Tag Archives: Anna Hazare

The Struggle against ‘Alcoholism’

9 Mar

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=34880

Translated by: Gokul

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J,

You might have read in the news about a Gandhian named Sasiperumal who fasted till death asking for complete prohibition. I expected you to write about it. Is it right to compel a government by fasting for such a demand? Is it Gandhian? Is it not interfering in the personal rights of another person?

Moreover, can we stop alcohol in today’s situation? Is it practical to have complete prohibition? Fasting like is without considering these aspects is a publicity stunt, isn’t it?

Ganesh Periyasamy.

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Dear Ganesh,

Whenever a social movement happens, I find many people who find a strange happiness by writing something or the other against the movement on the internet. Opinions in the likes of – ‘That movement was wrong’, ‘Had it not been like this and etc., we all would have come to the streets and we would have settled the matter once and for all!’ etc.

When Anna Hazare started his movement against corruption, a majority of people found petty faults in his movement and abused him. They chuckled that he had failed. But none of them even lifted a finger after that against corruption. They couldn’t even gather ten people on the street after that. The Left-or-Right political parties here cannot take even a small step against corruption. Those who sided with them and criticized the people’s movement started by Anna Hazare should be ashamed of themselves if they have a conscience.

Hence there is no point in these sort of hair splitting arguments. These can be news-cum-entertainment shows on television. It might help those who appear in such shows to show themselves as political fighters.

I have written a bit extensively on what is Gandhian struggle. I would repeat it like this: its first stage is to present a righteous demand to the people in strong terms. The next stage is to gather public support on the basis of that demand; to make as much people as possible stand up in support of the demand. Having organized a strong front, to engage in talks with the opposite parties and to accept practical and immediate compromises as a solution is the third stage. Having made sure the success is there to stay, to again organize one’s front and to start the next step of the struggle for more success is the fourth stage.

Hence the first stage is to campaign by placing one’s stance based on righteousness in front of the people. The objective of Anna Hazare and people like Sasiperumal is this campaign alone. It is not stubbornness. It is the way of a wise person expressing his stance strongly. ‘This is my strong conviction. I am even willing to stake my life for this’, he says. It is not merely an opinion. Hunger-strike-till-death is a way to show that he is staking his entire life for this opinion.

If it were to become a people’s movement when people start organizing themselves around this demand, if it were to open up meaningful dialogue with the existing government, this might reach a compromise. This point of compromise will be the midpoint between a group which maintains that drink is necessary and another which says that drink should be abolished completely. This compromise will essentially say that drink has to be controlled in our society. Anybody with even the slightest social awareness will accept that this is very important currently.

That drinking is permitted in India is a half-truth. The truth is that the government has liquor sales as its foremost task. Politicians are involved in the liquor trade undercover and are earning crores of rupees. Government works as a henchman for this. For the sales of liquor, the Government has banned the sales of natural liquor like toddy. It establishes liquor shops extensively across the country and grows them. The government itself campaigns for liquor, which ruins health, family health and the economy of the country.

Our governments’ have the taxes and profits from liquor sales as their foremost source of income. With that money, our politicians and bureaucrats are becoming wealthier by creating fake welfare schemes to indulge in major corruption scams. Our government encourages drinking for this. It sets targets for liquor sales and campaigns for its growth.

The Government sets the highest tax for liquor. It is said that this helps reduce the sale of liquor. Instead it leads to grabbing the majority of the income of the average family man. Today, more than half of the income of an average family is spent on drink alone. Our governments grab several times more money as liquor sales than they give us as welfare schemes.

Yes, drink is not entertainment here. It is not celebration. It is not a habit. Nor is it individual’s right or freedom. All these perspectives are limited. Today, drink is the method through which the government here exploits the wealth of its people effectively. This is the central perspective.

Hence the struggle against drink is not against entertainment, celebration or against individual’s freedom. It is against the government which drinks the blood of its own people. Anybody who understands the current Tamilnadu society even a little bit will say that this is essential. They will consider this as a voice of protest that definitely needs to be raised.

Can we completely prohibit liquor? Even when prohibition was in vogue here, it was not banned completely. Drinking was allowed under the ‘permit’ system. Hence prohibition is in reality a way to control and watch over the drinking habit. Through prohibition, it will never come to pass that liquor is completely unavailable. Instead, it will become difficult to procure. There will be constraints. This will check the development of the drinking habit and its spread. During the sixties, M. Karunanidhi who revoked prohibition and opened liquor shops in every street laid the foundation for turning Tamil society into a crowd of alcoholics.

We can see that when any drug is easily available and when social sanctions against it are removed, it leads to its uninhibited growth. The campaign for the spread of any drug can only lead society to grave disaster. Tamilnadu and Kerala are being destroyed by liquor barons. People need to be saved from them. For this, liquor has to be controlled. These movements seek just that.

People who speak about individual freedom do not usually realize that nowhere in the world was any drug allowed without any check whatsoever. Even in America where drink is a commonly accepted cultural aspect, there is a ban on under-age drinking. That too, a real ban which is maintained scrupulously in practice. Here there is no ban. My teacher-friend spoke of seventh-standard boys coming to class after drinking in TASMAC. They argue that this is about individual freedom. In the matter of drink alone, I think we will end up teaching democracy back to Europe!

In our society where a majority of the people are poor, where the entire family depends upon the earnings of the man of the house, when the government is ditching all sorts of welfare schemes in every department including medicine and education, drink is only leading to social disaster.

Drink has to be controlled. What controls are to be placed can be found out step by step. As a first step, liquor shops can be closed during the day time by an order. Next, it can be laid out that people who drink have to get themselves registered and need to have a permit. The government can attempt to treat alcoholics who drink enough to spoil their health. There are several ways of going about this.

Today, south India is in danger of being destroyed by liquor. We need large scale people’s movements to stop this. We are not up against democratic governments. Today’s governments are conducted by politicians who are in the business of selling liquor. Hence only intense struggles can yield at least a little success.

In the midst of people who do nothing, the protests of people like Sasiperumal is worthy of praise. But it is more likely that in our current scenario where idiots who rant about everything are seated as intellectuals in important positions, his sacrifice too will be trampled upon and fade away as some contemporary comedy.

Anna Hazare, Talibanism?

1 Dec

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=22663

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Respected Sir,

Greetings. Sorry for disturbing you. Again a question about Anna Hazare. You might have answered these questions before.  I didn’t notice. Now to my question. From the article that appeared in Tamil media… Is it true that there is no alcohol, movies, television (Cable TV), movie songs and Panchayat elections in Ralegaon Siddhi and if somebody uses them, Anna himself would tie them up and lash them with his belt?

With respectful regards,
Kannan
Trichy

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Dear Jeyamohan,

The statements of Anna Hazare after the slapping incident involving Pawar have shaken the trust in someone who was believed to be a Gandhian.  Even as a quick retort or even in jest, he shouldn’t have spoken like that.  It’s comic that after that, he tried to make amends by claiming that he only sought information.  Had Gandhi spoken like that, he would have fasted in regret.  He would have also admitted the truth.

Should we still believe that he is a Gandhian? I am asking this question in the belief that your answer will provide clarity.

http://www.dinamalar.com/News_Detail.asp?Id=355293

With regards,

Nayagi

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Dear Friends,

These days, I receive many letters of this sort.  I see a commonality between them. Those who raised questions over Anna Hazare and opposed him at the height of his movement, are writing now that they have lost faith in him.

I had foreseen and written that the media and the Government will launch defamatory and personal attacks on Team Anna.  Because that is in our history.  The ‘medicine’ given to Vinobha, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayanan in the past will be given to him as well.

People like Anna Hazare cannot be trapped in corruption and wrong-doing. But allegations can be stacked up against him.  Slowly, an image of him will be created by the continuous allegations appearing against him in the media.  Our media conducted a continuous attack like this on even Jayaprakash Narayanan, who lived and died without enough money for his day to day needs.

A more effective weapon is ridicule. People like Jayaprakash Narayanan and Anna Hazare are not skilled strategists.   Nor are they politicians.  Skilled strategists will measure every word they say.  Politicians will always stick to hackneyed clichés. The media cannot fox such people easily.

But true public servants arise from among the common people.  They would speak the common man’s language and reflect his emotions.  Their words would be spontaneous.  Our media can easily twist them, show contradictions in them; can depict them as nonsensical.

In the past, there are many such who have fallen to this trick and erased from history. The most important victim was Jayaprakash Narayanan. One can be enraged by reading the English media from the 1970’s in which Jayaprakash Narayanan’s concept of total revolution was ridiculed, derided and portrayed as a sort of madness.

Now I am reading the Lohia-J.P. Kriplani time period serially.  These are the people who realized in the 1950’s itself the massive failure to be of the economic model given by Jawaharlal Nehru to India.  They had realized that the triad of Five year plans-Green Revolution-Urbanization can only end in destruction of the village economy.

Jayaprakash Narayanan has mentioned farmers’ suicides in his speeches on several occasions in the 1960s itself.  Lohia said that the entire economic plan should be rebuilt with focus on the villages.  Jayaprakash Narayanan seconded this.  It is this total change that Jayaprakash Narayanan called as ‘total revolution’.  He also succeeded in making this into a grand people’s movement. The media supported this on the face of it in the beginning, since popular opinion was favorable towards it.

Basically, Jayaprakash Narayanan’s movement was against the large capitalists ofIndia.  Hence they slowly started making the movement an object of ridicule.  Every single one of his speeches was twisted.  He was portrayed as a old man given to contradictory blabber.  His speeches were quoted one random statement at a time to create a negative image of him.  Surprisingly, within five years Jayaprakash Narayanan, who called for total revolution and galvanized the entire of north India, was established as a sort of clown in the minds of the people.  That image of him continues till today.

Jayaprakash Narayanan was a man of emotion.  He was capable of speaking from his heart.  A Gandhian himself, his statements in colloquial Hindi like ‘thrash them’, ‘drive them out’ were again and again made headlines by the media to make him out as a man of violence.  The media showed that he was destroying Indian integrity, kindling anarchy and dragging youngsters into violence. The media, by provoking the distrust of the Indian middle class, completely decimated the grand effort of Jayaprakash Narayanan to draw the Indian Government’s attention to village economics.

There is a close synonymy between Jayaprakash Narayanan’s and Anna Hazare’s movements.  Anna Hazare’s movement too is against the triad of Large Industry-Urbanization-Corruption.  It emerges from the contemporary reality that farmers have been given up on and are facing death.  Like Jayaprakash Narayanan, Anna Hazare too is not a politician.  He is a public servant who was created and shaped from the masses.  Hence his language is not one of a politician or a skilled strategist.  His language naturally reflects the emotions of the people.  The media is very easily making it an object of ridicule.

 

It would be good if the people who now state that Anna Hazare is not entirely on the Gandhian path, accept that the Gandhian path is okay, that Anna Hazare is following most of it and that he has failed in just this issue.  But they are using this deception simply to destroy the current enemy in front of them.  They do not follow any honesty in this debate.

Just like they did to Jayaprakash Narayanan, our media is making serial statements out of random utterances of Anna Hazare and his team and subjecting them to ridicule and debate by a section of our middle class, which itself is steeped in corruption.  They too are gossiping now why Anna Hazare said this, why he didn’t say that and whether what he said is Gandhian etc.

Do you know why Gandhi was not awarded the Nobel Prize?  He stated that if the Pakistan Army didn’t provide protection to those refugees who wanted to come to India, then war might break out between the two countries.  The British media started a propaganda that this was meant as a threat to Pakistanand hence Gandhi was against world peace.  The Nobel Committee believed this. For over five years, this charge against Gandhi remained.  When an explanation was sought from Gandhi, he refused. He said he was not interested in giving explanations.

Gandhi was not moderately educated like Anna Hazare.  He was not from a simple background nor did he work among commoners. He was a leading barrister; a great strategist. He had enormous control over his words.  Even he faced a situation like this. Several times his words have been twisted. He has been portrayed by the English media on several occasions as a man of violence, racist and a religious fundamentalist. There is no surprise that Anna Hazare is being hounded thus.

All that we have to think about is this: There is a big diffence between Anna Hazare and his critics. Anna is not merely a commentator. He is not a media expert. He has not shown himself as a man of sharp words or rare insight. He is a public servant. After demonstrating his devotion, honesty and effectiveness on that front, he has entered public life.  There appeared before him a historic moment to speak as the voice of the people. He then spoke the words of the people naturally.

Why do the educated middle-classes like us fail to believe in Anna Hazare’s past, his achievements, why do we trust all the sundry half-baked columnists in the English media? What sort of brain washing is this?  In truth, we should be considering this question alone.

One argument is arising in all the debates on Anna Hazare.  Specifically five-star-hotel-writers who pen articles in the English media repeatedly state this.  Most of these journalists are in reality power brokers for capitalists – like Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai etc. Many are brokers for other interests as well.  They mention in all their articles that Anna Hazare is uneducated, that he cannot speak in English and that he is a simpleton.

The truth is that our thought processes and social interactions have been destroyed and frozen by the English, half-baked principles and translated philosophies that these educated intelligentsia have learnt in their institutions.  These people are unable to understand the crores of common people in this country. Our ‘educated’ intelligentsia continues to speak as the voice of the well-to-do classes who believe they have a right to exploit commoners.

Anna Hazare emerged from the commoners. He is one of them. We can call Anna as the response of the Indian commoners to Gandhi. He did not come to work for the people having learnt all the principles of Gandhism.  He started questioning the degradation around him and thereby arrived at Gandhi through his activities. He discovered Gandhi through his reconstruction programmes.

One can understand what Anna Hazare says only from this perspective. When he went to Ralegaon Siddhi, it was famous for illicit hooch. He attempted a change in the village through his moral strength alone.  He brought back the centuries-old village panchayat system. But he rid it of the casteist ascendancy present in it.  He created equal platforms and opportunities for every caste in it. He made them realize that without everyone participating, one cannot make reconstruction programmes work and then made them successful.  I have seen this personally in Ralegaon Siddhi. It is probably the only village in North India where dalits have a direct share of political authority in village administration.

Anna Hazare is only telling us how the clout of illicit liquor was defeated by the village panchayat system.  He didn’t get skilled in Gandhian techniques and then descend there to try them out by serving them. He went there as one among them and served them.  It is natural that he shares their beliefs.  Any balanced individual will admit that it is alcohol which is ruining village economy.  He might have tried through the village panchayat system to create a social isolation and punishment against this social evil.

The media systematically creates an image.  Anna Hazare is not the dictator of Ralegaon Siddhi.  He is not an omnipotent landlord like one sees in Tamil films.  He is a public servant who lives in the local village temple.  He has the moral authority that his simplicity brings. What he speaks about is not his authority, but the authority of the village panchayat.

There are village specific reasons for why Anna Hazare thought why there need not be political party based elections there.  He thought that if there was a split within the village due to party based elections, then the large scale development programmes might suffer.  He didn’t stop party based politics with his personal authority.  It is the village panchayat which decided that party based politics is not required.  Instead, the traditional method of discussing and arriving at a choice for the head position was followed.

One can decide whether this is correct or wrong only taking the situation into consideration.   It created very good results there.  Here our villages which have panchayats constituted through party politics are caught up in corruption and are rotting.  It is the practical truth that politics has split up people so much so that it is impossible for them to demand responsibility from somebody.  The media creates the image that he kept the political parties banned for selfish reasons.  Pushing aside his achievements and the dedication that went into it, they try to show him as a village landlord (pannaiyar) who is shown grinning ‘Ahhaaa…’, belt in hand.

Anna Hazare was performing his service in the 1980s. At that time, he didn’t have any vision or motives outside of his village.  He was known outside only after Gandhian organizations and environmental organizations took his achievements outside.  I visited Ralegaon Siddhi in 1987.  Even at that time, it appeared that he didn’t have any goals outside the village.  As an honest social activist, he stood up to the corruption and government persecution in Ralegaon Siddhi. That is how he arrived at the Maharashtrian and national political scene.

I do not believe anyone tried to portray Anna Hazare as a blemishless Gandhian.  He is a social activist who moved towards Gandhism through practical work.  Gandhism does not possess an integrity and purity like religion.  It has two aspects, a vision and a practical guidance towards the vision.  Every Gandhian moves towards that vision through this practical guidance each according to his ability.

What should one do to be completely faithful to the Gandhian ‘principles’?  One should merely keep speaking about it without doing anything.  Someone who seeks to achieve results on the ground can only operate by arriving at explanations to them, sometimes by staying away from them and rarely, by refuting some of them.  We call Anna Hazare a Gandhian since the economic reconstruction programme in his village as well as the anti-corruption movement at the national level are both based entirely on the Gandhian vision.

It is heartening to note that our middle class intellectuals have unwavering clarity on what is non-violence and righteousness.  The Gita calls these sort of people as ‘rooted-in –their-consciousness’ (Stitha Prajna).  Even Arjuna who heard the Gita till the end didn’t reach that state.  Gandhi too.  Till the end, Gandhi has doubts as to what was non-violence.  During the First World War, he called out to all Indians to join the army and fight for the British.  At the global level, he thought of the British as a just power and that they should not be defeated.  He thought that after Britain wins, they would give more democratic rights to the Indians and that India would gain practice as a modern democratic society.

But several of Gandhi’s own students felt that it was diametrically opposite to the non violence that Gandhi spoke about.  He couldn’t convince them by speaking to them.  He stopped by saying that he felt within himself that it was right.   When he went to the villages for drafting men for the war and started propaganda, the common people were shocked and confused. He requested them to believe in him.  It is the trust that most Indians had on his honesty and personality that made them follow him, not clarity of principles.

He had this doubts on right and wrong till the end.  He read the Gita again and again for this.  He requested that the army should take strong action and bring control in regions where poor people were getting killed in religious riots.  He didn’t think that it was against non-violence.  But he said that those affected by violence should abstain from hitting back.  He taught people to forgive enemies.  He explained it as the path of non-violence.  Intellectuals of his time as well as today have not understood that his non-violence means giving space to both idealism and practicality at the same time.

Gandhism doesn’t contain an absolute ideology or principle.  Laurie Baker who insisted on a liquor shop in his Gandhian village is also a Gandhian.  Lech Valesa, a complete alcoholic was called a Gandhian by his supporters.

Gandhism can be understood at several levels.

Firstly: The social vision of Gandhism. It can be delineated as having characteristics of distributed authority, decentralization, attempting to reach self sufficiency in smaller units and non-consumerism.

Secondly: Gandhian politics.  Seeking the way of unity instead of division.  Attempting to move forward through reconciliation.  Moving towards one’s rights through non violent struggle.

Thirdly:  Personal discipline of right and wrong. It is based on personal honesty, simplicity and abstinence.

Several of those who are called Gandhians today have tried to follow atleast one of these and succeeded.  M. F. Schumacher is a Gandhian.  He followed the first set of principles alone.  Martin Luther King was a Gandhian. But he adopted merely the second way in Gandhi.  Vinobha took only the third aspect from Gandhi.

Hence, it would be absurd to discard Martin Luther King based on his personal discipline.  Even Gandhi reached Gandhism only very late, almost towards the end.  In the beginning, Gandhi has supported wars.  To expect one to start from the heights reached by Gandhi and to travel forth from there is nothing but stupidity.

Anna Hazare has within the limits of his personality, believed in Gandhian economics and has achieved success.  As a believer in the principles of personal discipline of Gandhi, he has been unblemished in his personal life.  He has been active in taking up Gandhian politics.

It is not as if he is a Gandhian only if he completely accepts all the statements by Gandhi and lives entirely as Gandhi.  There might be places where Anna differs from Gandhi.  He might believe that in social setup, there is room for a certain level of violence. He might have learnt it from practical life.  Gandhi was also a practical man.

Viewing from a Gandhian perspective, we might argue that Anna Hazare’s belief in that is faulty.  We might discard him from that perspective.  But it is blatant defamation to call him a fascist, a clown and a fool and against Gandhi himself because of that.   The English media in India has always been indulging in character assassinations.  They gave the same poison to even Gandhi himself.

I have written extensively about Gram Swaraj that Gandhi proposed.  I have deep misgivings about it.  I have recorded them too.  I believe that against the shift in global economics, it is impossible to create in a village or in a province Gram Swaraj organizations. It cannot last.  It might last for a generation at best.  That village will have to continue struggling against the entire world.  It has to guard all its doors.  It can continue only through village restraints, isolation and similar punishments.  It is a short dream.  I had mentioned this in the article in Malayalam which I wrote after coming back from Ralegaon Siddhi.

Gandhi’s gram panchayat system and gram swaraj model of economics have to be adapted to contemporary situations and modernized.  Its my belief that this can best happen through the methods of J.C. Kumarappa and E. F. Schumacher.

We have only two kinds of people among us.  One, those who fear Anna Hazare.  Even a single reason is sufficient for them to discard Anna Hazare.  Instantly, they will start abuses and defamatory remarks against him.  But they will justify the monumental faults of leaders whom they believe in with hundreds and hundreds of words.

Secondly, the believers.  They need a prophet.  A blemishless complete man.  They are constantly seeking blemishes.  A relief when they finally spot one.  Ah- he too is like us, and a sneer.  Even if Gandhi arrives today, only blemishes will be spotted in him, no?  What newer allegations can come up against Anna that Gandhi hasn’t seen?

The one that is amongst us now is an activist who tries to implement Gandhism within his abilities, within his limitations, and in his practical situations.  Hence he is a Gandhian.  He is not a bigger Gandhi than Gandhi himself, nor is he a prophet.  His integrity has remained untarnished after being hunted by so many people seeking to defame him till date.  That is what is surprising to me. If we merely analyze for half an hour those who accuse Anna Hazare, or follow them for a week, we can see the rotten sleaze of their private lives.

Today from among the people, one of them has arisen as their voice.  He has a great contribution to make.  He emphasizes the probity of public life.  He advocates the common discipline of right and wrong which we have compromised long back.  No political party has the moral authority to do this today.   Everyone has compromised one way or the other.  One cannot face electoral politics here without such a compromise. Only somebody like Anna who stands apart from this can do this.

The hegemony of our capitalist system is steeped in the corruption of electoral politics.  It is through this hegemony that our media houses are conducted.  Most of those journalists are merely power brokers.  They are trying to get rid of Anna Hazare simply because he is a force against them.  They employ all the tricks of the media trade for it.

I have been shocked by a truth when I was at the height of a political movement once.  Several industrialists in Tamilnadu will offer funds to Naxalite-like groups to run their trade unions. This is because their real enemies are left-right communist parties’ trade unions. These extremist leftists will come in handy to defame and weaken those trade unions. Since these will never gain in strength, there is no fear from them.

This is the same thing that Indian capitalism is doing now.  The true threat is from activists who have people’s support like Anna Hazare.  It is possible to get rid of them by getting ‘ultra’- activists to defame them, who have not been able to gather people’s support. These paper tigers will never be able to gather people’s support.  It is the voices of these ultras that we keep hearing now.

Another front, hides within itself blatant religious fanaticism, anti-humanitarian attitudes while speaking a thousand legalities out in public.  Our media makes use of them as well.

Anna Hazare is a great opportunity for India.  One of the questions that will decide its future is whether India should win this opportunity or lose it like it lost Jayaprakash Narayanan.  We can answer this question only if we are capable of conversing with our conscience within.

J

Anna Hazare and Casteism

7 Sep

This is a translation of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=20487

Translated by:  Siva-Houston

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Is Anna Hazare Casteist?

In our Google group discussions one of the members raised the accusations some Leftists make about Anna Hazare – that there was a ban on eating meat for Dalits in Anna Hazare’s Ralegan Siddhi village organization and Dalits who continued to eat meat were tied up and flogged. And secondly, there was no democracy, and not even Panchayat elections were allowed. He is therefore a Brahminical fundamentalist and a dictator. These accusations were made by a Leftist writer who wrote as if he had visited the place. Here is my reply…

The comments the critic made about Anna Hazare were lifted from Ramachandra Guha’s essay on Anna Hazare http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110827/jsp/opinion/story_14423092.jsp. A It is a completely broken and slanderous image that resulted from reading that essay alone, without being able to visualize the total picture. 

In his essay Guha quotes from an upcoming book on Anna Hazare by Mukul Sharma.

“The strengths and limitations of Anna Hazare are identified in Green and Saffron, a book by Mukul Sharma that shall appear later this year. Sharma is an admired environmental journalist, who did extensive fieldwork in Ralegan Siddhi. He was greatly impressed by much of what he saw. Careful management of water had improved crop yields, increased incomes, and reduced indebtedness. On the other hand, he found the approach of Anna Hazare “deeply brahminical”. Liquor, tobacco, even cable TV were forbidden. Dalit families were compelled to adopt a vegetarian diet. Those who violated these rules — or orders — were tied to a post and flogged.”

The smears by the Leftists were lifted from this paragraph. There is really no evidence to support it and therefore the critic lies about visiting the place. This is a very dangerous trick used in the area of general discussion. The critic had not said anything about Anna Hazare before Guha’s essay came out. If he had read Mukul Sharma’s essay http://kafila.org/2011/04/12/the-making-of-anna-hazare/, he could have found out a little bit of the truth. Mukul Sharma is an American researcher with a capitalist outlook. We can see how he will perceive Anna’s efforts in creating a self sufficient Gandhian organization. Nevertheless, what Mukul Sharma wrote is not the picture painted by the Leftists.

He writes how Anna Hazara eradicated untouchability and brought about caste equality in a very casteist and backward village.

“In Ralegan, there are a few Mahars, Chamars, Matangs, Nhavi, Bharhadi and Sutars. Since the beginning of his work, Anna has been particularly emphasizing the removal of approachability and discrimination on caste basis meted out to people, who are popularly referred to as Harijans here. The concept of ‘village as a joint family’, or all inhabitants of the village as ‘almighty God’, has prompted the villagers to pay attention to the problems of Harijans. The integration of Dalits into an ideal village has two components in Ralegan. One is to assume that they were always there to perform some duties and necessary services and that their usefulness justifies their existence in the present. The other component is hegemonic, designed to get Dalits into a brahaminical fold. It is not only manifested in the way food or dress habits are propagated; it is prevalent in several other forms.”

That was the battle that Anna Hazare waged single-handedly against the mistreatment of lower castes in this village. He abolished untouchability and got equal rights for Dalits in village councils and helped them gain economic independence. Shouldn’t our Leftists accomplish this in villages around Madurai before accusing Anna Hazare? With Dalits cast aside and living separated by the village / cheri divide  in front of our eyes, ignored for fifty years by those talking politics, what rights have they to talk about Anna?

The upper castes used the eating of beef by Dalits as an excuse to shun them. Anna Hazare’s tactic to stop that was to make the Dalits resolve by themselves not to eat beef. Everyone among them had to abide by that caste restriction. It is slander to say that Anna punished them.

In reality, eating meat is not common in North India. A majority in Maharashtrian villages follow a vegetarian diet made up of chappati, yogurt, onion, sabji, dal and some rice. Dalits very rarely eat the meat of dead cattle, and even more rarely fish from ponds.

Even today, North Indian villages have different castes living separately (Isn’t it the same in villages here?) and there is no possibility of dialogue between the groups. The self-governing village organization that Anna Hazare tried to create was a single economic zone. Everyone had to live together in the same structure dependent on each other. The upper caste majority had hatred for the Dalits who lived in the bottom most economic strata.

Mukul Sharma himself writes that Anna Hazare used two approaches to integrate the Dalits. One was by pointing out the necessary services they perform and that the village cannot function without them. The second was by eliminating their consumption of beef. This caste restriction has been distorted as a ban imposed on eating meat.

Even when Mukul Sharma takes a critical tone against Anna Hazare, he writes that Anna’s doctrine was one of  ‘Village as God’. Anna found a way to bring Dalits into that organization as people with equal rights by giving Brahminical qualities to them.

Anna did not do that to suppress the Dalits. It was a clever technique he invented to bring about equality and economic independence. It is fraudulent to call him casteist for this.

Some would say that Anna was wrong in making the Dalits take a vow that they won’t eat beef. That is of course a strong and valid argument (It is similar to Subramanya Bharathi wanting Dalits to wear the Hindu sacred thread). It could have been necessary in the 1970’s. (That was not the situation in 1986 when I was there. In my personal experience fish from ponds were readily available for eating). I won’t accept what he did as well, but Anna Hazare had created equality and economic advancement for the Dalits in the village councils. That’s the reason he became their irrefutable leader, even to the extent of calling him their savior.

What Anna Hazare wanted to create was not an idealistic democratic community, but a practical village society. He could only undertake what can be achieved immediately. He is not someone who talks about lofty democratic ideals and does nothing. He tried to change Ralegaon Siddhi straightaway, from a village of illicit arrack into a self sufficient agricultural village.

To slander the achievement of Dalits getting equal rights in village councils, how honest is it to slander Anna by questioning his methods? From a society consumed by untouchability, in a society that would not even touch a statute of Ambedkar? One can acknowledge his goals and reject the methods he employed, but even his goals are being belittled here. Will they accept it if this was done to their leaders?

Anna Hazare made sure that political parties did not enter the village and there is a reason for that. That village was known for making ilicit arrack and he did not want that to make a come back along with the politics. There are severl model villages in Tamilnadu that do not allow politics even now. Anna Hazare did not create despotism, but rather, he brought back the old Panchayat system.

The Panchayat structures he created were fully democratic.  Along with the election of the leader,  all decisions were voted on. It is also the only Maharashtrian village organization with voting rights for Dalits.

Are Anna’s methods precedents? Could they be carried over to the national level? I too doubt it along with Ramachandra Guha.  I am even more doubtful about Gandhian Gram Swarajya (Village self-governance). Anna believes in it and tries to achieve that. I would consider such a society as best which possesses modern education, modern global communication and modern technology. I consider village society as a closed chapter.

Hence, I too will criticize Anna Hazare’s dream of gram swarajya (village self governance), but calling him a casteist and a dictator reveals a petty mind that scorns idealistic dreams.

Just the fact that they cannot criticize Anna Hazare without slander is proof as to what kind of person he is.

In this Movement… (Anna Hazare)

28 Aug

One of my self imposed rules is not to speak about contemporary politics. The first instance when it was broken was Anna Hazare’s movement. It happened involuntarily. In the beginning itself, it struck me as a turning point in history. I wrote back when I heard too much of blanket disdain and empty arguments. It has continued as a serial activity till today. My thought that one ought not immediately comment has been strengthened.

There are about 450 people in my group. Those who usually write mails have been writing a lot there itself. Its one group in Tamilnadu which is most active in discussions. Beyond that, the number of mails I receive usually is just half of what I used to get. But once I started writing about this movement, my inbox started overflowing. After a long time, I had to spend nights and days replying to mails.

The reason is that I am the only writer who is easily reachable on the internet and who replies to mails. When an event is happening, emotions and irresoluteness are at their peak. Everywhere everyone is discusses this alone. They want to speak with the same gusto to their favourite writer. But no writer can debate with several thousand persons. If he starts, that will grow and exhaust his energy. There are over 1500 mails unreplied emails in my inbox. I apologise to those who sent them. My task for the next few days is to finish replying to them.

I think I would have written around 60 articles on Anna Hazare’s movement over these few days. My website itself has become a platform for Anna Hazare. As its content and the visitors grew, it slowed down and we had to search for a new server. The site went down for a day. If the replies had been published too, around five to six times more capacity would have been required. Nothing else could find its place.

This constaint happened to me because of those who debated with me. I couldn’t reject them since the queries were genuine. There was also a need for those articles in the Tamil context. The only platform that provided elaborate explanations continuously was mine. But nothing else except this could be done. This is the danger of involving oneself in internet debates over immediate and contemporary politics. If it had been after the event, it can be dealt with clarity in a maximum of two articles after compiling all these pages. Hence, I am not going to debate contemporary politics immediately.

Its satisfying to see my friends involve in these discussions intensely. The English translation of my articles on Anna Hazare are appearing in the website https://thesabarmati.wordpress.com . The website created for articles on Anna Hazare, http://annahazare-tamil.blogspot.com has come out as an internet magazine http://www.gandhitoday.in . Its objective is to collate information about Gandhi and Gandhian movements at one place. Friends can help by translating.

An anthology of these articles on Anna Hazare is going to be published through Kizhakku Publications. ‘Anna Hazare: Oozhalukku Ethiraana Gandhiya Porattam’ – ‘Anna Hazare: The Gandhian Movement against Corruption’.

I am content that I have participated atleast in a small part. Thats enough for now.

Websites:

Gandhism Today: Articles on Gandhi
Sabarmati : English Translations

Anna Hazare – Two Viewpoints

28 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=20266

——————————

I am receiving two particular categories of letters in response to my opinions about Anna Hazare’s movement. I do not wish to dump several letters on the website and waste pages.

One viewpoint – Cho’s supporters. For an example of this common voice:
——————————
Mr. Jeyamohan,

I believe your opinion about Cho’s stand on Anna Hazare is written in haste. You write what ought to happen through Anna Hazare’s movement. Cho writes what will happen, i.e. nothing.

This is politics. I believe Cho’s opinion will last in the end. Everyone has voiced their opinion over this including Namitha. Though your opinions are clear about this, in the end it appears that there will be disappointment for all of us.

Anand Sundaram.
——————————
This letter.

Most of Cho supporters say that ‘He sees the reality, thats all. He doesn’t oppose it’. It’s merely their wish, not the truth.

When this movement was at its height, Cho appeared on TV to vehemently denounce Anna Hazare with all the abuse that Arundhati Roy heaped on Anna Hazare in a bitter and malicious tone. He says that this is a minor matter and no support exists for Anna Hazare in the country. He said that the Centre shouldn’t bow down to him and that Anna Hazare is a false image created by the media.

As I have earlier said, this is the BJP’s voice. There are two voices in the Hindutva front. One, that of its workers. Thats the RSS voice. The second is the voice of the corporate centers which have captured and control its leadership. Cho echoes the voice of these corporate owners. Its his chagrin that it has been defeated within the BJP through Modi and Yashwant Sinha.

The crux of another category of letters questions what is the place of dalits in this.  It’s an obvious truth that all ombudsman organizations outside of the Parliament are a support for the lower castes. Like the National Human Rights Commission.

Even if the Lokpal becomes like the Election Commission, it will be favorable for the lower castes. It’s a reality that in the past 20 years, only after the Election Commission started acting with real authority that Dalits have been able to form a political authority of their own.  Especially in the northern states.

People are suddenly worried about the supremacy of the Parliament and the sanctity of the constitution. But if the Election Commission were not to behave independently and adamantly, the dalit political sphere in UP and Bihar will disappear in a single election.  This is the real face of Parliamentary politics.

Dalits can make the Lokpal as a body to achieve their rights and demands. That’s the reason why Mayawati is thinking.

This news was comforting:

“Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) chief, Thol. Thirumavalavan went 
to the Ramlila Maidan on 26.08.2011 at 8 pm at night to meet Anna 
Hazare in person who has been on a Satyagraha fast at the Ramlila 
Maidan at New Delhi, to request him to give up his fast and to 
continue his movement through other means. 

He was welcomed by Arvind Kejriwal, a member of Team Anna. They 
conversed for over 15 minutes. Anna was extremely tired and was 
resting. Hence a bouquet of flowers and the request to give up the 
fast were placed before Arvind Kejriwal with the request to convey 
them to Anna Hazare so as not to disturb him.” 

Thirumavalavan who has understood contemporary history in the right
sense deserves credit.  Others corrupt persons in authority from the depressed classes like Ramdoss and Mulayam Singh Yadav too understand the real implications. That’s the reason they oppose this.

Congress and Anna Hazare

28 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translated by:  Sathya Srinivasan

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=20057

—————————

What do you think about the manner in which Congress deals with Anna Hazare? Aren’t they acting democratically? Do you not appreciate that?

Saminathan

—————————

Dear Saminathan,

Today’s news that I just saw a while ago. The Congress government has brought together religious minorities to oppose Anna Hazare’s struggle.

http://expressbuzz.com/nation/foxed-upa-government-tries-to-play-minority-card/306758.html

All of these are people who had earlier spoken in support of Anna. They are making a U-turn quite abruptly. Rather, they are made to. They allege Anna Hazare’s struggle is one of the upper castes. Congress is promoting a few Dalit leaders who they say will fight against Anna Hazare.

Where do matters of religion and caste arise in Anna Hazare’s struggle? If Lokpal becomes a reality is it not for everyone?

This is not democracy. This is a divisive act. The British government did exactly the same thing. We are experiencing its effects till today.

Gandhian movements have always been massive people’s movements that encompassed all people. The British government countered it in many ways.

Firstly, with the help of the intellectuals who were on its side it constantly spread a fervent propaganda that Gandhi’s movement “spreads anarchy“ and is “practically useless”.

Secondly, it continuously bought over individuals from within the Congress party. It made them malign Gandhi – like in the case of Surendranath Banerjee.

Finally, when it realised all these methods did not work, it branded Gandhi as a representative of the upper castes. With the ‘democratic view’ that ‘everyone needs representation’ it discovered leaders from Muslims and Sikhs and they were promoted against Gandhi. They unearthed leaders from Dalits and backward castes.

Several among them were brought into politics by the British during the first Non-Cooperation movement. Only when the British gave them a place in the round-table conference were they introduced to the people from their own religions and castes. Even today the blood spilled as a result of this divisive politics has not dried.

Congress has always done this. When there was a democratic war for the Punjab problem, they created Bhindranwale. When there was a students’ uprising in Assam, they encouraged terrorism against the Assamese in Manipur.

Congress never understood what democracy is after Indira.

J.

Anna Hazare – A Critique by Jeyamohan

27 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=20273

————————

Jeyamohan,

A direct question. You should answer this without deflecting the question. Do you consider Anna Hazare a saviour? Do you have no critiques on Anna?

Ramkumar,
Madurai

————————-

Dear Ramkumar,

I do not consider anyone a saviour. Even in my earlier articles on Gandhi, I have not presented him as a saviour. I have only tried to see his contribution to the historical situation of his time as a whole. I don’t even say ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi.

I try to fit Anna Hazare’s movement to this day’s place in history and then view his contribution to the ideologies of today’s civil society. This movement is important since it is happening at a time in Indian history when corruption cannot be tolerated any more. I believe its consequences will form a new
beginning since it presents corruption as a major political issue to the masses of India who are apolitical.

I do not believe that Anna Hazare or his movement will eradicate corruption. There are never such simplifications in my writings.  Its contribution solely lies in shaping the common social opinion that is forming against corruption today. That social opinion will transform into a political power that will fight corruption. Hence his movement is important. This alone has been my stand – I have written this several times.

I have been saying that Gandhi’s achievement was not that he defeated the British through his Satyagraha struggle. His achievement was that he gradually changed the common social opinion of Indian civil society through that
movement.

Critics of Anna fail to see the huge change that his movement is creating in contemporary civil society’s opinions. They fail to see that the people are watching. They only view and raise questions about this Lokpal, the fast for that and its related politics. This is the difference betweeen them and me. I have not exaggerated this movement – nor have I underestimated it like many intellectuals have done.

I have written about Anna Hazare before these agitations. About his Gandhian economics – Gram Swaraj setup.  In the book ‘Indraya Gandhi’ (‘Today’s Gandhi’), I have recorded my broad study of Gandhian economics. I have spoken extensively on its possibilities and my reservations about them.

Gandhi’s concept of Gram Swaraj is simply to build villages as regional economically self sufficient centers as apposed to globally sourced capital. Hence it rejects modern technology, modern communications etc.
Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj puts forward a decentralised structure of authority and
direct power of the people. I have doubts about the former and hopes of the latter.

Anna Hazare has been someone who has taken Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj principles almost as a religious belief. He has attempted to create this in Ralegan Siddhi. Ralegan Siddhi is an economically self sufficent village. An independent political circle which has a panchyat of its own. But it achieved this only by reducing its links with the outside world.

I doubt if this is feasible at the national level. Like Gandhi, Anna Hazare too rejects the entire Western civilisation, international capital and modern science. In these twenty years, his opinion has further hardened. Particularly, people like Medha Patkar have made him turn against all sorts of modernisation.

The Gandhians whom I consider seriously are those who have attempted to adapt Gandhism to contemporary neds. A list like Nelson Mandela, Schumacher and Ivan Illich. I have not added Anna Hazare to this list. He is only a Gandhian
worker.

I have several critiques on his Gandhism. But this is not the occassion to mention them. Today what he is doing is a different task. He is pointing out the value of sacrifice in politics to the younger generation. I will not use my critiques to cover this movement with misgivings.

I will write about Anna Hazare’s vision of economics (which is also Medha Patkar’s) after this movement rests.

J

Anna Hazare – Can Corruption Be Eradicated From The Top?

27 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translated by: Skanda Narayanan

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=19924

—————————

Dear J,

It looks like you have so far not addressed  an important point raised in many earlier questions. That question is, how can we remove corruption by starting at the top, when corruption is very much part of all ordinary citizens? Shouldn’t we first fight corruption at the lower level, and then move on to the top? If so, what is the point of Lokpal? Unless each one of us turn against corruption, how will we eradicate it?

Saminathan, Chennai

——————————

Dear Saminathan,

We can easily find answers if the question is put as “How to tackle this situation”, rather than questioning Anna’s movement.

Yes, we have corruption at the lower levels. What should be done about it? How do we find it out? How do we punish it? Who will punish it? Someone above that level, right? Subsequent monitoring can happen incrementally, one level on top of the other and so on. So, for corruption at a given level, only levels above can monitor and punish. If the top is completely corrupt, monitoring will become negligible, and corruption will increase. Isn’t that the truth today?

Historically, it has only been about 50 years since our society has moved from a monarchy towards democracy. Many countries that we consider corruption free, have been very much into democracy since about 200 years or so. In a typical monarchy, the king is beyond all reasonable doubt. Everything he does is right. Also, people who are close to the king possess all powers.

In a monarchy, it was ok to pay something to the king to get things done. There was no concept of equality or equal chance to everyone. If one person had all the ability and the other has the support of the king, or the king’s relative, or his courtesan, who do you think will get a chance?  We all know the answer. That was accepted as right, in a monarchy.

We are used to such behavior. We continued with the same mind set througout the British Raj. Everything the Britisher did was right. Their mercy was the route to success. We moved into democracy with the same mind set. The same mind set makes us a society that accepts corruption.

Ok, even with such a mind set, for the first 20 years of independence we had a totally corruption free rule. How was that possible? That was because we had ideological and corruption free rulers at the top. People continued to be the same, and how were they kept out of corruption? During British rule, a Tehsildar could buy 10 houses in 10 years of service. For the first 20 years after independence, nothing of that sort happened. Why? Because incorrupt rulers were monitoring from the top. Control from the top trickled down to the bottom most level.

Forget history, let us consider contemporary times. The same people under Lalu’s regime continue to be the citizens of Bihar even now. How did the boundless corruption of Lalu’s time come down now? It is because of Nitish Kumar at the top who trys not be corrupt. It is as simple as that.

Corruption can be eradicated only from the top. Those countries where corruption was brought under control, it was controlled from the top. Take the USA, or Europe. First, a few people who are against corruption form a people’s movement. This movement changes the mind set of general public. The rules are elected out of this mind set. The rulers in turn control corruption from the top.

You can see this change happening in India as well. Previous generation politicians such as A.R. Antulay, Karpoori Thakur, Karunanidhi, Gundu Rao, Nandini Satpathy have faded into oblivion. People have started supporting leaders who are considered much more corruption free such as Nitish Kumar, Narendra Modi, Oommen chandy and so on. The likes of Yeddyurappa are being driven out.  Soon, this trend will become stronger. People’s movements such as the one lead by Anna Hazare will contribute to this changing mind set. Provided this is not defeated by the mistrusting elitist thinkers of our society.

I do not believe that there will be a golden age where corruption from daily life will be completely eradicated. That would be an ignorant belief of a krutha yuga, where all forms of human weaknesses, likes and dislikes are destroyed. Even in the western countries, strict electronic surveillance and punishment are the means through which day to day corruption is kept under check. The danger of losing one’s entire life if found corrupt, acts as a detriment in these countries.

Even at the top, there cannot be a completely incorrupt administration. If capitalism is corruption prone, communism is prone to boundless corruption. Power and corruption go together all the time. However, if public welfare schemes and fundamental nation building activities are prone to corruption, they would restrict our country’s growth. It will increase inequality. The immediate need today is to control corruption at this level.

The agitations such as Anna’s movement will contribute towards this control of corruption. All positive changes happen through such continuous agitations. History is a standing evidence to this.

– J

Anna Hazare & Questions on Democracy (Part 3)

23 Aug

J,
I have been observing your discussions. I have only one question. Is this not anti-democractic? How can somebody who is unelected by the people threaten somebody elected by the people? Can we bring political problems to the streets like this?

Sakthivel

————–
Dear Sakthivel,

I faced this question for the first time in the early 1980s when environmental groups fought to prevent the destruction of Silent Valley in Kerala. At that time, both the ruling and the opposition parties spoke the same language. Magazines allotted pages for the sake of ‘development’.

Environmental groups took to the streets protesting this. It was the culturists who lead this. None of them had ever won an election. The Silent Valley movement was carried out using fasts and Satyagraha. I too participated in it as one among thousands. It was Gandhians who led that movement also.

Those movements were abused using the same words – that its against democracy. That one can raise this in the next elections. That one can contest elections. But it was through that war that Kerala’s forests were saved.

Dr. Sivarama Karanth, social activist, Gandhian and a man of letters had waged more than a hundred cases against the Karnataka Government. He held single man protests in several places. Corrupt politicians like Gundurao and Bangarappa abused him saying that he acts as a government over the elected government. But Karanth’s objective was environmental protection alone. Without him, Karnataka would have been destroyed.

Democracy provided by the constitution yields the right to vote only once every five years. Gandhian measures remain the true means of protest for people to demand for their needs from the elected government.

In reality, all fronts are constantly demanding their objectives from the government. Trade unions, several organisations. But our intellectuals do not see them as against democracy. Why, to them stopping trains for casteist protests appear as democratic activities to be supported. These casteist groups appear as ‘people’ to them. If a few lakh people fast against corruption, it appears anti-democratic.

J

——————–

This is a translation  of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.  This was in response to a letter from a reader.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=19989

Anna Hazare & Questions on Democracy (Part 2)

23 Aug

J,
It is being said that the crowds that come to Anna Hazare’s movement are all middle class and not the general population. What is your opinion?

Sivaraj.
——————–
Sivaraj,

Almost everyone has answered this one. In all the movements that have ever happened, not only in India, but all over the world, the first and foremost to participate are the middle classes. Marxist principles state so too – in different words.

Only the middle class is able to spend their attention on contemporary politics and to observe and understand beyond day to day problems. Only they are sufficiently educated. And they are the ones that have sufficent access to communication.

All the peoples’ movements that have occurred in India have been conducted by the middle classes. They were in the forefront of Gandhi’s struggle. They were the ones who brought forward Communist movements. During the 1960s, it was the educated middle class youth of Bengal that brought forth Left wing extremism. In the 1980s,  educated middle class dalit youth started Dalit movements.

Movements started by the middle classes will gain participation from lower strata of society only after they gain momentum. There are almost no exceptions to this rule. We see in world history that even after lower classes participate, most of the control over the movement remains with the middle classes. They remain its  controlling forces. The lower class participation will be agitated and loosely structured.

But when the movement continues for some time, it’s the lower classes that sustain it. The middle class loses hope easily. Easily it falters. We have seen this many times in Gandhi’s movements.

Its a common rule that even in a usual trade union protest, its the white shirt workers who start it and that the blue shirt works participate later on and that once they enter, the blue shirts will sustain it.

Left wing groups are always controlled by educated middle classes. But they will call their protests as people’s movements. They will label other movements as ‘middle class’.

For this too, the answer which I gave earlier on. Many of those who say this are observing a people’s movement or a movement for the first time. Hence these inane speeches.

J

This is a translation  of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.  This was in response to a letter from a reader.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=19989