August 28, 2011

The Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare and His Weapon of Mass Deception

Curtains are finally down on the prolonged drama billed by the corporate media as “Anna’s August Revolution”. Anna Hazare has now declared that his next “crusade” is for ‘clean politicians’! Obviously, it was only a matter of time before the farce was over, even though the cheerleaders of Anna Hazare might not have bargained for such an ignominious grand-finale. Let us look at the script staged by ‘Team Anna’ in their ‘struggle’: first, they demanded the enactment of the Jan Lokpal bill by 15 August. The government introduced its own version of Lokpal bill in the parliament, and in protest Anna Hazare decided to go on an ‘indefinite fast’. The deadline was extended to 30 August for the passage of the Jan Lokpal. From a Ramilia Maidan hurriedly-refurbished by the government, ‘Team Anna’ boastfully declared that they would not withdraw the fast until the Jan Lokpal bill is passed by the parliament. Then in a dramatic turn ‘Team Anna’ agreed for a modified version of the government-introduced Lokpal Bill in place of the much-touted Jan Lokpal bill, after it was conveyed that the “sense of the parliament” was in agreement with the need to curb corruption! Team Anna quickly dropped its core demand – bringing the Prime Minister, higher judiciary and the Members of Parliament under the purview of Lokpal. A new demand was put on 26 August: the parliament must pass a resolution accepting three minor provisions – the inclusion of lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal Bill, setting up of Lokayuktas at the state-level, and creation of ‘Citizen’s Charter’ in government departments! After day-long ramblings in the ‘talking shop’, the parliament neither voted nor passed any resolution in favour of ‘Team Anna’, merely concluding in a vague and deceptive language that “the sense of the parliament” was in agreement with the demands.

After 12 days of high-drama covered 24×7 by the corporate media and punctuated by bhajans, film songs, shouts of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, singing of the ‘national anthem’, pious sermonising and frantic flag-waving, ‘Team Anna’ meekly climbed down from its hobby-horse yesterday, accepting the government’s version of the Lokpal bill with minor modifications. Manmohan Singh’s letter conveying the Indian state’s “agreement in principle” was enough for the ‘upright’ Anna and his team to withdraw their agitation. Prashant Bhushan, who termed this act of deception by the government as a ‘betrayal’, was soon found gloating about ‘a great victory’. Notwithstanding the great postures by ‘Team Anna’ and the Parliament, both these great ‘warring blocs’ were happily nodding to each other in agreement soon enough.

While the idiot box is bragging about “the beauty of compromise” and celebrating “the victory of Indian democracy”, the people of the country who followed the unfolding of this juggernaut are in no illusion that the ‘civil society’ fight against corruption – beginning with the ‘bang’ of Anna Hazare’s one-night stay in Tihar, has ended with a whimper. The ‘compromise’ is on the expected lines, and so is the eagerness of a wide spectrum of political forces lining-up to celebrate the ‘victory’ of this anti-corruption charade. It was curious to behold the united colours of ‘anti-corruption’. Members of ‘civil society’, RSS pracharaks, sants and saints, ‘Left’ intellectuals and socialites, ‘Marxists’, ‘Marxist-Leninists’, socialists, Lohiaites, Gandhians, NGOs, Bollywood stars and politicians of various hues – all were jostling for space on the dais of Ramlila Maidan. As if the distinctions of class, caste, religion or politics had finally dissolved in the Great Melting Pot of Ramlila Maidan! In the midst of this great euphoria taken to a feverish pitch by the corporate media, many have conveniently ignored and veiled the fact that this ‘movement’ was meticulously planned and led by the right-wing forces masquerading as ‘civil society’. But it is not easy to forget that the worldview of the leading figure is a brazen and unapologetic Hindu-fundamentalist brahminical Indian society in the model of Ralegaon Siddhi.

It is not for nothing that Narendra Modi, the mass-murderer and the emerging leader of the communal-fascists, who has the blood of thousands of Muslims on his hand, has high-praise for Anna Hazare’s ‘movement’. To him, ‘Team Anna’s anti-corruption ‘movement’ has strengthened India. Donning the sheep’s skin, the wily fox wants us to believe that the Anna-farce has reinforced the confidence in the strength of “non-violence”. We have to be wary of a ‘movement’ whose key figures such as Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi set the agenda backstage with the likes of RSS’s Govindacharya and Gurumurthy, and whose most public face, Anna Hazare himself, praises Modi, and who in turn are given an approving nod by Modi. Its rhetoric of ‘people’s power’ notwithstanding, ‘Team Anna’ aims to reinstate the ‘supremacy’ of the Indian state – an apparatus of brutal and dictatorial class rule which stands unmasked in front of the exploited classes of the country. Indeed, this Jan Lokpal ‘movement’ has done all it could to strengthen the ruling classes mired in crises, and brought to the centre-stage the ‘civil society’/NGOs which were fast losing their relevance with the intensification of the class war. Anna Hazare’s charade has consolidated the Hindu right-wing forces, providing an opportunity to activate their structures at an all-India level. It has brought much-needed respite for the crisis-ridden UPA government and a welcome distraction from the burning issues of the day. For all the ruling-class parties – Congress, BJP, CPI(M) and others – it was an opportunity to display their loyalty to India’s parliamentary ‘democracy’ and to ‘defend’ its constitution, which they otherwise violate without batting an eyelid. CPI(ML) Liberation too, displaying once again their political bankruptcy, revisionism and opportunism, tried to gain mileage by hopping onto the frenzied mobilisation and agenda of the right-wing.

In such an atmosphere of media-created hysteria, it is a responsibility of those who are on the side of the oppressed and exploited people to expose the status-quoist, statist, reactionary leadership and goals of this ‘movement’, and to warn about the dangers lurking under its ‘benign’ face and ‘noble cause’. It is not surprising that Anna Hazare, his casteist-communal-reactionary worldview and his anti-corruption ‘crusades’ have been rejected by the vast majority of the oppressed people – be it the workers, peasants, religious minorities, adivasis, Dalits and oppressed castes, the progressive and democratic sections of the intelligentsia, students and youth. They will continue to do so in future as well, unmasking the quagmire of manufactured ‘dissent’.

Neither defending the parliament nor tailing the Anna trail is an option! For a completely exposed Indian regime – a joint dictatorship of feudal forces, comprador bourgeoisie and imperialism over the majority of the people – corruption is the rule rather than an aberration. When corruption is the law of the land, more laws can only lead to more corruption. India has no dearth of laws – and when the progressive and democratic forces are fighting against draconian laws like UAPA, AFSPA, NSA, etc. and laws on death penalty and sedition which gives the state unrestrained powers, the clamour for another draconian law in the form of Lokpal is bound to be counterproductive. Once enacted, it will prepare grounds for persecuting the lower bureaucracy, while the real culprits will continue to expropriate the surplus of the labouring classes with impunity. Corruption at the ground level can only be challenged by the collective assertion of the masses, while the prevailing system of legalised corruption cannot be crushed without smashing the corrupt system.

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