Chowri Chowra. He could not take it as collateral damage and move on. He took it upon himself the blame for the incident and stopped the movement in one stroke. That delayed independence by about 10 years. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Same way, Hazare, I believe, is not looking to transform India with one lokpal bill (like someone posted, it will not make India into Singapore in any number of years). But it is a start for where as a country we want to go. It steers us towards a path which is non-violent, prosperous and more participative. The fact that we are not seeing a London-style rioting mentality in any of these rallies, protests etc tells us the nature of it and it frustrates the ruling government's plans for crushing it. I believe that in itself is a big victory for Hazare and probably earning him the ire of the dime-a-dozen leftist intellectuals of this country.

3. End of all this tamasha we will still be the same.

Probably yes. Being a cynic, that's what I think.But then there is also a part of me that believes if this works, we have a path which is different from the past 50-60 years of misrule which took us away from our founding principles and which advocate a path which is neither a leftist or rightist but a self-sustained India focusing on rural development.

But as I mentioned sometime earlier, the biggest legacy of JP's movement is Lalu Prasad Yadav and we all know how that worked out. But for instilling the people with a sense of fighting tendency, I salute Hazare.

4. Hazare is rightist, Hazare himself is tainted, do we know Irom Sharmila etc

We've heard all this in reference to Gandhi as well and JP was slandered as power hungry and so does Vinobhave. What I think is, any Gandhian movement is a anti-thesis of leftist thoughts as it promotes an individual's capacity to bring about change versus an elitist group figuring out what people want.

So the left when it senses a Gandhian movement, goes completely bonkers trying to figure out the kind of support it elicits. It tries in vain to figure how and then goes all out to discredit the movement.

Gandhi does not get the country to move on explosive issues like Bhagat singh's murder or any such issues. He walked for salt, he burned foreign clothes etc. He took issues that touches a chord in everyone's lives not contentious issues which will break the movement.

Does that mean we should not support Irom Sharmila? We should. But how much of the country is affected by the Armed forces special act? How many of even know that? It is purely a local issue that has to be fought by the local people and move forward. I do not think anyone in DMK expected support from Oriya or Rajasthan for the anti-Hindi agitations. It was a local issue, fought locally and decided locally. Making it a national issue will result in failure.


Understanding of any Gandhian movement needs a lot of understanding of what is happening at the grass roots level. Intellectual discourse or preaching dogma will not help.

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