Monday, April 11, 2011

'we have been here before'

I'm missing the on-the-ground-ness of what's happening with this whole Anna Hazare fast and his subsequent enthronement as arbiter of the good and the righteous. Not being surrounded by shrieking news reporters and anchors is, in general a good thing; I kind of like watching gardening shows and East Enders; but it's really, really hard to understand the sequence of events when you're elsewhere.

So, while I haven't been following the drama as it unfolded, I have been reading Kafila, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta's 'At The Risk of Heresy'*:

We have been here before. Indira Gandhi’s early years were full of radical and populist posturing, and the mould that Anna Hazare fills is not necessarily the one that JP occupied (despite the commentary that repeatedly invokes JP). Perhaps we should be reminded of the man who was fondly spoken of as ‘Sarkari Sant’ – Vinoba Bhave. Bhave lent his considerable moral stature to the defence of the Internal Emergency (which, of course, dressed itself up in the colour of anti-corruption, anti-black marketeering rhetoric, to neutralize the anti-corruption thrust of the disaffection against Indira Gandhi’s regime). And while we are thinking about parallels in other times, let us not forget a parallel in another time and another place. Let us not forget the example of how Mao’s helmsmanship of the ‘cultural revolution’ skilfully orchestrated popular discontent against the ruling dispensation to strengthen the same ruling dispensation in China.

These are early days, but Anna Hazare may finally go down in history as the man who - perhaps against his own instincts and interests – (I am not disputing his moral uprightness here) - sanctified the entire spectrum of Indian politics by offering it the cosmetic cloak of the provisions of the draft Jan Lokpal Bill. The current UPA regime, like the NDA regime before it, has perfected the art of being the designer of its own opposition. The method is brilliant and imaginative. First, preside over profound corruption, then, utilise the public discontent against corruption to create a situation where the ruling dispensation can be seen as the source of the most sympathetic and sensitive response, while doing nothing, simultaneously, to challenge the abuse of power at a structural level.

The whole thing reminds me a bit of the Jaago Re ads. (And the chutzpah of continuing with those ads post-Radia is breathtaking.)

Also see Gopal's photo post on Azad Maidan, and the other protests that didn't quite do it for the TV channels.


*'Heresy' is so apt. What with Baba Ramdev's backing, and Hazare wanting to touch his feet (in apology, I believe?), and people falling over themselves to defer to his choice of appointees. Guru-Sakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah.


km said...

It's impossible to talk about this subject without getting into a flame war or being accused of being cynical (or worse, a cynical NRI.)

But there's something comical and sad about the feet-touching and that photograph of a little girl helping break the man's fast. Goddammit, enough with the preciousness.

JP said...

I just wish anything on Kafila was actually well-written.

It's interesting how your from-afar view is the same as my disconnected-from-within view. Don't you find that the extra detail obscures more often than not?

Space Bar said...

km: truly. you should see the comments on the kafila post. 374 and counting, i believe.

jp: yes, well. most of them are academics.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'extra detail'? I find I don't have a clearer understanding because I'm elsewhere. So maybe the details doesn't obscure, after all. But not sure I'm reading you right.

JP said...

The writing on Kafila is frequently worse than even an academic background can explain. Contrast and compare with scienceblogs or the Language Log.

Extra detail: all the mind-numbing updates the media provides from minute to minute. Who said what. Who wrote what about it. Who blogged what where about whose soundbyte. The kind of detail I don't get because I just read a few brief headlines a couple of days later and briefly surmise that something has occurred.