Smear on Democracy

One of the mistakes of my life has been participating in anti reservation protests. Not that there was any violence involved in it, but by the fundamental truth that in a running and functioning democracy (however imperfect) even the very peaceful protest against government is nothing but a blackmail leave alone the hunger strike. The only correct way to raise your voice is through PIL or any other court of law. Yes one could demonstrate his support for such PIL with candle marches etc. but straightforwardly protesting or having hunger strikes against any bill is nothing but blackmail.

The Gandhian way of protest is a tight rope to say the least. And in India it has been abused over and again equally for wrong purposes as much is for right purposes. It is in this context that I see the latest chaos around Anna Hazaare’s hunger strike.

Two fundamental questions need greater introspection than currently are being given:

  1. Could Jan Lokpal Bill really help eradicate corruption or it would lead to more concentration of power and thus more corruption?
  2. Is Hazare’s way, the right way to protest and making his voice heard or it’s blackmailing in context of a functioning democracy like India?

The answer to both questions has been discussed pretty immaculately by Bhanu Pratap Mehta in his article - Of the few, by the few

Power, divided in a democracy, can often be alibi for evading responsibility. But it is also a guarantee that the system is not at the mercy of a few good men. Having concentrated immense power, it then displays extraordinary faith in the virtue of those who will wield this power. Why do we think this institution will be incorruptible?

There is something deeply coercive about fasting unto death. When it is tied to an unparalleled moral eminence, as it is in the case of Anna Hazare, it amounts to blackmail.

On top of that, what perturbed me most was the response of government. I am not very appreciative of Indian government and Indian people as such, but one thing I have been proud my whole life and have been cherishing is the “democracy of India” (they call it pseudo-democracy, but I believe that’s the true nature of democracy and American way of democracy is pseudo in nature). The Indian democracy is the only ray of hope in the gross darkness of plethora of issues and problems.

“This is a victory for democracy”, said Anna Hazare. Quite oppositely, both, the hunger strike of Hazare and government’s response, in my view, have been a blatant ridiculing of the Indian democracy. I don’t think I need to remind that our government is a representative of 1 billion people if nothing else. It’s world’s largest democracy and having been invulnerable to number of recessions, neighbour countries’ rivalry and the resilience (like coming out of BoP crisis) it shows time and again, only shows the robustness of our democracy. I can’t help but compare this latest gross derision of government’s succumbing to Hazare’s demands to Indo-Pak division on Jinnah’s demands. Though people are putting Hazare in parallel to M. Gandhi but to me his hunger strike is more in parallel to Jinnah’s Direct Action. An important thing to note is that intention behind both has been noble: for one to give equal representation to Muslims while for other it has been eradication of corruption. Except that it’s anti-corruption bill, I doubt if half of people supporting Hazare even knew what Jan Lokpal Bill contains specifically.

In the quest of ‘Founding Pakistan’ and ‘Implementing Jan Lokpal Bill’ (note that I said implementing a bill and not eradicating corruption) the only difference has been violence. Rest all – blackmailing government, blind faith of people in leaders, government’s subsequent response, and inclusion of individuals in governance; has been same. But most of us still would like to believe that Hazare’s victory is democracy’s victory but Jinnah’s victory is the biggest smear on this institution called democracy. The irony lies in ‘our’ thinking.

There are people like me who would say, it’s all system’s fault; our system itself is all screwed up. No, it’s not. It’s not system’s fault, it’s our fault. Fundamentally it’s “we” and “our mentality” that are screwed up. Just take some time to think about how many times have we seen elections and out of those how many times have we voted; take time to think about why the percentage of voters (especially youth and middle class) keeps on coming down with every election.

I know sitting idle and doing armchair discussions and ranting around will not solve the problem. But I still believe one should be pretty clear about the direction a step would lead to, before taking that step.


  Sukesh Kumar

14 April 2011 at 12:27

Some more insightful links on the same issue:

  Sukesh Kumar

15 April 2011 at 20:39


22 June 2011 at 00:36

Having read your fictional story,I decided to follow your blog and read your past posts one by one..and this post too seems to vindicate me..

Its thoughtful and I agree to the viewpoint that we are not able to differentiate between "Gandhian ways" and "blackmail".And worst of all,in this era of zillion online channels, we guys are too over-burdened by the "halo effect" apparently exuded by otherwise good people like Anna but miss the real point when we blindly follow them instead of actually studying the matter and trying to realize and accept our own viewpoints first.

There is nothing great in standing in the queue of greatness if all what we care to see is just the board of "greatness" put in front of us,and not the real activities going on in the space ahead.

  Sukesh Kumar

22 June 2011 at 01:04

Mandy jee,
thanks for sharing your thoughts!!
Totally agree with your point that we ourselves are blindfolded by media and it becomes difficult to differentiate between means and goals sometimes!!