When words that convey extreme contempt are used, they ought to be used with responsibility, if at all they must be used. For, is not telling people what to think an insult to their ability to reach conclusions?
This post is about an article by Sujata Anandan where she essentially calls Anna Hazare a Tin-pot dictator and condemns his dictatorial policies. I would like to address several things in her article.
Flogging of alcoholics
As the wife of an alcoholic and an occasional drinker myself, I see drinking alcohol and alcoholism as two different things with little in common other than the consumption of alcoholic beverages. For example, a regular drinker could comfortably visit Ralegan Siddhi to cover this epic news and have a drink later after returning home. An alcoholic would travel to the nearest town to find a bar, try to wriggle out of the assignment altogether, sneak in his bottle or finish it fast and return to an environment where alcohol is possible.
You cannot reason with an alcoholic. I mean, you can, but it becomes irrelevant when it is time to drink. It is also not only about the mind. The body forms a dependency and doesn't function properly without alcohol - this is how "medical licences" for alcohol happen.
It takes what many recovered alcoholics call "hitting rock bottom" or overwhelming and undeniable bad consequences for an alcoholic to undertake the overwhelming effort to fight his/her own body and mind to quit. Most alcoholics go to their graves without ever attempting this fight. Others try, lose momentum and lapse.
In other news, while drinking alcohol may be a personal choice, alcoholism is a social, economic and security menace. Alcoholism is almost always associated with domestic abuse - not even because the person is evil, but he is simply too drunk to care that others hurt because of him, and he always wants things his way, because he is too drunk to deal with anything. They destroy domestic relationships, make enemies out of friends, deprive dependents - particularly children or resources that should rightfully be theirs for nurture.
Alcoholics will buy alcohol no matter what. It isn't a multiple choice question, unless you are talking which brand. They will switch to cheaper brands, dubious quality, spend their last dime, borrow, steal, prostitute themselves or their wives, whatever it takes to get their quota. It is a compulsion. Alcoholism itself is a dictatorship.
Drunk drivers on the streets are a risk to more lives than their own.
I don't see alcoholism as a personal choice, if it damages other people. It is far worse than say exposing people to passive smoke.
While I don't agree with the method of flogging, as someone who has read extensively on alcoholism, I can see how a rural environment lacks absolutely any leverage that is "legal" to prevent this damage to families. For a population of alcoholics amounting in the millions, we barely have enough affordable support for de-addiction in cities. Leave alone villages. Obviously, there is a point where you either bend rules, or watch many people suffer the consequences of one person's alcoholism. Would I have done it the same way? I don't know.
But this is far from a dictatorship. In focusing that Anna "sometimes" flogs alcoholics, it is easy to overlook who is doing it other times. Sure, it is human rights abuse according to fancy, imported ethics. So where are the facilities that an alcoholic can be arrested and rehabilitated if found in a village where alcohol is banned? Is it more "human rights" friendly to get an alcoholic arrested, likely beaten by the cops instead, accommodated in some prison while the country's over burdened system waits for his case comes to court? Or should this glorious Sharad Pawar experiment be ignored - I thought she liked it, but it shouldn't be enforced?
Power to women to close down liquor shops
A little more research would have told this writer that this isn't an experiment by Sharad Pawar, it was an ammendment to the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 - her tin-pot dictator Anna Hazare is the one to demand it. Ralegaon Siddhi was the model on which the conditions were developed for banning liquor based on a vote by the women of a village - very dictatorial, huh? Nice style, calling him a tin-pot dictator, and attributing the result of his appeal as an experiment by someone else. It is obviously an article written by a gushing fan, but the facts stand there. Also the RTI, etc.
Banning alcohol and cigarettes
I smoke and drink, but as a citizen of a democracy, I also recognize the right of that village and its elected body for self-determination. With the number of people who smoke and drink, I don't think it is something that can be imposed by some freak dictator on the majority.
Which brings me to - this is the second mention of youth running away from Ralegan Siddhi rather than bear "dikkats". I only want to point out that with all the publicity the village got, as well as the massive mud slinging efforts mobilized, it should have been relatively simple to interview a few of those youth about the tortures they escaped. Surprisingly, months along, I'm still searching news for this epic article that would kill all support for Anna among youth, etc.
That said, I was a staunch supporter of the IAC movement, but I see it drifting away from the things about it I supported. However, this doesn't mean that our national sport of mud slinging is a good idea, and this is one big reason media today cannot be trusted for information in order to form your opinion. You are fed conclusions.
Thus, when an editor chose to do this, I thought why not debunk it, for no reason other than I value the freedom of thought and oppose vilifying anyone?