Rebutting Nilim Dutta’s article on Anna Hazare

Today seems to be a day for a fresh flood of articles about “Team Anna” or the JanLokPal Bill. Rebutting here one by Nilim Dutta. Because he is another thought leader, so fallacies I spot are important to point out, since people have a tendency to accept words of thought leaders without question.

Incidentally, while the article is called “Do we really need Anna Hazare or the Jan Lokpal Bill to fight corruption?” it doesn’t answer this question. The Article is more about Anna’s principles and perceived defects in the proposed bill, but it is entirely possible that a flawed idea may be necessary, and the article doesn’t come to it at all. Which is fine.

The article begins with Gandhi’s principled stand on Satyagraha and non-violence and illustrates it with Gandhi’s outstanding call on stopping the movement at its peak because of the Chauri Chaura incident. I am addressing the second half of the article here.

He makes a mention of serious flaws in the bill pointed out by others. That is not my concern either, since I think the Parliament is well capable of debating flaws.

That the bill is a draconian piece of legislation which was sought to be rammed down the nation’s throat by subterfuge or blackmail is evident from Anna Hazare’s action and hisletter to the Prime Minister on April 6.

An opinion presented as fact. It goes on to look at said letter and asks:

How did it then escape the notice of ‘their eminences’ that this bill, if passed, would end up further subverting whatever little of the Constitutional processes we still have functioning?

This is not a statement, but a question. Or it may be a rhetorical question. However, it is quite evident that a sizeable number of Indians did not see this bill as subverting the Constitutional process, so I don’t understand how this can be a rhetorical question either. “Everybody knows” is a fallacy. It is is entirely possible – indeed likely – that they did not overlook agreeing with the author, but actually see things differently.

Did it not appear repugnant to any of them that the ‘selection’ committee should have “All Nobel Laureates of Indian Origin” or “Last two Magsaysay Award winners of Indian origin”?

Definitely a rhetorical question, assuming something absurd to a large section of the country. What is repugnant about Nobel Laureates of Indian Origin or Last two Magasaysay Award winners of Indian origin? Disagreeing is one thing, repugnance is a visceral reaction and personal. It is unrealistic to expect a country to share your personal reaction to a subject.

Was this to be the shinning example of civil society’s initiative to broaden democracy, or even making the corrupt accountable?

Was Anna Hazare entirely so naïve not to have understood the implications?

I find that hard to believe.

Sarcasm sounds superior, but isn’t an actual measure of anything other than the authors belief in his superior understanding. If this is expected to be accepted as a valid questioning of Anna Hazare, there need to be more facts about what is actually the problem rather than wondering why everyone doesn’t see the problems the author does.

Towards the end of the letter, Anna Hazare does say this:

“What are we asking for? We are not saying that you should accept the Bill drafted by us. But kindly create a credible platform for discussions, a joint committee with at least half members from civil society suggested by us.”

If this wasn’t the bill they were insisting, neigh pressurizing the government to accept, why were they lobbying for it in the first place?

Because they had a concrete idea on what they would like to see happening but were open for dialogue and better ideas? Isn’t that how it usually is when someone comes up with a draft good idea and initiates something important? Why assume a rigidity that has not been shown?

I have a healthy suspicion that the climb down to the position I have just quoted above had to be resorted to because a sizeable section of the civil society, who could not immediately be tarred as corrupt, refused to be swayed and voiced its healthy skepticism not only of the bill but also of the tactics Anna Hazare had resorted to.

Yet another demeaning opinion that is somehow supposed to mean something. If I suspect the author of having been paid to write distractions to add clutter and obstacles to the JanLokPal movement, does that make it right? Even if I think my suspicion is a healthy suspicion? Where is any evidence that any such thing happened?

Because Anna Hazare had the moral authority to galvanize the nation to action against corruption but sought to do it this way, by blackmailing the government to adopt a piece of legislation drafted with dubious motive and even worse, with draconian measures, I reserve my most scathing criticism for him.

The author is from the north east. Not too far, from his place is another place where a woman called Irom Sharmila has been fasting for over a decade. If fasts in themselves were blackmail, she’d either be dead, or the problem solved. Anna’s fast has little psychological value beyond providing an expression of protest. It is a fallacy to think that the blackmail the author perceives comes from there. What the author calls blackmail is the collective anger of a very, very large group of people that threatens absolute anarchy if it is provoked further. It is that which forced the government to form the Joint Committee, not an old man, however inspiring going on a fast.

It is a face saving pretence of many critics of the movement to pretend that it is actually a few stray people using unfair means to hold the government hostage. It is a massive sea of people willing to settle for no less than concrete authority over corruption. The fact of the matter is that the so called dangers of the Lok Pal that are apparently worse than a government gone rogue are visible to only a few without exception only among those who are able to survive efficiently in the current climate. Which is how the government is being “blackmailed”.

If the government is so certain that it is doing right and that it is acting upon its primary responsibility of safeguarding the country and its people’s interests, there should be no problem either forcing an old man to eat, or in letting him starve. The old man, by adhering strictly to a non-violent method of protest is in effect leashing the fury of an entire country, which is either something the author seems unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge. It is the government that has created the force rising against it through its own actions. I fail to see how it is Anna blackmailing the government simply by insisting what is right be done and inspiring so many people that it scares the government. Is there any known threat to the government conveyed by any of these people?

He abandoned the most fundamental Gandhian value, that, no matter how lofty your goal, the means you adopt to achieve it have to be equally principled.

This is an opinion that makes so many assumptions, that I don’t know where to begin. Let me start with saying that just because the protest is Gandhian, or that the author began his article in praise of Gandhi doesn’t mean that how it unfolds must be identical to all Gandhi did. The only other thing I am willing to say on this subject is that yet again, the author seems to call his opinion evidence of the lack of principles in another.

By now, the article is becoming an epic in unsubstantiated allegations and low opinions, and frankly, it is getting difficult to remember why a person’s inability to see good in another must be refuted at all.

Where do you all disappear when a corrupt or a criminal files nomination from your constituency to be elected to the panchayat, municipal board, the state assembly or the Lok Sabha (call me daft but I can’t still figure out how the corrupt gets elected if you are so opposed to corruption)? How many of you refuse to give or take bribes in its myriad forms? How many of you have actually tried taking recourse to the existing laws against corruption, mal practices before profoundly making sweeping statements that the Constitution has failed?

It is extremely likely that I was flirting with the author on Twitter when the above things happened. :p

I am not aware that every person who objects to issues in the government must supervise the entire political process closely. We do have lives and Twitter. This is pretty much why a LokPal is needed, because you really can’t expect citizens to be familiar with all the criminals in the area, and they don’t come asking for votes saying “ok, I have five cases pending against me, but please vote anyway”. And I take up the offer to call the author daft, because duh, politicians have no authority to misuse till they get elected. So yea, when they get elected, they aren’t corrupt, but they are corrupt when they misuse their power. Still can’t figure out?

How many of you refuse to give or take bribes in its myriad forms? How many of you have actually tried taking recourse to the existing laws against corruption, mal practices before profoundly making sweeping statements that the Constitution has failed?

I am not certain if this naiviette or misdirection. There is a difference between civilian corruption related with bribes for getting things done and systematic exploitation of national resources and misuse of authority for personal gain. The first arises from obscure and intimidating processes that allow middlemen to flourish. The second arises from lack of accountability in governance. Not defending any form of corruption, but certainly differentiating between them.

The corruption in daily lives is decreasing and has no impact on corruption in the government, because every citizen of the country being honest and challenging corruption he encounters doesn’t touch the scams happening in closed offices at all. Using available means of dealing with corruption doesn’t include filing police complaints against leaders. Not to mention that it can actually be life threatening as many have found out the hard way. Why should an individual be asked to take such massive effort and risk and an institution avoided? It is absurd to make one a required clause for creating means for addressing the other as though there is some procedural problem otherwise.

If you haven’t tried and exhausted all of those, your fight against corruption riding piggyback on Anna Hazare and wishing a Lokpal constituted under the Jan Lokpal will bring you deliverance, amounts to abdicating your Constitutional responsibilities to some dubious authority with extraordinary powers, so that you can gleefully go back to your self-centered middle class cocoon with the pretense of having done your duty to the nation.

Go on a hunger strike every time a corrupt candidate seeks election from your constituency. Shame him to withdrawal with candle light vigils. Refuse to give or take bribes. And when you see officials and public servants indulging in corruption, have the guts to take action. There are enough existing laws to do that.

More ranting.

Those who think its too much trouble doesn’t have the moral authority to even light a candle against corruption.

I don’t think personal judgments are useful to you, me or our country.

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Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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