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News media quoted Anna Hazare criticizing the Modi government on not fulfilling its promises re black money and Lokpal Bill. Here is a quote from January 29th, 2015 - Indian Express:

“Before he became the PM, Modi had promised to deposit Rs 15 lakh in every Indian’s account by bringing back black money. It has been eight months but none has got even Rs 15. Modi has refused to utter a word on black money and Lokpal appointment. There’s a huge difference between what Modi says and what he does,” he said, adding that he would soon launch a protest in Delhi against the central government.

Two days later, this ad is on the front page of the Indian Express (New Delhi edition). What appears to be a BJP campaign advertisement targeting Kejriwal also shows a photograph of Anna Hazare with a garland in the background. In India, a garlanded photograph has a specific symbolism - death. Photographs of living people are not garlanded as per Hindu belief.

Delhi, 30 January, 2015 Indian Express Frontpage
Delhi, 30 January, 2015 Indian Express Frontpage

Given that Anna Hazare has little to do with Arvind Kejriwal or his political party "Aam Aadmi Party", there appears to be no reason for Anna Hazare to be in the image - alive or dead. Nor does the text of the advertisement indicate any relevance.

BJP advertisement showing a garlanded photo of Anna Hazare
BJP advertisement showing a garlanded photo of Anna Hazare

Which leaves the mind troubled given the symbolism of the garland on the photo, and the position of the photo behind Arvind Kejriwal. It appears to be yet another of our government's menacing (but politically not incorrect) messages.

 

Update: Anna Hazare has said that he will complain to the Election Commission and file an FIR against BJP for the advertisement that shows a garland on his photograph. Here are screenshots from Total TV and AajTak. I will add links to videos as they become available.

Anna Hazare will complain against BJP to the Election Commission
Anna Hazare will complain against BJP to the Election Commission
Anna Hazare will file an FIR against BJP for cartoon showing a garland on his photo
Anna Hazare will file an FIR against BJP for cartoon showing a garland on his photo

 

Anna will complain to election commission about BJP
Anna will complain to election commission about BJP

2

Arvind Kejriwal made a small speech hinting at a resignation. The last two days have festered with the bjp and Congress nuisance over the Janlokpal bill. Dr Harshvardhan keeps parroting to media that bjp supports the Janlokpal Bill "100%", but for some strange reason, expresses that support as voting against the bill being tabled.

The last two days have seen rowdiness in the Assembly in attempts to oppose the tabling of a bill they committed to support. Torn papers, broken microphones and a surrounded speaker make a mockery of Dr Harshvardhan's claim of 100% support. Either he is lying or has no control over his MLAs.... or this is BJP's idea of support.

MLAs surrounding speaker in Delhi Assembly
MLAs surrounding speaker in Delhi Assembly after Arvind Kejriwal tabled the Janlokpal Bill.

Kejriwal was predictably upset and hinted at resigning.

We came here with no experience
We were hoping to learn from the senior and more experienced members here
Disappointed with everything I have seen so far
Mikes were broken, papers were torn
(on interruptions) I have listened to you without interrupting, now please give me a chance to speak
I read the Constitution, but I didn't find anywhere that it is alright to rip papers, and break mikes in Assembly
It is being said that we have done something unconstitutional. The Constitution does not mention anywhere that the Centre's permission is needed.
Mukesh Ambani gives donation to Congress and bjp
If we hadn't gone against Ambani, this scene would not have been created in the Assembly
bjp and Congress have together looted the residents of Delhi
I will make 1000 sacrifices to fight corruption
We will fight on the streets
We are not here to save our government, but to save the nation from corruption
This seems like our last session

What was amazing on Twitter was the euphoria. One would imagine a party stalled at every turn to be more bitter. Indeed that is what we have come to expect from parties thwarted. Not AAP. There were accusations and sarcasm flying both ways. What was missing was any sense of defeat.

It reminded me of the days before the Delhi elections when media and politics were ranged against the Aam Aadmi Party, and people were murmuring about "at least they will have tried". But the Aam Aadmi Party supporters were confident of their support base among the voters. None of the media coverage or the political accusations could shake their confidence in their leaders or the results they were expecting.

I see that happen again today. Kejriwal's accusation of the Congress and bjp being obstructive because of the FIR against Mukesh Ambani is true as far as I am concerned. I see it reflected in the media bias, in the dug up histories, in the accusations of horrendous crime for things that would seem child's play in comparison with what the accusers defend routinely. It is enough. It is time to strengthen that confidence with some more of the same.

Enough of the greed, the power hoarders, their puppet media and puppeteer corporations. These cartels need to be demolished if India is to have a future. Whether it is with AAP or more hopes emerging when the suffocating control is gone.

This time around, I'm not going to be foolish enough to dismiss it as merely idealistic optimism. The Aam Aadmi Party is proving relentless and committed under the leadership of Kejriwal and this time around, I  expect and know that they are going to demolish that "feeding frenzy of kleptocracy".

1

Fascinating views from Ramlila Maidan. Aam Aadmi Party members arrived without any fuss, swearing in witnessed by their beloved crowds, packed full, with people sitting on each other's laps in the audience.

The simplicity of the moment is profound in its beauty.

My comments on Aam Aadmi Party’s swearing in today.

So, Day 1 of Aam Aadmis in power is done. Kal kya gul khilayega?

Wishing Aam Aadmi Party all the best. May the capital lead the nation.

Monday will be the big day for electricity, I guess. Delhi should expect power cuts if a rampaging power sector decides to hold their needs hostage to prevent AAP slashing prices.

In other news, Arvinder Lovely has asked Congress politicians to quit from boards of various government bodies. And the AAP government isn’t a day old yet. Turmoil in corridors of power. The sulks and sneers cover a far more desperate struggle to cover up, retain control or at least stay out of jail?

Less than 6 hours after swearing in as Chief Minister of Delhi and assigning portfolios to his Cabinet, Kejriwal has removed the CEO of Delhi Jal Board, and all I can say is I am quite delighted, considering that I detest those World Bank puppets playing power games with people’s water.

Some Strange views about Aam Aadmi Party

Predictions of doom and gloom

While the BJP and Congress supporters are predictably sulky, what is surprising is the number of people who think the Aam Aadmi Party may not be good at governing. That they will somehow ruin everything achieved so far by putting unsustainable stress on services they are aiming to revamp and so on.

I have no idea where this belief comes from, since, the Aam Aadmi Party may have little experience of politics, but the one thing it does know is how the country runs, with its abundant resource of bureaucrats, RTI activists, lawyers and more. Further, AAP is calling for audits, not dismantling.

If the audit does not show areas that can be improved, then that is that, yes?

So this panic with the open letters and what nots really makes little sense.

People think Aam Aadmi Party is a media invention that catapulted stupid people into power because media was bored .... or something.

Or perhaps our comprehension of what can be respected is so warped by a gloss selling media, that ordinary looking people don't appear to be competent to us. So the idea that a group of people with neither the visible flaunting of power of the typical political class, nor the dazzle of the media class, cannot possibly be clever seems to be the assumption.

What people fail to notice is that it isn't a joke to bring a party from birth to power in one year. No matter how much media helps you. Not to mention that our media is highly disinclined to help anyone that doesn't pay for it. If you look to the information rather than the packaging are that Kejriwal is an excellent strategist. Be it the harnessing of popular discontent, or the choosing of the identity of the party as "them" - the Aam Aadmi - the common man.

If you look at the deliberately planned and execution campaign, it is not so difficult to see that beyond idealism over the country being governed as it deserves, there is an extremely shrewd mind ensuring that these messages reach people in a manner they will embrace.

The humble requests for funds. Candidates no one had heard of, till they got selected. The election symbol. The cozy sabhas in neighbourhoods with space for people's voices rather than shows of grandeur. The refusal of elite perks. The swearing in being accessible and witnessed by the common man. The MLAs who traveled by public transport, and wore ordinary clothes. The works.

It doesn't just speak of a determination to represent people as one of them, which it certainly does, it speaks of communication skills that convey that camaraderie to the people in a manner they recognize as one of their own.

Scam exposes, public declarations, demands - all official communication has been extremely specific and unambiguous. Neither the sign of one lacking competence, or that of one lacking the confidence to use it. There would be plenty of glossy corporates wondering if they could bottle this talent in an MBA and purchase it to up customer loyalty.

Do not confuse ordinary looks for stupidity.

Without a clear majority, Kejriwal will not be able to fulfill his promises

Well, the population at large is not stupid. They know that without a majority, the Aam Aadmi Party's ability to deliver is compromised. At the end of the day, the list of promises becomes irrelevant if people experience significant improvements in their satisfaction with the government and enough promises are visibly fulfilled without a PR team having to point them out.

Also, there are many things AAP doesn't need a majority to achieve. As we speak, Kejriwal has removed the CEO of Delhi Jal Board, and 8 other officials. Even if the government falls, they cannot exactly be brought back without explanation, so that is one change, that has happened within 6 hours of him swearing in.

As long as AAP gives it all they have to rapidly deliver positive changes and accountability, even if they go down fighting, all that will happen in reelection is a magnificent majority that allows them to achieve the rest. And the journey is on.  And the meter is down.

There is no way AAP can succeed by destroying everything

Some seem to think that even if AAP is doing the right thing, doing it all at once will make the country unstable. Frankly, I think what AAP is doing is so outside our experience that we don't have precedents for it. The doom and gloom predictions have been around forever, right from the Jan Lokpal Andolan, and they haven't come true yet.

The party was formed, it got funds, it campaigned, it got opportunity to form government, it formed minority government, Center passed a hasty Lokpal bill and it has already started attacking corruption where it sees it.

Each of these steps was technically unstable without a background or any powerbase that enjoyed impunity. Against all logic, it happened. The core team was confident it could, it seeked the support it needed, and converted it into results.

In my view, without a precedent for what happens if rapid changes are made, perhaps we can trust the precedent of people who have been delivering against odds anyway.

1

The freedom of speech and expression is said to be the mother of all liberties. This right is recognized as a basic human right and is a constitutional guarantee in India.

Unlike the United Sates constitution, the freedom of the press is not found expressly mentioned in the Indian constitution. However, ‘press freedom’ has been culled out by the Indian judiciary as the country needs an informed citizenry. An informed and educated polity is essential for a healthy and vibrant democracy.

However, the power and duty to sell news is vested in the hands of a few groups. News can be suppressed and manipulated by these groups. The reporting can be biased and selective.

People - The Supreme Power

This country belongs to its people. The people are supreme. The opening words of the Indian constitution “We, the people” speaks volumes about it. The people of this country want a change. There is a huge expectation from the leaders and political class of this country. There is anger, disappointment and frustration as regards the state of affairs in the country.

Last year, the country witnessed the civil society coming out voluntarily in large numbers seeking a strong Lokpal bill to end corruption. It was the youth of this country who supported and participated in the movement. They used the internet and social media to plan and organize this massive movement.

The Lokpal campaign, made the government realize that news can no longer be hidden. Issues which the main stream media ignored and suppressed were discussed and debated on the social media networks. The movement demonstrated the power of social media. Undoubtedly, Internet and social media has empowered the people. It has given a voice to voiceless.

The country wants the ‘corrupt’ and ‘criminals’ out of its governance system. The country wants the ‘right to call back’ the non-performing representatives. The ‘Young India’, which constitutes the largest chunk of the population, think and discuss over the internet. Internet and social media networks have provided a platform for the youth of this country to connect and communicate. They are building hopes and aspirations of a better future. They are positive and optimistic of a better tomorrow.

The people have the right to know and the freedom to think, discuss, debate and criticize. They have a right to agree and disagree on issues.

We find reflections of all these thoughts on the internet and social media.

Free speech on the Internet

Art. 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Internet has been recognized as a human right by the United Nations. Some nations have even recognized the right to internet as a fundamental right.

While the internet provides the facility for every person to speak his mind and engage in a dialogue, the Indian Government has devised a strategy of ‘invisible censorship’ to curb discussions on the internet. The government has introduced laws to arbitrarily block, ban and censor content. The corrupt ones in power fear the internet. Yes, and that’s how it should be. The people should not fear the government; instead the government should fear the people.

The country has been protesting against the undemocratic internet rules for more than a year now. (Read here and here) The international hacker collective, Anonymous in its phase II operation, (Read #OpRTI) has urged citizens to file applications under the right to information Act, 2005 and bring out every possible detail of the censoring activity taking place.

The fight for freedom of speech on the internet is a fight against the current establishment controlled by a few groups. The recognition of this right will transform every citizen into a publisher and broadcaster. The people are going to reign supreme and enjoy democracy in its real meaning.

The lassitude and lethargy on the part of the government in recognizing this right is thus understandable.

Shojan Jacob is an advocate. He holds a post graduation in Cyber Laws and Information security. He has challenged the internet censorship rules in the Kerala High Court. Read more on that Here and Here

4

It was with much admiration that I had raised my voice in support of Anna when he first articulated my frustration with the government. It seemed like a David versus Goliath folly, yet there he was, ready to fast in protest of corruption. He and his team had a draft of a Lokpal Bill. It would create an ombudsman with the power to investigate and prosecute corruption among the elected politicians. Quixotic and astonishingly ambitious, I was certain it would fail, yet I stood firm by them.

And many, many, many did. There were protests all over, everywhere. Insane numbers of people dropping what they were doing to land up at protest locations and spend time sitting in the sun and protesting. Film personalities, public figures, activists, religious leaders and even political parties fell over themselves in alignment with what was very obviously a massive demand from the people.

It was astonishingly powerful and even took Team Anna unawares. The movement was going good.

From then to now has been a slippery slope of eroded focus.

Much of it was deliberate and orchestrated by the government. Personal attacks in the form of accusations against team members, fabricated allegations of corruption, exposes of previous misconduct of the team members...

Yet, it is my belief that a movement as massive as this cannot be killed from the outside. It takes self-destruction.

And self-destruct they did. What they failed to realize was that their support was largely derived from frustration over the scams and the UPA/Congress lack of any self-policing without pressure. While they criticized this, the movement was tightly focused, with a singular objective. Their stated non-alignment was unnecessary at that point, but appreciated anyway.

Somewhat at the prompting of the government and media, but willingly enough, they criticized some entities, disowned others and started voicing opinions on everything. The media wants sensation, and they were it. The government wanted them to spread their resources too thin. However, their supporters found themselves defending too many statements of theirs not related with the task at hand. They were all over the place and overloading people following them attentively with irrelevant stuff. Still other supporters found their own core alignments criticized and disengaged.

This was lowered support, but still not the end of the world. They could have self-assessed and self-corrected, or even openly accepted criticism and acted on it to become more coherent and focused. On the contrary, they chose to become larger than life, using the credibility of the powerful movement to air own opinions - again on a variety of things not related with the main task.

Further power games followed including totally inexplicable forays into election campaigning, canvassing opinions in electorates of specific government personalities, whatever. Like I said, too much clutter. People started tuning them out.

The more this was pointed out or criticized, the more they refused to reflect or respond and the more reactive they became. A classic instance was the Kiran Bedi and inflated bills issue. It is a common enough occurrence and really all that was needed was admitting that it was not ethical and not doing it again and following whatever resolution was issued. We do many things we don't register as corruption, but the important thing is what we do after it is brought to our awareness.

The adamant insistence that it was not wrong was a major milestone in the destruction of the IAC's credibility.

Anna is probably the only one of the lot who seemed to be aware of this and he made several attempts to refuse to comment or take vows of silence, but not enough. Too many thoughtless comments still happened. Kejriwal and Bedi were totally oblivious to the impact of their words.

This also gave strength to the government, because when you are criticizing too many things all the time, it becomes your quality rather than a thought out comment on something.

Contrary to what people imagine, speaking in public is very easy once you have started. The high of all the attention and questions keep you going indefinitely. The real difficulty comes in knowing when to not speak. When and how to disengage and create boundaries without alienating people. It is something that comes from experience and introspection.

Admittedly, these mistakes are easy to make, and holding the space for a diverse group of people to feel an ownership is one of the most incredibly difficult tasks that can face a leader.

The sudden and unexpected response to the Andolan also put Team Anna well beyond their own leadership abilities, and I think much of the arrogance came from the spontaneous perception of being massively right that a large following creates. It was a lack of humility and disrespect for those they chose to judge that compounded matters, but these too are human qualities. We all have them to some point or the other.

I do respect them for the stand they are taking and their determination to forge ahead no matter what. It is easy to criticize, but an enduring courage of conviction is an admirable commitment in itself.

I do believe that a Lokpal can serve a functional role in our country. I do know that there is risk of corruption there too, but then with this logic, we can't create anything. I think it is admirable the way in which they have evaluated inputs and arrived at what they believe are the optimal conditions for a Lokpal. Some compromises are going to be necessary, but they begin with a starting point that is well researched, and theirs is certainly that.

I also don't think all is lost for Team Anna. It is possible for them to become low key and keep their words in public strictly true to their purpose. Those listening will notice, and there is still a following that believes in the original purpose even if they lost focus later - like them.

I think that the time has come for the Lokpal to be robustly debated and there are no people who have thought on this subject more than the IAC. Their public comments will also influence thought whether accompanied by threats or not.

I think, they should do quiet support groups rather than protests. They should explore the power of data by presenting in their gatherings data and statistics that support their stand on different issues under debate in the Parliament. There is no need to fast. Follow the Lokpal debate carefully and comment on what they see going wrong or what they think needs to happen. Offer their considerable expertise and thinking for consideration, but accept whatever the Parliament finally comes up with. Their commentary will reach ears that matter. Their epic struggle has ensured that. The quietening of rhetoric will allow thinking space and the Lokpal will gain from that.

Today, they stand at a point where a ground booked for large crowds saw a few hundred supporters - there was a time when that many were in my locality alone. I do think that many factors conspired to the poor turnout - the holiday season, when people schedule special time with families; debates happening in the parliament on the Lokpal Bill - which actually would keep analytical and vocal supporters and home and glued to television screens BECAUSE they support; the cricket match which is another strong passion for most Indians - that too with Sachin's hundredth century on the horizon... that is some really tough competition for attendance.

I also have a feeling that the Lokpal debate got delayed by the government precisely to hit this time frame, but I have no proof, except observations of multidimensional dis-empowering being a recurring pattern with the government.

While I too had moved away from them when they derailed, there is a part of me that still admires them, appreciates their courage and the service they are doing to the country by doing everything they can to create an ombudsman that will be as effective as possible.

One thing is certain that without them, not only would we not be debating a Lokpal Bill (which is something many would prefer), but we also wouldn't have seen this massive political awareness and galvanization of the country and the willingness to have a stake in contributing to its future that we see among citizens.

Whatever happens to the Lokpal bill, this is one unmatched service they have already done to the country - got citizens thinking that it is possible to have a hand in shaping the destiny of their country in a legitimate manner. They have successfully given shape and maturity to the volcano of civil fury that was smoldering and given it an outlet that is non-violent and believes in shaping the country rather than overpowering it.

Today, I am a little nostalgic at the subdued closure of the fast. I want them to know that I appreciate all they have done, and whether they succeed in having a further influence, or fail, I acknowledge that they have done much for India.