Tag Archives: Gandhism

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

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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

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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

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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