Why I’d rather be Anna than Arundhati


There was an article in The Hindu today by Arundhati against the movement for Janlokpal, she’s eloquent as usual, and she misses the point, pretty much as usual. In this article I am trying to talk about the points she raised and hopefully when we are done we might have a broader perspective of this movement than what Arundhati has projected.

Arundhati’s most important gripe seems to be that the people in the movement are raising slogans like – (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hindi. Would she prefer if they said (a) India Hai Hai (b) Indian govt murdabad (c) Jeeve-jeeve Pakistan, when they come out on the streets to demand that the Indian government creates a better system for our people?

She’s lying when she says that the slogans are the answer you get when you ask questions about Janlokpal. The team that’s running Janlokpal has made every attempt to talk to anyone who is concerned about it, and to alleviate all their doubts. For months there was a public referendum on the provisions of Janlokpal, very openly, and lots of provisions were rejected, modified, and adapted according to the inputs of the people. This is a fact, not what Arundhati is saying.

Even now Anna Hazare and his team has announced that they are open to any public debate on Janlokpal and they will answer all the questions that anyone might have on any issue. Yesterday Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan did just that on a popular television network. There are videos of the team members speaking on different aspects of Janlokpal and why we need them that have been online for months.

Arundhati, lie one caught.

Her second claim is that Janlokpal seeks an overthrow of the Indian state. Lying again. For almost an year now the Janlokpal team has been working with the government, with all the members who care, to frame a strong law against corruption. They’ve met the current government leaders, opposition leaders, chief ministers, individual MPs, talking to them, and telling them why the country needs a strong anti-corruption framework. Is that working to overthrow the state?

They sat on a very hostile government panel and tried everything they could to push their proposals forward in the way government wanted them to. After the government panel wasted the nation’s time and failed to include even one, repeat, even one important proposal of the Janlokpal bill, and instead sought to push their own Jokepal which would prosecute the victims instead of the perpetrators, they decided to sit on a dharna asking the government to make a strong bill.

Let me remind Arundhati that this was done in a perfectly legal and an non-violent manner, and Anna is asking this administration to implement Janlokpal, not seeking a new government. Are you trying to tell the people of India that demanding a strong anti-corruption framework amounts to overthrowing the government? Let us hear that again more clearly.

Arundhati, lie two caught.

Next she proceeds to tell us that Anna Hazare is a ‘freshly minted saint,’ which should suggest that he has no right to speak against public injustice as apparently, only stale saints are allowed to crusade for India.

Wait a minute though, this freshly minted thing doesn’t sound true at all. Anna Hazare took voluntary retirement from the Army in 1978 and started his campaign to transform Ralegaon Siddhi. All through the next decade he worked hard for the villagers campaigning for things like liquor prohibition, grain banks for the poor, better milk production, creation of more schools (he sat on a fast for this), against untouchability and for collective marriages. In 1991 he started the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan. What was Arundhati doing then? Oh wait, she hadn’t written her first book yet.

Anna Hazare has led many movements against corrupt officials and politicians. Powerful people. People who’ve maligned him, filed false cases against him, and even sent him to jail. He has borne the worst of what the powerful and the corrupt have to offer, unlike Arundhati whose only achievement seems to be making radical statements. It’s a shame that someone like her should call a fighter like Anna a ‘freshly minted saint’.

Arundhati, lie three caught

She is also giving a distorted version of the sequence of events that unfolded during Anna’s stay at the Tihar jail. She’s saying that Anna remained in Tihar as a ‘honored guest’. If you are looking for honored guests Arundhati look for Suresh Kalmadi, Kanimozhi, A Raja, Manu Sharma, or Vikas Yadav, maybe even Afzal Guru. Anna isn’t one of them.

Let me remind you that Anna Hazare was picked up from his residence by the Delhi Police. He hadn’t been on the streets murdering people with a gun the night earlier. He was at Rajghat where he sat for an hour in meditation.

The police sent Anna to Tihar in 7 days judicial custody. To prevent what? A non-violent protest against corruption in India. On 16th August nearly 15,000 people of New Delhi and Mumbai courted arrest. They went to JP Park, Azad Maidan, or whatever the venue was in their city, asking the police to arrest them. They did not burn buses, break glasses, or set fire to homes. I have a photograph of the special jail at Chhatrasal Stadium for you here.

The people brought to Chhatrasal Stadium after their arrest.

The government was counting on their belief that no one would come ahead for Anna, and that they would be able to dispose him the way they disposed Baba Ramdev. Unfortunately for them the people of India had had enough. Anna was made an ‘honored guest’ in your words because of all the people who were in the jail, and outside the jail for him.

Why didn’t Anna come out? Because he was asked to (a) go home, (b) leave town. When Anna Hazare asked whether he would be allowed to hold an unconditional protest the Delhi police refused. Anna said that if they release him he would lead the protest and they would have to arrest him again, so it’s better that he remain in jail until the government agrees to let him protest.

Usually when a protest is organized, the people who run the protest have enough time to make preparations. There has to be enough room, and proper arrangements to make sure that the thousands collected are managed properly and without harm. If Anna had gone to the protest before the arrangements were made it could have resulted in utter chaos that might have had serious repercussions for the people gathered. Do you realize that Arundhati?

She also said that Anna’s team whizzed in-and-out of prison and it is a privilege that no one else has. Anna’s team came out when the individuals chose to be released, and when Anna refused to budge Kiran Bedi and other team members were invited by the government to try and negotiate with Anna. How does that compare to Kalmadi having a nice tea-biscuit brunch with the Warden a few days ago? Or Manu Sharma being surreptitiously paroled? Did you hear about them at all?

Arundhati, lie four caught.

Her next claim is that MCD worked hard to prepare the grounds. Is that right? I will bet anybody that Arundhati didn’t go to the grounds to inspect the preparations, and she’s talking out of her head again. I went to the ground and saw the state it was in. Here is a photograph for you Arundhati. Do you see the MCD here? Or do you see young people who are rushing to clean the wet mud, trying desperately but in union, to make the place better than a pigsty so that the people could stand.

Even if they weren’t, and even if MCD had sent all their workers to prepare the grounds for Anna Hazare’s protest, would there still be a reason to complain? What MCD did there was its job. The Ramlila Ground is supposed to be maintained by the MCD for massive gatherings. When MCD doesn’t do its job and the grounds is water-logged and mosquito infested, it creates a serious health hazard for everyone who’s there. MCD prepares the grounds for all public protests too. It did the same for Sonia Gandhi’s rally just a few months ago. Arundhati, you want the MCD to not do its job because this protest is not organized by a political party?

Arundhati, lie five caught.

She’s upset that the Lokpal has wide-ranging powers of investigation, surveillance and prosecution, and then she uses her amazing writing skills to suggest that Lokpal will practically have everything except their ‘own prisons’. I am on the verge of losing my breakfast!

Arundhati, one would expect someone who questions the Indian legal system so openly to have better knowledge about it. The police has the powers of (a) investigation, (b) surveillance, and (c) prosecution. So does the CBI. How are Lokpal’s power different? The only thing that Anna is asking for is that the Lokpal be a specialized body against corruption and that it must not need to seek permission from anybody to prosecute a corrupt office holder. Our present system puts severe restrictions on the investigative bodies. That’s why a CBI under the prime minister could not file a charge-sheet against A Raja, but when the supreme court took over the investigations A Raja was brought to jail.

Arundhati, I know that you knowingly did not make the point that the powers of Lokpal are limited to investigation, collection of evidence and prosecution. The Lokpal can bring a case to the court, and the judge will then decide on the basis of the presented evidence whether the person is guilty. How is that radically dangerous?

Arundhati, lie six caught.

It’s really amazing to see how Arundhati Roy can go to ridiculous lengths to fill the reader’s mind with garbage against Janlokpal. If you didn’t know about her problems with the Indian government, you could easily imagine she has been paid by it to write the article. She’s actually suggesting that the hawkers who pay the beat constable to set up their stalls might have to pay the ‘lokpal representative’.

Lokpal representative? Now she can frame those words and hang them on the Red fort for all to see and it still wouldn’t become true. The Lokpal is not a policing body. They can’t go and collect ‘hafta’ from the hawker.

When land-owner’s land is grabbed illegally and a mall is built there, or when a poor person’s store is unjustly removed, or when the beat constables or MCD representatives, or other government agency officials unjustly seek bribes from the people, that is corruption. The Lokpal is built to take care of that.

According to the provisions of the Janlokpal Bill, a citizen can make a complaint against an office holder, and the lokpal will investigate the complaint. If it is found true action will be taken. Lokpal is not going to send beat lokpallers to collect hafta from the poor. That’s downright ridiculous and only a fancy imagination could have conceived it.

Arundhati, lie seven caught.

She also says that the choreography, and aggressive nationalism seems to be like that of anti-reservation. It’s a clear attempt to draw the dalits away from the fight against corruption. And how inappropriate an attempt it is! It is the deprived, the dalits, who have to the bear the worst of corruption. The rich and the influential are filled with upper caste people who can actually use the present system to their advantage because they have money power, influence, and contacts.

The dalits don’t have the same advantages, that’s why when all other things being equal, it is the dalit who stands to lose when they compete with the upper caste. All due to corruption!

Now coming to the choreography. What sort of vague word is that? ‘Choreography’, what are we supposed to understand from it? If she’s talking about the slogans, we’ve already dealt with that. What else could she be talking about?

The anti-reservation protest was fraught with street violence and self-immolations. The people who opposed reservations closed down schools, colleges and offices, burnt buses, had violent clashes with the law, and burnt themselves to death. That hasn’t happened in Anna’s movement. This movement is perfectly peaceful and organized. Even when people are on a march, they stop at the red lights and crossings to let the traffic pass before continuing. What the hell is Arundhati trying to imply with her ‘Choreography’ then?

Arundhati, lie eight caught.

The next bit is very cruel. She craftily tries to separate Irom Sharmila, Bastar, Jaitapur, from the fast and implies by extension that Anna Hazare does not oppose Posco, or the farmer deaths in Maharashtra, or any of the other myriad problems that our country is battling right now. This couldn’t be furthest from truth.

Unlike Arundhati, Anna Hazare has recognized that too many of the problems that our country is facing are a direct result of corruption. That’s why a Madhu Koda is able to earn thousands of crores in graft money directly depriving the adivasis. That’s why Yeduyarappa is able to give illegal miners a free hand. That’s why Bastar and Irom, and Niyamgiri exist. Because of corruption.

If our framework made the responsible people accountable, it would create a huge difference in all of these issues. Imagine a bastar free of poachers, miners and land grabbers, a maharashtra village where the government’s benefits schemes are truly implemented. Forget all the other instances, just imagine what Manrega can really do for the people if it is implemented honestly.

You’ve also claimed that Anna doesn’t care about the farmers in Maharashtra, or in other places, even though he has spent his entire demonstratively in fighting for the poor and deprived villagers and farmers. Maybe you didn’t hear about this because you were too busy hobnobbing with India haters.

Arundhati, I believe that fighting corruption is fighting on behalf of all the people you’ve named, and not against them. If you believe otherwise, give me your reasons.

Arundhati, lie nine caught.

The next slander if of course the ultimate weapon that anyone can hurl at Anna. That he supports Raj Thackarey or Narendra Modi’s alleged wrongdoings. This is a joke, specially in sight of the fact that many of the hardliners aligned with the BJP, the hindu-brigade, and Narendra Modi are up with cudgles against Anna Hazare. They’re making the claim that Anna Hazare is an agent of Congress, propped up by Congress to facilitate the crowning of Rahul Gandhi.

The communists have no love for Hazare, the right wingers have no love for Hazare, and the Congress has no love for Hazare. My God! He must be awesomely right!

Answering your gripe, Anna Hazare has said it publicly multiple times that he is against any oppressive actions targeted against any community and that he supports a system that gives equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their religion.

And if you think you were succeeding in your nefarious scheme to distance the muslims from the movement, you’ve failed. Muslims as a community have lent their support to Anna Hazare in a massive way. Many Imams and Maulavis have made public statements, and the Dar-ul-Uloom, which is the biggest body of Muslims in India has said that it is the duty of every Muslim and citizen of India to support Anna Hazare. If they are wrong, then you must know something that they don’t. Care to share?

You’ve also brought the ‘Youth for equality’ into this. So what if Anna’s movement is supported by the Youth for Equality? It is also supported by the All India Youth Federation. Let me show you a pic of AIYF activists who marched against corruption for Anna. Lest you’ve forgotten the AIYF is the youth wing of the Communist Party of India.

They supported Anna because they want a corruption free India

Do you realize that when it comes to this fight against corruption Anna does not choose who supports him. He gratefully accepts their support. Of course he doesn’t give them anything in return except a law that’s strongly against corruption.

That’s why the Gyan Das Akhara of Ayodhya, and Hashim Ansari, the famous anti-temple litigator have jointly expressed support for Anna Hazare. Do you have the courage to rise above your own pettiness?

Arundhati, lie ten caught.

You are also very misinformed, or maybe you choose to present wrong information to the people. You have said that ‘Kabir’ is an NGO run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia. Actually Arvind Kejriwal does not run Kabir. He is an executive member because Manish Sisodia is an old associate from Parivartan, but he does not manage it, or intervene in it. It is managed by Manish Sisodia. Arvind Kejriwal’s foundation is the PCRF. They have received no donation from Ford. Their balance sheets are available on their website for public inspection. Have a look at all the money this foundation has.

Arvind started this foundation with 14 lakhs, the money he got with his Magsaysay Award. He used it for public cause and to support RTI in India.

The PCRF maintains complete accounts for the present anti-corruption movement too. Details of all incoming donations are available on the website of India Against Corruption, and expenses are detailed too. You should have a look at that.

The amount Kabir has received as donation from Ford is $200,00 and not $400,000 as you claimed. This is verifyable form the website of the ford foundation (http://www.fordfoundation.org/grants/search). You could have done well to note that this donation has nothing to do with the present movement, but you did not. I will do this for you here. This donation was made in 2011 to Kabir to promote the use of RTI in India, and not to support the India against corruption movement.

Arundhati, lie eleven caught.

You say next that the present bill fails to bring the corporates and the NGOs against the ambit of Lokpal. Does our present legal system allow that? Does our present legal system allow surveillance of the functioning of privately funded NGOs or corporate bodies in the same manner that it allows the surveillance of government organisations? The legal experts have said no, and this is the reason according to the team that they are not proposing this at the present time.

What you’ve forgotten is the fact that it is the government system that’s the worst offender when it comes to corruption, because it allows its misuse by the private sector resulting in the problems you’ve mentioned. There are already checks and systems to prevent and prosecute the wrong-doings of the private sector, but they are compromised because the investigative bodies are in the graft, or their masters are.

If we can make this start by creating a law that forces the government systems to work properly it will undoubtedly lead to better handling of the private sector too. Can you imagine the telecom companies benefiting from 2G the way they did if they didn’t have A Raja working for them? Or the various private companies making huge profits from CWG tenders if Kalmadi and Sheila Dikshit didn’t back them so brazenly?

Anna’s team has given the commitment to keep fighting, to further the cause, and take fresh measures to rid the people of corruption once the Janlokpal bill is in place. By making the Janlokpal bill an excuse to talk about all the different malaise we have you are attempting to short-circuit the anti-corruption drive itself. How is fighting government corruption any less holier than fighting corruption in private organisations?

Arundhati, lie twelve caught.

The only sense you are making is in the last paragraph when you say that Anna’s movement is the result of the failure of the legislature which is filled with criminals and millionaire politicians who have ceased to represent their people. You know, that’s exactly the point that Anna Hazare has been making. Our MPs are totally living in denial of the people’s needs and aspirations. They believe that 9% growth of GDP is an achievement worth having 11% food inflation for. It is their corrupt mindset and disconnect which must be challenged, and that’s exactly what Anna is doing when he mobilizes people in such a massive manner against corruption. The fact is, we should all be thankful to Anna Hazare for reminding the MPs that a democracy is not just made up of the parliament, but also of the people.

Note: This article is copyright free. You can share it wherever you want, you can post it on your fb or twitter profile. You can put it on your blog, even with your own name if you want. You can translate it and use it. You can add to it, trim it. Just don’t change the facts and the purpose. Thank you guys for your overwhelming response.

– an email from some blogger
(Counterpost to Arundhati’s article): By an Anonymous Blogger

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