Anna, the Voice of the Upwardly Mobile:
A voice has been raised in India against the venal misdeeds of politicians and, mutedly, of bureaucrats (no mention of the corporates here).
Groups of protestors led by a most unlikely mix of civil society leaderships, ranging from those with staunch secular credentials and proven personal integrity (Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejrival, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, Mallika Sarabai) to those others with known affiliation to right-wing Hindu organizations and dubious claims to probity (Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), racuously foregrounded by corporate electronic channels with barely concealed antipathy to any mass assertion from the Left, have been holding fort.
True to pattern and apprehension, the politics of a section of the protestors could not after all hold back mentioning chief ministers of two BJP- ruled and BJP-in-coalition- ruled states as exemplars of the India of their dreams. Most significantly, that mention this time came from no less than Anna Hazare himself.
As per Anna speak, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi belong to a common category—chief ministers who do good development work without being corrupt. More of the corruption part hereunder. But,
what of Modi’s fingers dipped in blood? Response: communalism is bad, but “I was speaking only of his development work.”
To be fair to Nitish Kumar, he, although bracketed with Modi, has sought consistently to resist the equation, and keep the fascist Modi at arms length, disallowing the BJP to unleash him in the last two election campaigns in Bihar, thereby seeking to draw a line between himself (and presumably a section of his party, the JD-U) and Modi atleast on the issue of secularism even if merely to avoid offending Bihar’s considerable Muslim electorate.
So, here is the inference, one that neo-Nazis—many of them Indians– to this day make with aplomb and pride: Hitler may have liquidated some six million innocent human beings for no fault than their racial characteristic, but look he gave to Germany great autobahns and provided fillip to German industrial houses at a time of depression. Whereas what they always mean to say is how Hitler’s greatest contribution was to achieve Aryan racial purity. (See Golwalker’s, We, Our Nationhood Defined, 1923, and Bunch of Thoughts, 1938—two texts on which the edifice of the RSS rests.)
This is precisely the hub of the barely concealed support that Modi enjoys among India’s proto-fascists; namely, that whereas they may feel on occasion publicly obliged to disapprove of the Muslim massacres of 2002, all under total State connivance, at bottom, in their hearts they are filled with glee that he gave to the Muslims what has been coming to them, setting in motion the Hindutva-fascist project of purifying India racially as Hiter had sought to do to Germany and Europe. Add to that the welcome to the corporate chiselers, and Modi is up on the middle-class pedestal.
Here is what we ask, charitably: if the operative profiles of political leaders can be so neatly and conveniently separated, why wouldn’t Anna and those others with him agree that many among the politicians they seek to pillory may be corrupt, but are also known to be fine administrators with substantial records of achievement to their name. After all, many corrupt politicians since 1947 must have done some development work to bring India to her present status among the comity of nations that matter (sic). So why does not the same charitable double-speak apply to them as it does so often and so heinously to Modi? Modi may be a communalist murderer, but look at his developmental activity; likewise, why can’t it be said, X or Y may be corrupt, but look at his record of achievement in government?
The Modi model of “development”:
There has of course been a studied refusal to question the Modi model of “development.” Tainted and disfigured by his marshalling of the massacres of 2002, influential sections of his party leadership, closet communalists among the new middle classes, and those in the corporate media who have been busy touting and boosting the “India story,” the future they desire for Modi has been sought to be pinned on his personal probity and developmental genius. Clearly, those that wish Modi to occupy the high table in Delhi sometime soon use with ruthless dishonesty the Podsnappian fore-arm to deny some pretty ugly truths about what he has done for which Gujaraties. If only they would listen to a litany of facts on this that are in the possession of social service organizations located in Gujarat.
Briefly, without let or hindrance, Modi has sought to parcel out Gujarati assets in land and other natural resources at a pittance to a clutch of favoured industrialists whose every wish takes precedence over the lived requirements of rural Guajrat and of its forest dwellers. Innocent as he may be, Anna Hazare, the part-Gandhian (since, it turns out he is also by his public admission a votary of Shiva ji Maratha, by no means an icon of non-violence in the annals of Indian history) needs to know that of all chief ministers now operating in India, not one may be more rapaciously anti-rural than Modi. And what would Gandhi have said of that preference in “development” given his passion for a village-centred India?
Indeed, the Mahuva farmer’s agitation in Gujarat was to showcase all of those preferences. Farmers, fishing communities, salt-pan workers, tribals, dalits, industrial workers, minorities—a pretty substantial section of Gujaraties wouldn’t you say—all have come to be at the receiving end of those preferences, as gauchar lands and irrigated farmlands have been acquired to be at the service of a club of industrialists, all at throwaway prices. One has to visit rural and tribal Gujarat to register the extent of the loss of livelihoods, displacement and loss of natural resources, and the pace of land grab, with withering consequences for swathes of poor and indigent Gujaraties. And, as to the Muslim minority, read the recent Wikileak US consulate report of how Modi has sought with unmitigated single-mindedness to marginalize and ghettoize the Muslims of Guajrat. And never to this day as much a politic “regret.” Only continued machinations to thwart and vilify the plethora of investigative mechanisms ordered into the Gujarat massacres and the countless fake encounter liquidations of Muslims by no less than the Supreme Court of India.
Does Corruption Apply to Modi and Nitish?
A recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, a Constitutional body (CAG) has indicted the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar for submitting no “detailed contingency” bills against “abstract contingency” withdrawals amounting to no less than Rs.15,850.41 crores! Useful to know that this is the same CAG whose report on the 2G Spectrum goings-on was to bring about the current massive upheaval in how neoliberal economics in India has been proceeding, leading to the arrest of the central cabinet minister in-charge of Telecom. That being the case, it may be a forgiveable question to ask Anna ji as to why CAG should be so venerated with respect to the central ministry, but wholly side-stepped with respect to Bihar. Remarkably, although a CBI enquiry has been ordered into the Bihar matter, ask any tv-guzzling middle class Indian and he would not have heard of it. For the simple reason that the very media that pillories the said Telecom minister turns a Nelson’s eye elsewhere.
And what of Modi? Three fair-sized scams come readily to mind: the Sujalam Sufalam scam estimated to be of the order of Rs.1700 crores; the NREGS Boribund scam (Rs.109 crores), and the Fisheries scam worth about Rs.600 crores.
And would you know, whereas the whole Anna-led “movement” has had the institution of an all-powerful Lokpal (Ombudsman) at its focus, Modi in Gujarat has refused to implement the mandatory requirement to install a Lokayukta in his own state, even as he is heard ranting about the need for the Lokpal at the centre!
The less said about the Yog guru, Baba Ramdev, the better. Only a few years ago the world came to know how he refuses to supply correct information about the content of the medicines he sells from his establishment, defying thereby a statutory requirement. The disclosure that those medicines contain human-bone components was to be made in full public view in Delhi by dozens of people who have been working at his medicine factory. Just as it was found that he violates another statutory requirement as well, namely, refusing to pay mandated “minimum wages” to workers who make his millions possible. Indeed, just last night here in Delhi on one electronic channel, a venerable sadhu maharaj from the holy city of Hardwar had this to say: “Ramdev is the Hassan Ali of Hardwar; more dubious, in fact, because Hassan Ali atleast had horses for generating those thousands of crores, Ramdev did not even have a donkey.” Hassan Ali, you might know, is the man currently in the eye of the storm as India’s biggest tax-defaulter, and thought to have billions stashed away in those Swiss and suchlike other banks.
Corruption vs All the Rest
The fact here, we hold, is a rather ugly one. Crimes issuing from class or caste or community or gender based oppressions have never borne the same purchase among upwardly-mobile Indians as “corruption” for the two reasons that “corruption” as enemy brooks no opposition, obliges no self-definition and scrutiny, and can be fashionably deployed to decry not just politicians but the institution of politics per se. It was no mere accident that the Nazis during the twenties and thirties of the last century in Germany made a big issue of “corruption” with the ulterior purpose of doing dirt on all democratic institutions floated by the Wiemar republic, and dissolving the nation into the State, and vice versa. Keeping those histories in mind, there is more than a valid point to voices today who caution that the Anna Hazare phenomenon has to it aspects which are deeply anti-democratic, and which threaten to void all institutional procedures authorized by the Constitutional regime. Recall that only some months ago the Left parties came out in even bigger mobilization against corruption on the streets of India; yet one saw nothing of that protest on India’s gung-ho electronic channels. What one did see over the last week of the Anna mobilization however, was more than a sprinkling of Hindutva-based icons and groups, making strenuous efforts to float symbols and slogans with barely concealed pedigree. Predictably, one did not see a single shot of supporters of the cpi (ml) who, in their wisdom, had decided to stand with the Anna-led protestors at Jantar Mantar.
Put the question to any of India’s current day urban-elite young person as to whether the roots of corruption being talked about lie only in corrupt politicians or in a political economy driven by neoliberal capitalism, and you will be told unambiguously that the latter has nothing to do with what has been happening. Some reason why during the current campaign one has heard no mention of corporate houses whose corruption it is at bottom that has been spilling all over the systems of governance. After all, those corporate fortunes are precisely where so many of the protestors who have been on display hope to find entry as India rises and shines. Not to speak of systems of electoral funding that ensure that politicians must do the pay back. Again, not an issue for the “corruption”-baiters. And for good reason: make elections state-funded, and the corporates lose what clout they have under the present dispensation. Anna’s young warriors might not see that as a desirable prospect, assuming that they have any use for elections in the first place. The eradication of corruption merely and only requires the clenched fist from the Right.
You may then well wonder whether we will soon see another Anna-type “movement” on the subject of refurbishing the governmental draft of a bill designed to eradicate communal mayhems, or an Anna putsch to seek the adoption of the Womens’s Reservation Bill, pending in parliament now for aeons. Or to force the government to draft purposive legislations to eradicate female infanticide, atrocities on dalits and adivasis, or to enforce without nonsense the right to food and education. Or how about ensuring clean drinking water, affordable health-care and sanitation, and securing housing, and freedom from police atrocities to some eighty percent of Indians? Or easy and credible access to systems of justice and grievance redressal? Or justice for a Binayak Sen who rots in a Chattisgarh jail on a charge of sedition, and sentenced without a shred of proof for no less than life. Or indeed a “movement” in support of an Irom Sharmila in Manipur who has now entered the eleventh year of her fast (kept forcibly alive on drips by a terrified state) for the withdrawal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Not a chance.
I doubt me very much that any such “movements” are in the offing on behalf of the support base that has been on show during the Anna-led putsch.
And thereby hangs a tale.
Just as well to suggest that in the days to come the ideological content, the active politics, the leadership-profile, and the Constitutional consequences of this recent event receive considered debate. Most so among sections of civil society and individuals whom I respect deeply who for idealistic reasons chose to be a part of what they thought to be a single-minded objective (the Lokpal Bill), with insufficient attention perhaps to the surrounding political milieu of the Anna event.
Communalism Bad, Development Good
Anna, the Voice of the Upwardly Mobile: