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Reason Over Anarchy

We start this blog for mail received from our readers, the first one being Ambar Walia from New Delhi:

There was a time I supported the Lokpal movement. That was when it was sane, had purpose, was coherent in its mission, and its raison d’etre — We are Indians, and we are tired of the corruption that plagues our nation. Everyone is accountable. That is a worthy cause indeed. I was moved during the protests and the fasts the last time around. People took to them spontaneously across the nation, and the support to Anna Hazare’s crusade was overwhelming. It showed me that people today were not apathetic; that they cared. More than anything it gave me hope for our future. Today, I am sad to say I stand against that very same crowd; I stand against Anna Hazare — even if alone.

Let me begin by saying I believe that the Lokpal bill needs to be passed. Our government needs to be accountable, and the terrible corruption that has plagued our country for years needs to stop. I hold all that to be true. And I believe that there indeed needs to be a radical revolution in our nation for that to happen. However, that revolution is not political in nature, but far more fundamental. The revolution needs to occur in the minds of every single citizen of our great nation.

I strongly oppose the methods employed by Mr Hazare & Co. in their pursuit of this noble goal. The ‘Gandhian’ way of peaceful protest, does not apply here. We are not a dictatorship. We are a democracy. We have the fundamental right to change things — our constitution has given us ample provisions to do just that; we have the power of the vote. A hunger strike, in such a situation, is not only undemocratic, it is blackmail, pure and simple. Today, Mr. Hazare is crusading a cause that has near-unanimous support, and therefore the ramifications of what is going on today, are not immediately clear to all. If we allow hunger strikes for one cause, no matter how noble, then we must allow them for all. For, who is to say which cause is more worthy? Who has the right to decide that Annaji’s crusade against Graft is a worthier cause than, for instance, my crusade against, say, tiger poachers? More disturbingly, if we allow this to happen, we set a precedent, where the government would be expected to acquiesce to any form of civic pressure in the form of such fasts. What would happen, if the cause was not a near unanimous one, but a deeply polarizing issue, such as Reservations and Quotas? What if two large groups of people, on opposing camps, decided to go on hunger strike for their respective beliefs? Who would the government acquiesce to then? And what would happen to the side which did not garner the government’s support? Would they be allowed to die? I support Annaji’s cause, but the end never justifies the means. Blackmail, no matter how popular, is never the answer.

There is a simpler answer to all this. If this is indeed a peoples’ movement; there is something the people can do. They can stop buying into the system. It is very easy to hold Dr Manmohan Singh accountable for all the corruption in this country (as he very well should be so held), but what about you, and me, and the rest of us? If the people really want to stand up against corruption, let there be a nationwide campaign of awareness and solidarity. Let us all sign a pledge that from this day forward, we shall not bribe our police force for quicker attention, nor shall we bribe the traffic police to avoid getting challans. We shall not bribe the bureaucrats to get our licenses, and we shall not bribe the karamcharis to get our work done faster. Let there be a pledge from every citizen in the country, that they too, are willing, like Annaji, to make some sacrifices, nay, minor inconveniences, to stop corruption. I promise you, if the nation as a whole, decides that they have truly had enough of corruption; it will vanish instantly. And no one would have to fast unto death, or appear on reality TV shows.

As for Graft, let us remember, we have the power of the vote. We must exercise it wisely. I am tired of hearing excuses of there being no viable alternative — there are many alternatives. Each time there is a poll, there are multiple candidates, not just from the major political parties, but many independents. We ignore them, mostly, because, we in our hearts do not believe, that one vote, to one independent, will make any difference. If enough alternatives, in enough constituencies across the length and breadth of our great nation got votes, the major parties would not stand a chance. We have to believe in the power of the vote, we have to use it wisely. It is our prime civic duty, our ultimate responsibility, and the only acceptable path in our fight against Graft.

Change is needed. Anarchy is not. A civil movement in a society that does not understand or appreciate its civic obligations is a dangerous thing. We blame our governments, constantly, incessantly, for everything. And most of the time, we have good reason to. But let us take a hard look in the mirror, we are the same great nation that votes based on religion, on caste, on how many TVs are being given to us free of cost. We vote for convicted criminals, and we vote for felons. In a land, where our votes are for sale, who is the truly corrupt?

A revolution is indeed needed to rid our society of this malaise. But the revolution is not required in the streets, or in the parks, or in cyberspace, as the most sensationalist amongst us hope. It is required in our very minds, in the way we think and view our own role in society and governance. Too long, have we hidden behind the notion that we our powerless, that the system always wins. As Annaji has shown us, we are not powerless. The system does not always win. We must now, consciously choose the path of reason over anarchy — we must hold ourselves responsible, and vow to change our society from within, starting with ourselves.

Jai Hind!
Ambar Walia
New Delhi

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