Tag Archives: democracy

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

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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

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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.
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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

Anna Hazare & Questions on Democracy (Part 1)

23 Aug

This Jan Lokpal that they speak of, is it really powerful? I too share the doubt which a few others have raised that this will create a powerful authority outside of parliament. Leaders who are power drunk and other headaches might come from this new shortcut to power, isn’t it?

Bogan.

Dear Bogan,

I have faced this question several times on several occasions. Importantly this question was asked verbatim in the 1980s at a time when people’s movements focusing on the environment started emerging. ‘These groups will have authority over government institutions and politicians, grow into private groups and will destroy our democracy’. At that time a corrupt politician like Nandhini Satpathi and a honest one like E K. Nayanar both asked this question. At first glance, it will seem valid.

But in the Indian democratic setup, this can only bring an equilibrium of power, never an absolute power in itself. This was argued by a few who saw reason – notably late Dr. Sivarama Karanth. That has remained true till date. These people’s movements have remained the foremost constructive forces in preventing environmental damage in India. The civil society activists in those movements. Without them, the Govt. and its officials would have stripped our nation bare and turned it into a desert.

Its is a usual complaint that environmental groups threaten Govt. officials and institutions. Mostly by those who seek to destroy the environment. The factory owners in Tiruppur who let untreated polluted water into the river and corrupt politicians and officials will say this. But it remains true that without another front with authority, a front outside of the Govt., people would not be able to control persons like these.

From human rights, to women’s rights in all platforms this participation by other people and civil society activists has created successful results. That is the reason why its being demanded in the fight against corruption too.

The problem is most of us are not aware of what has happened and been achieved in these platforms till now. Hence, with a new surprise and new confusion we ask ‘Whats this? isn’t this anti-democratic? The Govt. and elections are there no?’

J

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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