by Hartosh Singh Bal
It is no coincidence that the Jan Lokpal Bill imagines an ombudsman who would be to the republic what Anna is to Ralegan Siddhi, someone who will whip us all into shape
It is ironic that a movement which has made so much noise about holding a referendum on the Jan Lokpal Bill, a referendum that has no sanction or validity under the Constitution, has so much trouble with a referendum in Kashmir. Surely, whatever an individual’s stand on the issue, it is reasonable to expect that we live in a republic where such issues can be voiced and debated openly. In this context, the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (the very name is an insult to Bhagat Singh) is contemptible but unimportant. What is far more shocking is the amplification of the same view by Anna and his sidekick Arvind Kejriwal, who more and more reflect the same fascist bent of mind that drives the RSS.
Prashant Bhushan’s statement on Kashmir was made weeks before he was assaulted. In fact, his stand on Kashmir was clear well before the Anna movement was conceived. Why did it take an attack on Bhushan, by people who were certainly once directly allied with the Sangh and are today part of it in spirit, for Anna to suddenly attack such views in public? How has this man given to so much vagueness while replying to every pointed question suddenly found such clarity? It is only because the viewpoint that Anna and by extension Kejriwal represent is the same simplistic and ill-thought-out rightwing nationalism of the Sangh which has no space for the Constitution or the liberal values it embodies. In that sense, when Anna’s team stands and shouts “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, it is not hailing the Indian Republic but a mythic nation that exists only in the mind. It was no coincidence that the very stage on which Anna first fasted at Jantar Mantar had a map of India shaped in the image of Bharat Mata as the backdrop. It is no coincidence that Anna is a teetotaler given to flogging young men who do not obey him. It is no coincidence that Kejriwal has often shared the stage with an anti-reservation organisation called Youth for Equality. It is no coincidence that the electioneering they are doing is not directed against corruption but the Congress (even if the distinction is sometimes hard to make, it exists). It is no coincidence that Constitutional issues are so readily dismissed by Anna and Kejriwal, who has even anointed Anna above Parliament. It is no coincidence that through the Jan Lokpal Bill, they imagine an ombudsman who would be to the republic what Anna is to Ralegan Siddhi, someone who will whip us all into shape.
Through the twentieth century, this combination—a claim to efficient governance, a mythic father or motherland, a contempt for a certain section of people—has been the mark of fascism. Surprisingly, many of the Left, such as Bhushan himself, have been slow to recognise this. The news that two members of the core committee of Anna’s team, Rajendra Singh and PV Rajagopal, have resigned is no surprise; what is a surprise is that they were part of the committee to begin with, perhaps they were taken in by the rhetoric that is always so seductive to the Left, ‘we must be with the people’. The support extended by the RSS, the overt expressions of sympathy, the covert mobilisation of numbers, the desire to make common cause with Anna, is not some public play at deception and politics, it is the manifestation of a genuine desire to make common cause with a man who has managed to fulfill their aims. Mobilise the people, corner the Congress, and fight to the death for Kashmir (only rhetorically, of course, for in reality the soldiers who die in the fighting are motivated by a far more prosaic professionalism). This only leaves the question of how long people like Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan will survive as part of Anna’s team. Patkar is calling for a repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Everyone knows where Anna will stand on that one, but perhaps his views will become public only once some other organisation sympathetic to the Sangh attacks Patkar. But this is now only a matter of detail. The personal compromises that a Bhushan or a Patkar have had to make with their own views is up to them , what counts is that the attack on Bhushan has opened up the faultlines within the movement and exposed the delusions of those who joined it in the name of ‘liberal’ values.
This does not mean the movement is petering out. The Winter Session of Parliament will see a Lokpal Bill being adopted, but it is unlikely that in its details it will contain all that Anna and Kejriwal have demanded. There will be another fast, there will be more tamasha and television, but what should have been a means of channelling an anger directed against a corrupt government is now turning into a force that the RSS is only bound to welcome.
Hartosh Singh Bal turned from the difficulty of doing mathematics to the ease of writing on politics. Unlike mathematics all this requires is being less wrong than most others who dwell on the subject. He is the Political Editor of Open.
OPen Magazine, 22 October 2011