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The Govt’s Handling of Anna Hazare Movement
|by Dr. Subhash Kapila|
“Pakistanisation” of Indian Democracy
“Pakistanisation” of Indian Democracy is the reaction that first struck the mind when agonizingly witnessing the Government’s handling of the Anna Hazare movement which commenced on August 16, 2011. Reminiscent of Pakistan military dictators handling democracy movements in Pakistan, the Government’s handling of the Anna Hazare movement was characterized by ‘Dismissiveness and Disruption’.
‘Deception’, ‘Demonization’ and Disinformation’, and to top it all an ‘Arrogance of Power’ unbecoming the Congress Party which professes ‘Congress ka Haath. Aam Admi ke Saath’. The Congress Party seems to be repeating the mistakes of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency Declaration days which resulted in her losing power.
Belatedly some sense seems to be seeping in into the Government which by the force of Indian public opinion manifested by thousands rallying in support of Anna Hazare outside Tihar Jail where Anna was imprisoned - besides at India Gate and Jantar Mantar - was prompted to release Anna on the third day of his fast in the jail.
Strikingly evident is the fact that even after the incremental giving in to public demand for releasing Anna Hazare and permitting him to fast at Ram Lila grounds in the cause of the Jan Lok Pal Bill, the Government’s intent seems to be on a strategy of wearing out the Jan Lok Pal Bill Movement.
Inherent in the strategy of the Government handling of the Anna Hazare Movement is the danger that in the Government’s strategy of attrition is the danger is that Anna Hazare may succumb during the fast and which may lead to some horrendous reactions all over India.
In this Column today warranted by the seriousness of India’s democracy being endangered I would like to dwell on the striking characteristics of the Government’s approaches which prompt me to describe it as ‘Pakistanisation” of Indian Democracy.
Government’s Dismissiveness and Disruption
The Government tended to be dismissive of the current movement buoyed by the success of its operation to abort the Baba Ram dev Movement at Ram Lila Maidan a few weeks back. He too was agitating for retrieving India’s black money hoardings abroad by Indian politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in league with the latter.
Ignoring intelligence inputs from its agencies or being fed wrong inputs by them the Government tended to be dismissive about Anna Hazare’s current movement that the Indian masses would not be turning out in large numbers to support the Movement on India’s streets.
The above led the Government in Pakistani autocratic regimes pattern to disrupt Anna Hazare’s movement by arresting Anna Hazare as he stepped out to proceed to the Lok Nayak Park venue to defy the last minute imposition of prohibitory orders to pre-empt his fast. At that moment there were no prohibitory orders in the area surrounding his modest flat in East Delhi.
Anna Hazare was detained for a couple of hours and on his steadfast refusal to give any undertakings was arrested and sent to Tihar Jail for seven days custody
The Congress Ministers like Kapil Sibal and Home Minister Chidambaram projected the whole day long that it was the Delhi Police that was taking all the decisions and the Government had nothing to do with it. Pray one must ask whether the Delhi Police had declared its independence from the control of the Home Minister and the Prime Minister?
The Government hoped that by a display of autocratic ham-handedness it could coerce Anna Hazare and disrupt his ongoing crusade. The opposite happened and thousands took to the streets all over India unnerving the Government
Government’s Strategy of Deception
The Government’s first attempt to deceive Anna Hazare took place in April 2011 when the Government tactically agreed to issue a Gazette Notification to involve the Civil Society in drafting a Joint Lok Pal Bill to be introduced in Parliament before 31 August as demanded by Anna.
What transpired thereafter stands well covered by the media and despite a number of so called joint sittings the end result was that the Government introduced its own version of the Bill which as Anna’s group states would promote more corruption than curbing it. Suffice it to say that Anna was deceived by the likes of Kapil Sibal and Chidambaram, all senior Ministers deputed by the Prime Minister to be his interlocutors.
The next sordid deception has been the Congress Government projection that it has introduced in Parliament the Lok Pal Bill as promised trying to deceive the people of India that the Government is reasonable and Anna is not. Refusing to introduce both versions of the Anti-Corruption Bill in Parliament and then getting its own version referred to the Standing Committee, the Government was being too clever by half and indulging in mass deception.
Demonization of Anna Hazare
In the run-up to challenge the threat posed by Anna’s declared intention to go on a fast unto death from August 16, 2011 the Government adopted a two pronged strategy of demonizing of Anna and his aides by personal unproven attacks and a disinformation campaign to discredit the Anna Hazare crusade against corruption.
The Congress Party would like India to believe that it is not a party to its Government’s handling of the Movement. If that be so how come the intemperate and immature Congress Party official spokesperson Manish Tewari was encouraged to state words to the effect “Anna Hazare tu sir se paon tak bhrastachari hai. Tu kis muh se bhrastachar ke bare andolan kar sakta hai”. Translated into English it meant that Anna Hazare you are corrupt from head to toe and how can you claim to fight against corruption.
Further the same gentleman in press utterances had claimed that Anna Hazare had deserted the Army. The India Army has come out in an official response to an RTI query that Anna Hazare was ‘Honorably Discharged’ after 12 years of service and five medals of service to his credit..
In terms of disinformation both the Congress Party and its Government let loose a fusillade of ill-founded allegations against Anna Hazare and also his aides. Yet another
This was truly a “Pakistanization” of India’s democracy where the Government of the day prompted by its autocratic impulses indulged in wholesale demonization of its opponents and indulging in a mass disinformation campaign.
Congress Government’s Arrogance of Power
Arrogance of power was palpable in each move of the Government and in the utterances of its Ministers and Congress spokespersons. I would like to pick on only one item for the sake of brevity. This concerns the oft-repeated utterance that civil groups like Anna Hazare are not empowered to dictate as to what laws the Government should make. That power cannot be shared with unelected representatives of the people. Further that Anna Hazare and his group of five aides do not represent the aspirations of the entire India
Further, some claimed that Anna could stand for elections and wait for another two to three years until the next elections to get his law passed. And they stressed that in any case the Parliament was supreme and could not be dictated by the likes of Anna Hazare.
These were arrogant and preposterous responses from the Government and its Party spokespersons.
The noted lawyer Fali Narriman retorted in response and correctly too that in the Indian Constitution the words “We The People” preceded any references to the Parliament and that in a fully participative and functional democracy like India the people had a right to let the Parliamentarians, elected by them, as to what laws should be made to govern them. The Indian people were supreme and not the Parliament.
The Government’s arrogant approaches to the current crisis was again reminiscent of Pakistan’s military dictators who felt that what was needed was not a free democracy but a “Guided Democracy” to be guided by the Congress Party perceptions and priorities
In handling Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption, the Government has sorely missed the crunch point by reducing it to Anna Hazare versus Congress Government/Congress Party battle. It is not so.
In the week that has past, the hundreds of thousands of the Indian people who have rallied to the clarion call of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade have rallied so because he symbolizes and is in tune with their pent up emotions and long suppressed aspirations that India should be rid of corruption.
The Congress Government/Congress Party by its arrogant impulses in handling of Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption has pushed the Indian people into a Government versus Indian People battle.
Governments in no part of the world have been able to stand up and survive in the face of popular upheaval and anger.
Statesmanship of a high order is now the call of the hour and perceptionally one cannot see that sort of statesmanship emanating from the Congress Party when today in public perceptions its Government stands enmeshed in an unbreakable mesh of corruption scams involving lakhs of crores in public money.
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