Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anna Vs Arundhathi, Veeramani and Intelligentsia

Arundhati Roy, A JNU Prof, Veeramani and a host of others have unleashed a barrage of criticism, a virtual vitriolic out pour against a hapless septuagenarian who is tormenting his frail body and faces possible death. It is not very surprising to see intellectuals arrayed against this upsurge by the hoi-polloi. Anna has been accused of every imaginable political skulduggery and his motives are not only questioned but also maligned. The media frenzy is derided as corporate media that is cashing in on a craze. We suddenly find lovers of constitution rushing to the fore to protect a constitution that has been amended willy nilly for 100+ times in 64 years. We are lectured on how Jan Lokpal will undermine the constitutional liberties and create an unbridled agency.

Arundhati Roy who was fascinated by gun toting Maoists is horrified at a fasting Anna. That Maoists blew up schools, murdered policemen gruesomely, raped fellow comrades, smuggled arms and function as stooges of China does not bother her. Yet she is deeply worried about Anna's backers. Her article "I'd rather not be Anna" is a litany  of hypocrisies save for one paragraph were she worries about a street vendor. She freely indulges in guilt by association and much of the guilt she assigns is also due to her animosity towards her ideological opposites. That Arvind Kejriwal's organization received a grant from Ford Foundation is suspect in her eyes. By being associated with Kejriwal Anna too is tarnished on that account. The Ford Foundation, like numerous other US based foundations, does admirable philanthropy. That Kejriwal an IIT grad did not board a flight to US like his classmates and instead chose public service is a fact that does not even merit mention. A good rebuttal to Arundhati is at’d-rather-be-anna-than-arundhati/  As that blogger points out Arundhati's complaints like Anna being a 'new saint' etc are churlish. That Anna has not voiced an opinion on every issue under the sun irks Arundhati.

A JNU professor wrote the most shameful article on this. Titled "Ambedkar's way and Anna Hazare's methods" the column slanders that Lokpal is anti-Dalit. Prof Thorat says Dalits worry that Lokpal provisions would make Dalit employees vulnerable to complaints out of caste prejudice. He cites how many cases filed by Dalits under the "Prevention of atrocities act" is languishing. Thorat ignores the fact that the snail like judiciary is a separate problem. That such complaints are not investigated expeditiously is a part of a larger judiciary problem.

Professor Thorat waxes eloquently about how Ambedkar wanted Indians to adopt strictly constitutional methods to bring about social changes. Nothing gets my goat quite like that argument.  Reservation quota was initially stipulated for only 10 years, with no end in sight its been extended for 64 years (note that reservation has been in vogue in some form or other in TN since 1920's thats 90 years of quota). The constitution stipulates that the total quota should not exceed 50%. TN has 69% set aside in quota. This is where Veeramani, a neo-Nazi steps in.

Veeramani and his DK underlings organized meetings to prove how A.Raja is honest. Then during the first Anna Hazare fast Veeramani and his race baiting DK organized meetings vilifying Hazare. Raja is innocent. Hazare is a crook. Crucify Jesus. Release Barabbas. Veeramani started floating theories of, well what else but, Brahminical conspiracy. If Veeramani does not have bowel movements he will blame it on Cho Ramasamy. Veeramani is worried about how Hazare is blackmailing the government by fasting. What always confounds me is Veeramani's absolute lack of a sense of irony. Having pilloried Hazare for blackmailing the government by mobilizing people, Veeramani, without batting an eyelid, today, calls for a war against Kapil Sibal for wanting to introduce entrance exams. He issues a clarion call for a war and he wants to wage 'war' to such an extent that no Forward Community member is ever again appointed as education minister:

ஒடுக்கப்பட்ட மக்களின் கழுத்தை அறுக்கும் இந்தத் திட்டத்தை கருவிலேயே முறியடிக்கும் முயற்சியில் நாடாளுமன்றத்தில் உள்ள தாழ்த்தப்பட்ட, பிற்படுத்தப்பட்ட மற்றும் சிறுபான்மை சமூகத்தைச் சேர்ந்த உறுப்பினர்கள், பூகம்பப் புயலாக எழுந்து நின்று முறியடிக்க வேண்டும். குறிப்பாக கல்வி அமைச்சர் பதவி என்பது உயர் ஜாதியினரிடமே  இருக்கவே கூடாது என்கிற அளவுக்கும் பிரச்சினையை முழு வீச்சில் முடுக்கி விட வேண்டும். 

Whether its Ramadoss or the Gujjar's when violent agitations were launched to get quotas nobody winced or wondered about governments being blackmailed. Ramadoss's stooges justified the whole sale felling of trees and mayhem that he unleashed to get quotas.

Prof Thorat says Ambedkar is wary of Indians succumbing to hero worship due to our cultural roots. Thorat wonders how else would a yoga teacher get so many followers. Here Thorat, like most intellectuals, tends to look down upon the religious minded. Thorat ignores the fact that Indians hero-worship not only out of religious reasons. Rajnikant is hero worshipped in TN. Veeramani , who also has been presenting Anna's crusade as anti-Dalit, is practically living off of a cult worship of E.V.R. EVR encouraged his followers to erect his statues while he was alive. EVR reveled in inaugurating his statues. Of course lets ignore the fact that they call themselves 'Rationalists". Jayakanthan once acidly remarked, "DK people are not atheists, their god is EVR". To complete the irony today Ambedkar himself is the most sacrosanct  idol.

Today the constitution gets so many well intentioned protectors. Where we these people when a destitute Muslim woman, Shah BanoRajiv Gandhi with his 450+ brute majority in Lok Sabha amended the constitution to override the Supreme Court ruling. Arundhati Roy and Gnani breathlessly ask "what about Irom Sharmila who is fasting for years together and is being force fed". Anna touched a problem to which every Indian could relate. Irom Sharmila took a problem that is purely localized. Naturally the outpouring of support is different.

The middle class hypocrisy is another accusation. People wonder why has the middle class suddenly woken up. A New York Times article, by an Indian origin author, berates the middle class that it is not entirely impeccable on questions of integrity. In a country like India it is almost impossible to be honest every dealing. Yes the middle class indulges in bribery of RTO's to get drivers licenses, bribes a policeman, bribes a government employee (who in turn is middle class himself) etc etc. The middle class that has chafed under this system and is now crying ENOUGH. Political corruption engenders bureaucratic corruption.

Doctors in government hospital in Sankaran kovil were directed to collect money for a function organized in honor of Stalin. Where would the doctor get the money. of course from patients. When I narrated this to a Veeramani worshipper, here in USA, the answer was a glib "they could have written a letter to CM's cell and it would have been stopped". I was left speechless at the fanatical ideological blinders of this guy. While the incident in Sankarankovil illustrates how political corruption is the fountain head the reaction by this party man also shows how dangerously corrupted India is. When A.Raja landed in Madras after his resignation Veeramani organized what he called a "rousing reception". A.Raja is innocent until proven guilty but to celebrate the arrival of a ex-minister who had to resign on prima-facie charges of corruption shows how venal the society's leaders are.

Without Lok Ayuktha would Yeddyurappa have resigned? As I wrote earlier the constitution actually protects the ruling class from the reach of the hands of law. As the Bard said in Hamlet, "plate sin with gold and the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks". Some ask would not existing laws suffice. Existing laws are not just insufficient they shielded Jaya , they shielded Raja for more than 2 years. That CBI could not even properly investigate him until the Prime Minister granted permission is ridiculous. We are told that Lok Pal is not a cure all panacea. Of course not. Independence of investigating agencies etc are talked about. Nobody can disagree with that. The day the CBI can investigate the Home Minister if needed is when they would have attained complete independence. Somewhere a beginning is to be made. Anna has lit the fire for that.

Nandan Nilekani's interview to CNN-IBN got wide notice for his quote that Anna's movement will not solve everything and very justifiably draws attention to the fact that systems need to be changed. Nilekani correctly identifies that many of the red tape systems we have provides a fertile ground for corruption. His remark on Anna received wide publicity but what most tended to gloss over was Nandan's even more astute observation that corruption of the astronomical scale is incorrectly attributed to privatization and the economic reforms. Nilekani put his finger on the problem saying that the recent scams were all in areas where thhe government had a role to play as buyer or seller. Economic liberalization in many areas has unleashed productivity and lifted hundreds of thousands out of poverty.

That brings me to the final question, will this Lokpal solve corruption completely. Not even the illiterate think it so. Badri Seshadri (founder of cricinfo) a prominent publisher and blogger narrated an exchange his friend had with two government employees from UP. One employees parents had died in an accident and he was able to get their bodies only after bribing officials. He stated beautifully:

“அண்ணா ஹஸாரே, ஜன் லோக்பால் என்கிறாரே, இதெல்லாம் உங்களுக்குப் புரிகிறதா?”
“இல்லை. அதெல்லாம் எங்களுக்கு அவ்வளவாகப் புரியாது.”
“அப்படியென்றால் எதற்காக உண்ணாவிரதத்தில் கலந்துகொள்ள வந்திருக்கிறீர்கள்?”
“உங்களுக்குத் தெரியாது... என் தாயும் தந்தையும் விபத்தில் இறந்து அந்த உடல்களை வாங்க நான் எவ்வளவு லஞ்சம் கொடுக்கவேண்டிவந்தது, எவ்வளவு கஷ்டப்படவேண்டியிருந்தது என்று. நீங்கள் எல்லாம் பையில் காசைப் போட்டு வேலைக்காரனிடம் கொடுத்தனுப்பி உங்கள் வேலைகளைச் செய்துகொள்பவர்கள். உங்களுக்குத் தெரியாது நாங்கள் தினம் தினம் படும் கஷ்டம். அண்ணா ஹஸாரே எங்களுக்காகப் போராடுகிறார். அதனால் லஞ்சம் தீர்ந்துவிடுமா என்றால் தெரியாது. ஆனால் ஒருவேளை தீர்ந்துவிட்டால்? அதனால்தான் வந்திருக்கிறோம். எத்தனை நாள் ஆனாலும் பரவாயில்லை. எனக்குச் சம்பளமே கிடைக்காவிட்டாலும் பரவாயில்லை. அவருடன் இருப்போம். மேலும் இன்னொரு விஷயம். அவர் நல்லவர்.”

That is all people expect from this. If there are issues with what Anna proposes lets talk about it. If Anna becomes delusional with all this publicity lets discard him then. All that he has accomplished is to rouse a nation. Even if one were to be overwhelmed by the frenzy so what. This is not frenzy over a multi-million dollar Super Star movie. This is not frenzy over a megalomaniac chief minister organizing a language conference for self glorification. This frenzy is towards something that all can agree upon. The country is vibrant enough to channelize this. What angers me most is that people are ridiculing a person who has put his life on the line for a laudable initiative. He sure has warts, who does not. But he rises above that and what is most important for once a leader has called upon Indians to stand up for something good. God bless that frail soul.

1 comment:

J. Sathish Kumar said...

I have read so many articles on Anna in last one week but nothing is better than this. Kudos to you, sir.
Sathish, Chennai