What is common between Ramdev, Anna Hazare, cyber warriors who attack any opinion different from theirs, retired Foreign Service officers and generals fulminating on security issues on television and the TV anchors who egg them on on behalf of the “nation”? Well, they are all part of the new breed of political vigilantes, a politically aggressive class which seeks to push the Indian state and society in a direction of their choice—some ostensibly towards greater accountability and transparency and others towards being a hard state. Some do it in the name of democracy, others claim to be defending the security and integrity of the nation.
They speak of democracy but in effect show nothing but disdain for the ‘right to dissent’—emphasising the flaws of their opponents to the extent of delegitimising them. Here too there can be distinctions—Ramdev and Anna are political vigilantes but someone like Arvind Kejriwal is perhaps not entirely so. After all, he was open to negotiations even during the Lokpal Bill agitation and has now signed on to reformism by taking the political plunge. For vigilantes, their own interests are supreme and they do not feel the need to take the interests of others on board even while claiming to speak for them.