Aug 5, 2012

Has Team Anna's foray into politics served a death warrant for social movements?

It may take some time for the implications to sink in. More than whether the decision by Team Anna to go political is correct or not, what worries me is the dangerous fallout it will have on social movements in future. Is it the beginning of the end of social movements and peoples' struggles? Will it lead the powers that be to exercise the same contempt and rudeness towards citizen protests?

It is indeed worrisome.

The 10-day fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi by three members of Team Anna (and joined by Anna Hazare himself the fourth day) did not move the UPA II to even take notice and be bothered. While the health of my colleagues deteriorated (I am part of Team Anna, and in fact am one of the founding-members of India Against Corruption), the decision to culminate the fast by announcing the formation of a political party was certainly abrupt. Nevertheless, while the responses and reactions in the media (including the newspapers) as well as the social media is largely angry and blasting, I am more concerned about the fate of people's struggles.

As someone who has been associated with several social movements, including farmers struggles, across the country I can visualise the dangers Anna movement against corruption has now created for the struggles being waged by people across the country. Whether it is the all powerful farmer movements or people's opposition to big projects like Narmada, hydal dams, nuclear plants, land acquisitions, and similar regional and local issues, what worries me is how the governments will now be responding. Will the government indifference to the much-hyped Anna movement and the way it ended become a precedence in future? Will the government scoff at every protest in future, remain defiant and finally ask the protesters to form a political party if they are so agitated?

These are questions that you cannot simply ignore or dismiss.

When a few of us launched the campaign against what could have been India's first GM food crop -- Bt Brinjal, and the way the small campaign galvanised into a national movement, the government responded by first ordering seven national consultations, and then imposing an open-ended moratorium. As someone who was on the forefront of the Bt Brinjal campaign (which incidentally was the only successful peoples' campaign in the past 4 decades), I am so relieved to say that the moratorium had come before even Anna and his team had launched the campaign against corruption. Had it been after the culmination of Anna's latest fast on Aug 3, I shudder to think what the response of the government would have been.

Has Team Anna therefore served a death warrant for future peoples' struggles?

While you debate this question, it is high time the civil society comes to grips with the severe and serious implications of Anna Hazare's  announcement to form a political party. I am not against the move, but to announce it after a 10-day fast has raised more questions and problems. Moreover, it has turned fasts -- the ultimate instrument and expression of resentment -- look redundant and irrelevant. Anyone sitting on a fast now will not evoke the same kind of attention and urgency on the part of the government (as well as the people). I am sure even Mahatma Gandhi must be regretting the manner in which Team Anna has turned his ultimate and powerful weapon, which he used so effectively against the British, into nothing but a laughing stock.

What is ironical is that Anna Hazare himself had used fasts so effectively in the past in his relentless fight against corruption.


cooljahan said...

sir i am aslo following this movement since 30 januuary 2011 ,whn frst march took place. also the annaji,arvindji life is precious if they wouldnt have stopped d fast thr wer chances of failure of vitals as arvind ji is highly diabetic nd its tim to give power back to d people of india swaraj, whch i thnk d ultimate goal of team anna.. i found website of them pls look into..

sushil jain said...

You have raised a very valid point. The decision to form a political party can be debated upon, but it is certain that the manner in which this decision has been made, is certainly going to considerably dilute the credibility of the people's movements in the days to come

Anonymous said...

Well, the ground reality:) is 1000s of fasts/protests happen at jantar mantar/ramlila all year round (RTI query revealed this) but none of them (<1%) yield any results. So, people desperately want a drastic change in this entire system setup. This can only be achieved by supporting honest & proven good candidates in the elections under a new party. Coalition politics NEVER works for the people, it works great for corrupts joining hands together, refer to what happened in 1977 and 1990s. Team anna is not fighting for political positions, they are just going to select/support honest candidates. We have been requesting Ramdev ji to float a new party and do the same but they didnt listen to us all these yrs, else they would have already won 5 state elections by now and there would have been no need of begging in front of these corrupt parties/people. Finally, the right step has been taken. This is an extreme situation requiring extreme steps. In the future, people wont need to do fasts/protests because the whole system is going to be changed once this new party wins elections. Electoral/Judicial/Education/Police/Economic/LandAcq and 100s of other reforms will need to be carried out, and this can only be done by a new party (not by bjp/congress/bjd/100s of other current corrupt parties). So pls support this 100%. Best wishes !

Ajay said...

The biggest mistake Team Anna did in this case was adamant attitude, with no room for back door negotiations. Everyone needs a honorable exit to a situation. The government is answerable, but if you doubt the credentials of the head of state, who is supposed to talk to the team. Moreover corruption is a way of life, wherein you, me, and local police, postman, travel ticket checker, is involved at every level. Simply by pointing gun towards politicians and government employees won't help. The eradication has to start at home. We cannot have a holier than thou attitude towards corruption. If it benefits me, I keep my eyes shut, if it does not I shout won't solve the problem, nor would having a super cop solve the problem.

MSR said...

I have a different opinion here. I think team Anna should have taken the decision to form Political Party early this year. As Yogendra Yadav said, in democracy one should always give one last fight before taking major decision & therefore Anshan was right.

Everyone knows how govt acted on lokpal bill. Regardless of number of people taking to street, entire nation going up in arms, the political class is never going to yield. So the next best thing is to take fight to their turf.

Those who think Anshan is the only way must realize that Lokpal demand has been around for decades, add a few years for police reforms, add several years for political reforms etc. So in next 50 years you will get partially what is absolutely must for the country. Instead if your demands are right, enter politics. Make your way to parliament. In just 5-7 years you'll have everything that you want and more.

I am 110% with people who would give right alternate to nation. Else corrupt in power will reign supreme and undeterred.

Vikas Garg said...

Devender, I am unable to understand why is Anna criticized for breaking the agitation and entering into the politics. You are also criticizing him here stating that Gandhi had never done so. But please tell me has he got any success due to the agitation. The independence of India was not the result of Gandhis agitation. He has only brought the awareness among the Indian.

The WW II was moreover responsible for the Indian independence.

Now Anna has taken the bigger role. Sitting on agitation may require 50-60 years for getting 4 demands implemented and by coming in politics he will get it done by becoming the part of the parliament.

When he was on agitation people said that he can't imply rules on government for that he should get elected now when he is talking for the same why are you people opposing him. everyone has his own way of giving something to the country he his following his way.

If you have the better way why don't you implement that.

Neeraj Pratap said...

अन्ना ने लोकपाल पर कुछ रैलियां की हैं जिसे वो आन्दोलन समझ बैठे हैं और आगे रहने की हड़बड़ी में पार्टी बना रहे हैं. डेड़ साल में 3-4 रैलियां निकालने से आन्दोलन खड़ा नहीं होता. आन्दोलन शब्द ही अपने आपमें बहुत ब्यापक है, खैर वो जो चाहे वो करें लेकिन ये न कहे की आन्दोलनों और अनशन से कुछ नहीं होता. इसका मतलब अगर ये सरकार में आ जाएँ और जनता किसी मांग को लेकर आन्दोलन करे तो ये भी उसे कुचलेंगे क्योंकि इनका मानना है कि आन्दोलन करना तो बेकार है.

Gunasekar said...

Devinder Sharma, The death blow for the Janlokpal movement was dealt not by decision to join politics but by the rulers who decided not to respond. The decision to join politics was taken after the movement practically was killed. As for your Bt-brinjal movement, while I am aware about the issue and support the cause, i did not notice your protests. I am also not sure if we are yet clear of the risk of Genetically modified food finding their way into our bodies. if we continue to have the corrupt politicians running he country, no civil society movement can have an effect unless there is vested interest of the politicians in the issue. I would advice you to get down from your pedestal and join the fight to change politics in the nation towards transparency, accountability and honesty.

Anonymous said...

Team Anna was forced to take this step.
We need cleaner people to run our country.
Such a blog was not expected from you :(

Team VARKEE said...

As this article points, the Anna movement has diluted an effective social awakening approach itself.

Blaming politicians for everything is not a solution. They are elected representatives and mass leaders. All the money they spent on elections may not fetch anything if they are in the opposition or without cabinet berths.

The villans are our IAS officers who stay in the system till retirement and continue to influence even after retirement. They never get caught as they design the system.

We as a nation are at the bottom of the pyramid where you have to live with high cost and low quality living.