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.