The Prime Minister’s statement that the police crackdown against Baba Ramdev at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan “was unavoidable” shocked people. The intemperate and abusive language used by Congress General Secretary Mr. Digvijay Singh while justifying the police crackdown attracted even more adverse comment. The stupid exertions of the police led by Home Minister Mr. P Chidambaram trying to convince the nation that a situation as in Godhra or during the demolition of the Babri Mosque had been averted by the action is inviting ridicule.
The Congress is rattled. Its leaders speak nonsense every hour.
The attack against Baba Ramdev may not have disturbed too many middle class people given some of his antics. But there is widespread respect in the middle class for Anna Hazare who was initially encouraged by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and obtained cooperation from the government. Now that too seems to have vanished. The government’s crude conduct is found unacceptable by Anna Hazare. He is united with Baba Ramdev. Between the two both middle class and the rural poor can be mobilized. Hazare launched his version of India’s Second Freedom Struggle.
This incensed Congress spokesperson Ms Jayanthi Natarajan. She lashed out: "Anna has called for a second freedom movement...a second freedom movement against whom…What he has said today is unacceptable. A second freedom movement against whom? This is a lawfully-elected government, a parliament elected by the people of India. To launch a parallel movement by people who proclaim they will not stand for election is a complete subversion." Alas! The lady hasn’t done her homework.
From August 26 until September 1, 1997 Lok Sabha Speaker Mr. P Sanghma convened a special session of Parliament attended by both Houses. The session was held to commemorate 50 years of India’s Independence. The Session took stock of the situation and set a National Agenda for the future. The Agenda sought an end to corruption, criminalization, casteism and communalism. Opening the Special Session, for the first time in the India’s parliamentary history, the Speaker addressed the House. He called for a Second Freedom Struggle to realize the agenda. The former Prime Minister Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral called upon the people to launch a peaceful struggle, offer Satyagraha and court arrest. The whole House responded with thunderous clapping. The Resolution for launching the Second Freedom Struggle and implementing the Agenda was passed unanimously by both Houses of Parliament. That of course included the Congress.
Ms Natarajan asks: “A second freedom movement against whom?” Good question. The same year in 1997 that question was unambiguously addressed by me across the length and breadth of the country. I was privileged to be the main speaker addressing audiences at venues of different states mobilized for the Kaarevan-e-Azadi Movement. It was launched by Muslim organizations with the blessing of the late Chairman of the Muslim Personal Law Board, Qazi Mujahid-ul-Islam. We urged people to accept Parliament’s invitation to launch a movement. The movement culminated in Delhi where its agenda approved by the Qazi as well as by the Milli Council was to be announced. The agenda did not seek a single advantage for exclusively the Muslim community. It advocated policies that benefited the entire nation.
Unfortunately, some of the Muslim leaders capitulated and came to a tacit understanding with Prime Minister Gujral. The Agenda was never released. The movement collapsed. I felt betrayed by the leaders. But the response we received from Muslim audiences across the nation was most heartening. There was no trace of communal bias. One saw only a hunger for change and national pride. Unless the government succeeds in creating horrendous incidents to ignite communal violence I doubt if its stated alarm about conflagration will ever see the light of day.
It remains to be seen how Anna Hazare’s Movement for India’s Second Freedom Struggle will develop. The present demand for the institution of a Jan Lokpal is wholly inadequate. But movements have a habit of expanding goals as they proceed.