On August 16, 2011 one day after Independence Day, Mr. Anna Hazare and his team of supporters will launch ‘India’s Second War of Independence’. To achieve it Mr. Hazare will start a fast unto death to get his version of the Lokpal Bill accepted. The protesters deserve praise for their motives and commitment. One will be less than honest if the same can be said for their agenda or the means they have adopted to promote it. Young people are ill advised to extend blind support to the proposed movement. Instead, effort should be made to persuade the protesters to alter their agenda and their mode of protest. Corruption is a burning issue. It needs to be curtailed. But the remedy suggested will merely compound problems. It will derail efforts of a real movement to reclaim India’s independence.
|When people don’t know who they are, how can they know what they must do? This then is the issue of identity. We must reclaim our identity not by undoing the Partition but its spirit.
Initiating India’s second war of independence is a grandiloquent claim. Establishing a Lokpal would be pathetically inadequate to achieve it. Corruption is not the real malaise. It is the symptom of the real malaise. The illegal money stashed abroad earns huge profit for foreign banks to aid their respective countries of domicile. The Indian depositors get a pittance as interest. The real issue therefore is India’s lack of integrity, self-respect and subservience to foreign dictation. Corruption is simply one fallout. That is why Mr. Hazare’s analysis of the problem is superficial.
The mode of protest through fasting adopted by him is equally flawed. Mahatma Gandhi used fasting as a weapon to get his way during the freedom struggle. But Gandhi was fighting alien rule which denied Indians the freedom to make their own laws and govern themselves. Fasting was non-violent coercion which was desirable as an alternative to violence to pressure colonial masters. That is why the British, who were undoubtedly the most civilized among colonial powers, and the Congress achieved the transfer of power instead of adversarial freedom. The means adopted by Mr. Hazare therefore are little more than harking back to past rituals that have little relevance to the present challenges and opportunities in a democracy that still confers to all citizens the freedom of expression, the freedom of association and access to courts of law.
What, then, might be the appropriate agenda and the means to promote it which truly justifies a movement being called ‘India’s Second War of Independence’? There are two issues to be addressed. The need to reclaim the identity of the nation is one. The need to reclaim the integrity of its political system is the second. Let us consider both issues in that order.
For centuries the inhabitants of this subcontinent lived in what was called Hindustan . It was the land east of the River Indus. The Prophet Mohammed (sixth and seventh centuries) had also referred to Hind. The people of Hindustan fought for independence against colonial Britain. The leaders of the freedom struggle pledged to the nation that they would get full freedom for all of Hindustan. Instead the nation was partitioned. One need not dwell on the considerable historical evidence available of how the leaders of India and Pakistan were manipulated by the British to implement the Partition that served only the short term strategic interests of Great Britain. Winston Churchill and Lord Mountbatten played crucial roles to achieve Partition. As a result Hindustan disappeared to give way to Bharat and Pakistan. The people of Hindustan were called Hindustanis and considered themselves to be such. Since 1947 there remain no Hindustanis. We are Indians and Pakistanis, Hindus and Muslims, Shias and Sunnis, Brahmins and Dalits, Punjabis and Bengalis, forwards and backwards – we are anything but Hindustanis. When people don’t know who they are, how can they know what they must do? This then is the issue of identity. We must reclaim our identity not by undoing the Partition but its spirit. Fortunately that can be accomplished by establishing a South Asian Union in which present sovereignties of its member nations may remain intact.
The second issue relates to the integrity of the system. It has been repeatedly pointed out in these columns how the explicitly written provisions of the Constitution have been violated from day one of its implementation; how Pandit Nehru’s sentimental commitment to the Westminster model created such violation; how President Rajendra Prasad despite being right in his dispute with Prime Minister Nehru over the interpretation of the Constitution was overruled by jurists who behaved like sickening sycophants of Nehru; and how our Presidential system of governance as clearly outlined in our Constitution was derailed to create the present mishmash of the Westminster model. All this has been written about.
Neither the Lokpal nor any number of new institutions created by a mindless ruling class will ever restore governance or curb corruption unless we establish a Presidential system by conferring to the office the responsibilities assigned to it by the Constitution. Indeed, the Constitution needs reappraisal in light of its unimplemented directive principles such as establishing genuine Panchayati Raj and an Inter-State Council that has teeth.
Sadly, almost the entire body of jurists and legal experts has exposed moral cowardice by not pointing out the great gap between the provisions of the Constitution as written and as practiced. Like sheep, the herd instinct overtook them. That they knew better may be revealed by a letter written by a distinguished bureaucrat, diplomat, governor and close relative of Pandit Nehru, Mr. BK Nehru. In his letter to former Election Commissioner Mr. GVG Krishnamurthy dated December 11, 1962 Mr. Nehru wrote:
“MC Setalvad’s advice on the dispute between President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was completely wrong… Have you ever thought what amendments would be necessary in the Indian Constitution to turn it into a Presidential one? I once counted that only 16 amendments would be required. I now feel that perhaps only one would do and that is that the new article one in the Constitution should say, ‘in the interpretation of this Constitution, no convention or practice of the British Constitution will apply’.”
Mr. BK Nehru was wrong of course. There is no amendment of the original Constitution required; instead some amendments that were introduced in it need to be scrapped.
The agenda of the second war of Independence should revolve on these two basic demands: first, to reclaim our identity by undoing the spirit of the Partition however long that might take; secondly, to reclaim the intention of our written Constitution by making our political system Presidential. Only then would Hindustan resurface that would liberate India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from the coils of foreign influence which entrap these governments today.
How is this agenda to be achieved?
Quite simply by mobilizing public opinion across the nation in favour of this agenda, then forming a political party committed to implementing it, then by contesting a general election to win power and govern the country. That is what a real war for second independence entails. To claim that such a war would be fought by establishing a meaningless Lokpal sounds like a joke.