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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.

4

I began with full hearted support for the Jan Lokpal movement. Somewhere down the line, as the politics deteriorated from a people's movement to a movement led by individuals, I lost interest. I was also turned off by equally dirty blackmail tactics from IAC.

Later, as the government played its very predictable hand of sabotage and delay, I stopped supporting it completely, because I think the IAC went wrong.

In my eyes, the IAC had a responsibility of upholding the trust the people had invested in it. This also means delivering results. By the time the JAC failed, it was beyond evident that the government had no intention of allowing itself to be monitored by a Lokpal. Even if one were made, it would be toothless. IF one were made.

I think, this was the point where the IAC lost its advantage in grandstanding. It had the attention of the country, political parties were speaking up in support, non political organizations were speaking in support, religious organizations, corporate organizations.... they were strong.

Instead of using this strength to evaluate their situation and rapidly move toward consolidating the Lokpal - by whatever way, including influencing unseating the government and negotiating with a more favorable new one - it chose to make grand gestures.

It took the government at its word - after it had been already broken. It stuck toward a massive power play of forcing an elected government toward signing its own death warrant. The most polite word to describe this is unrealistic. I am not even saying unconstitutional, because for it to be unconstitutional, it has to exist.

In another article, I have described that the inherent power of its constitutional role makes an elected government virtually indestructible in a long drawn battle for power. While the challenger has to have massive quantities of power, all the government has to do to win is waste time. There was no way this would work beyond the initial surprise phase, which was squandered in patronizing the government rather than pursuing the goal.

We see the government doing the survival thing at the cost of the country's agenda. Important bills are getting ignored while the parliament is merrily adjourned, extra-curricular adventures in censorship are attempted (which failed to waste much time), another controversial bill is rammed down the country's collective throat, and such things.

On the other hand, the Lokpal bill is further weakened to the extent that it will never be agreed on, it introduces an extremely controversial subject of minorities and is highly unlikely to be passed by the Supreme Court. Even if by some miracle, all this got sorted out in time, it would sit hatching eggs, because what needs to be passed first is a Constitutional Amendment bill, which needs the majority of 2/3 of the Parliament. It too is designed in a way that will result in differences of opinion and is near impossible to be passed with a 2/3rd majority.

In other words, fast or lose, the Lokpal Bill has been successfully flatlined - regardless of what happens with the fast beginning tomorrow. It has been properly tangled in processes and dependencies so that it will not happen and there is absolutely no need for anyone to play bad guy. The government cannot be proved wrong if the process takes the time it does. Pressuring a parliament for not being able to agree is so not going to wash in a constitutional democracy.

In the meanwhile, vital debate on the Food Bill is distracted. No clue what's up with the Beyond crucial Whistleblowers bill (another bill that isn't of much interest to power mis-brokers).

There is YET another back up plan. There is a multi-pronged war against freedom of speech on the internet in the name of religious or communally offensive content. The government already has powers to remove content claimed of being inflamatory on complaint alone - valid or not. It is going a step further to try to force social media to censor content. When Kapil Sibal did his famous stunt and earned much outrage, it didn't end, it has shifted to courts, where a journalist has very conveniently filed a complaint to ban offensive content that has resulted in summons to 19 social media organizations.

Establishing this kind of control will be a big tool to dampen matters when the LokPal Bill is not passed. IF it comes to that.

What should they have done? Focused on creating conditions based on reading the government's intent - which was kind of blatant, and they did read it. It is beyond irresponsibility as the leadership of a movement to watch it being sabotaged and tell the media clearly when and how it is being sabotaged, but do nothing beyond telling government to not sabotage it.

At that time, they should have engaged with opposition and other parties, done the revolution thing, brought down government, and made their Lokpal with a new and favorable government - which wouldn't be thrilled about it either, but at least it wouldn't be fighting for survival.

Or they could have gone the Subramanian Swamy route - legally file cases and prove guilt of enough people to either bring the government down, or force better standards.

Or, they should have settled for a compromise on the Lokpal Bill, got a Lokpal in existence so that its value could be understood, as well as the needs handicapping it and agitated again to strengthen it as needed based on functioning data.

I don't think perfection exists. The path to Nirvana is in continuous improvement.

This stalemate has got an old man with viral fever fasting in the cold for a bill already sabotaged unless an exceptional response is had for the agitation, which isn't looking very likely at this minute. The demand is still for a government which is in a far better position now than when it agreed to the JPC to create a bill intended to target it as an enemy of the state.

Why do I not support? Because I don't like pissing contests - ever. No matter between whom. I think they are a lose lose proposition. I don't feel all excited to hear the same old stories about government intent, and I don't like anyone telling me what to think. Kejriwal and Bedi included. So I am not interested.

At the same time, I respect the epic effort this is, and the unprecedented stand made by the common man in support. If anything deserves to win, this is it. If the IAC wins and we do get a Lokpal, I will definitely cheer.

PS: I think fears of an autonomous Lokpal being a dangerous thing are highly over rated, but that is another post.

4

The Lokpal debate is the rage all over again, and the clutter being thrown into the thinking is escalating. It suits many, because the less people are able to think, the easier it is to sell them a nice sounding conclusion.

There are three chief camps around the Lokpal. The first is the India Against Corruption and other supporters of one version of the Lokpal. The second is the government version of the Lokpal. The third is the ones who are still mentally parked in a time before the government committed to creating a Lokpal, so they don't want any Lokpal, regardless of current situation. Apart from these, small number of people want a Lokpal, but have serious concerns about both versions.

First, I want to put aside those who don't want a Lokpal, since that doesn't currently seem to be an option, with the IAC and government - the two main voices - certain about creating one. It is sad that these voices are irrelevant, because they were the ones who raised some of the most important concerns and could be really useful in ensuring that important concerns are not ignored. Anyhow, this is the lobby currently spending time insulting Anna Hazare and Government both, but more Anna Hazare because he opened this can of worms.

Putting them aside, because they aren't currently up to anything useful, though they probably are the loudest chatter.

The next is the Government. Frankly, the government is the largest part of the problem with its continuing lack of coherence on this subject, which pretty much killed a vital debate on whether we need a Lokpal or not. I say this, because if they had addressed the initial protests in a mature manner, there would have been a possibility for addressing important concerns with reform - which is probably what most anti-Lokpal people were recommending. Instead, the government choose to use suppression, ad hominem attacks and power games in an attempt to out-power the movement. They completely failed, and still fail to understand the "human" concerns bringing the Andolan power.

The superficial pretense that the concern is about corruption is accepted and to avoid any examination of these concerns, the band aid of agreement to creating a Lokpal is slapped on it. Their actions continue with the same disregard and lack of willingness to introspect and apologize. Congress President Sonia Gandhi's speech to Congress MPs took a tone of being unfairly targetted in spite of having done many things and attempted to hold the opposition wholly responsible for obstructions in the process of the parliament. Like the government is a small child that can be stopped from doing its job when it really wants to.

Yet the "action against scams" that the government is peddling as proof was forced by the supreme court and sabotaged by the government at every chance. People remember. People are not stupid. This PR stunt is backfiring.

The lack of understanding of the eroded trust base that drives some of the more "objectionable demands" of the JanLokPal, or rather the unwillingness to look at them is a large part of the problem. While looking at them will be damaging to the Government's image, pretending they don't exist will only prevent any solutions from addressing them, and escalate the power struggle till a thoughtless and more extreme step is taken.

A case in point being the CBI. Tehelka has this shining list of 50 cases where the CBI has been misused for political fun and profit. Fifty is no small number to be published as a list of misuse of power. In another article Kunal Majumder speaks with Former CBI director Trinath Mishra and RTI activist Nikhil Dey on the subject of the decision to keep the CBI out of RTI purview without any consultation with the public. B Raman also mentions in a tweet that the last major review of performance of CBI was done by Shah Commission under Morarji in 1978-79. In the meanwhile NDTV quotes CBI Sources saying "We would have been better off with the Lokpal".

What credibility does it leave the government that while it can create reforms for the Judiciary, it will not do so for the CBI, it will not allow CBI to exit its control (either autonomous or under Lokpal), it has made no major evaluations of performance either and it will not open Right To Information access to the CBI either. Sonia Gandhi complained about people continuing to accuse Congress of corruption, but would she allow any other party such opacity if she were in the opposition? And if she would, would that be in the interest of the country anyway?

Alas, the governments inability to both introspect itself as well as accept the suggestions of another creates a stalemate and escalates this conflict unnecessarily. All it serves to achieve is lose ground for negotiable options as it hurtles toward an inevitable capitulation. This has been the pattern all through to the extent that most of media being critical of the Lokpal after the first phase now has people speaking up recommending that Anna fight hard to wrest control of the CBI from the government - Anna, please get angry. CBI needs to be out of government clutches.

This senseless rigidity has created a trust deficit with the government and left Team Anna with a virtual monopoly to claims of ethical design of the Lokpal. Not because it's draft is better, but because there is no one with credibility to debate with.

The IAC is in a concerning place. Its initial surge of popular support was enough to bring the government to its knees. However the extended duration of the protest and the unwise shift to highlighting individuals as leaders rather than the movement as a public movement together have eroded a large part of their support. Those leaders further being embroiled in controversy have raised questions about their credibility and concerns of misuse of power among those already opposed or even somewhat supportive earlier.

Another dysfunctional area is the uncompromising nature of demands and judgments about the government if they are not met. This antagonizes many, as disagreement is not the same as mal-intent, and disallowing disagreement is the mark of a dictatorship. Other problems with this intolerance are the resulting lack of flexibility to negotiate, ability to assimilate new influences and refine the demands and the association of correctness or legitimacy with own demand that turns the perception compromise from mature solution finding to a loss of face. In essence it is the exact same problem as the government. Too much rigidity making "break" more possible than "make".

Whether a worthy cause or not, bending an elected government to will can only be done for so long, post which, the challenger's "sins against democracy" start piling up and eroding legitimacy. There is a fine line between protest and a hostage situation, and signatures made with a loaded gun at the head are easy to negate later - no matter how "right" that coercion was. This will not help the country.

The need of the hour is to move beyond this issue and think of the functionality. We have had many amendments in our history, and rather than a stalemate, it might be wise to pass certain aspects and see how they work and the kind of resources or changes that are further needed and collect concrete data for deliberation in next session.

Though some things must be done this time itself. The government needs to let go of the CBI. This is very important, as the CBI is losing credibility and functionality like this. Political parties need to accept that the new reality is that there is resistance to using government resources for political party intentions. They need to see that this is the best for the country and lead the change to a better reality than lose all credibility in preventing it.

Autonomy for the CBI would have perhaps been better, but the space for that deliberation is already lost in the earlier irresponsible behavior. With a decision facing the Lokpal, and this being an important demand, the government has not been able to convince on why they should retain control of the CBI, nor do they have any agenda for its independent empowerment. Creating one now will only be seen a political gaming and will likely anger many. However, there are other ways than these absolute ones too, which should be considered in the little time they have remaining. Regardless of who controls, there is a need for detailed evaluation and well designed reforms, and space should be kept within the decision for these to be initiated at earliest.

Other suggestions have included separation of administrative and operational control, more empowered autonomy, etc. time should be spent on these.

At the same time, Team Anna needs to see that admirable and historical as their effort is, the more specific they get with their demands, the less people will demand the exact same in support. Unlike the elected government, they do not have the legitimacy to use their judgment of what people want and on specific matters, the support base narrows considerably. The need for the hour is to pick battles, negotiate others, postpone some, and lose some.

For example, the PM not being under the Lokpal is not the end of the world. The creation of the Lokpal and the powers it does have is a landmark. If indeed a PM is corrupt, the Lokpal still has the power to bring down all associated, or even amend in the future to add more powers once the utility of such power is experienced in action rather than theory. Perhaps it may turn out to be not such a big issue. Perhaps it may prove vitally necessary, but we will at least be talking with facts in hand.

The important thing is to identify the powers needed to make the Lokpal viable - even with a narrowed scope, so that it may exist as an entity and become a pillar we know, respect and defend. Like this, we will be able to evolve rather than create a monument that is supported by a few and opposed by others. Also the many who are still debating its existence itself can be reconciled to it as a feature of our country and then be engaged to refine our effectiveness as the new whole.

1

I suspect the coming period till the passing of the Lokpal Bill is going to show us the ugly side of our government as we have never seen before. Already it is becoming increasingly evident that dirty is the only way they know how to deal. One would think that a nationwide struggle calling them to task would also encourage some humility or at the very least introspection about where they lost so much trust from the people. Apparently, no go.

The Lokpal movement has been plagued with slander. And it only is a demonstration of the versatility of the governments sheer capacity to produce garbage. What they seem to have missed out on totally is that this isn't the Loksabha to make a National Sport out of mud slinging and insult trading and foot dragging and overall competition for who can sabotage the interest of the country the most with cheap attention seeking. Here, they are faced with their bosses and we are not in a mood for crap. They can do this the easy way, or the hard way, but I'm willing to bet that the country will erupt in flames if they sabotage the bill. People want it to happen. People want their country back.

If the politicians are still unable to recognize this, it shows how little they understand, care or are used to gauging the mood and needs of the people they claim to lead.

It is beyond shameful to see our politicians so utterly shameless that after a year of scams hitting headlines, endless sagas of outright theft from the country they are showing so much concern about, after the country rising up to face them down, they still continue to make totally brazen attacks on the civil members of the committee. What they don't realize is that what seems a normal mode of operations for them is garish and obvious.

What they don't 'get' is:

I want to end loot of public resources in my country and am standing up to see it done along with whoever is standing.

I don't believe the allegations against the civil members. Most people used to reading newspapers don't either.

The allegations are being refuted.

Even if they are proven true, the Lokpal Bill is still the demand of the country and I am committed to Anna's timeline. If it is overshot for any reason, I'm willing to come out on the streets again. Even if the reason is that the civil members had to be removed because of "discoveries" about them. It might serve the government better to ensure the timeline is met.

The civil members are not drafting the bill as a personal hobby, but as representatives of the citizens of this country. It is a sad day in democracy when these are different from elected representatives, but apparently our politicians have no sense of shame about such things. For normal people from decent homes, this is as shocking as a drug addict, for example being brazenly accusing after being caught stealing money for a fix. More so, because leaders in theory at least are supposed to embody all that is good about the people they lead.

If the civil members are discredited and removed, more will take their place. There is virtually an endless supply of people - second largest country in the world, remember?

I am willing to support anyone the leadership of the movement deems suitable as our representatives. I am willing to contribute in any way needed.

If the movement fails, I will support whoever rises in challenge. I will challenge.

The bottom line is, sabotaging the bill is the equivalent of sabotaging justice for the country. Right now, the politicians are in a place of being caught theiving. If they want to add obstruction of justice to it, so be it. Justice WILL come. The more they sabotage, the more they will end up answering for. Its a choice with nothing beyond their own credibility at stake.Satyameva Jayate - India's motto

13

I get a flood of emails pointing out to me various problems with the Jan Lokpal Bill. Where earlier people had questioned the “democracy” of the movement, we now have smear campaigns about its leaders.

A variety of things mushroom up.

  • Kiran Bedi got some preferential treatment for her daughter
  • Anna Hazare is a BJP supporter
  • Anna Hazare is secretly making the Congress job easier
  • Anupam Kher insulted the constitution
  • Bhushan made secret deals exploiting the legal system
  • Wrong to include religious leaders in the leadership of the movement – communal!!! (I was quite surprised to read this. Religious leaders finding common cause is communal?)
  • Hazare is a dictator
  • Hazare supports communal violence

And on and on… Feel free to add.

Apparently, the idea is to “prove” that the civil leaders are as bad as the government ones and to discredit the LokPal bill. The flaw of the Indian media is a blessing for the first time.  Because its like the campaign that had relaunched Polo a few years ago – New Mint, same Hole. It is garishly off-topic.

It seems our media is simply unable to understand anything without a political prism to focus it through. However, my purpose in life is neither to sit and account for every human failing in every leader of this country, or examine everywhere our media strays from ethics. I am a citizen, and I support what works for me. A legislation is nobody’s jageer. As long as it is fair, that works for me. Democracy ensures that through the ruling party and opposing party, this movement has three parties to ensure that. I don’t imagine the legislation turning out to be a bad one and my mind is at rest.Satyameva Jayate - India's motto

The rest is all peripheral. I am not marrying or adopting any of the leaders. If they are corrupt, the legislation will help investigate them as well. I would rather not applaud any obvious witch hunts – EVEN IF TRUE.

At the end of the day, we are our own insurance, our own investment and our own return.

I would appreciate making some things clear.

  • I supported the movement to bring corruption down, because it was making me feel frustrated and impotent to sit quiet watching the scams scroll the news every day.
  • If enough of us have caused this to happen, this is not undemocratic. In fact, I think we abolished princely states to convert India into a kind of political monarchy, and this is our French revolution that is remarkably unbloody.
  • If this movement fails, I will be supporting absolutely everything challenging corruption in the government from the Opposition parties to the Maoists or something new. And I will do it for as many government changes as it takes.
  • I believe that the responsible leadership of this movement made it possible for something to challenge the government powerfully, yet without anarchy and violence.
  • The projected fantasy that all was well till Anna upset the cart is bizarre. All was hideous. It was fast becoming shameful to be Indian. I now feel better about owning my nationality publicly.
  • It is only great integrity that can manage a non-violent movement that has such power. I think that integrity will serve us well for now at least. IF there are problems, we aren’t an ice cube. We can reevaluate what doesn’t work. The country is in a mood to fix itself. It is choosing a sane voice, and saner voices are well advised to value it, because frustrating it cannot halt it, it will only add force and erupt in unpredictable ways – like a river.

Most importantly, trust is a choice. There is no perfect human on earth. However, it is a “good symptom” to see figures of integrity, religious figures, media personalities and the common man and many others have one objective.

Of course, I am Indian. I have lost the belief that anything is incorruptible. A part of me mourns that loss. I find that this cynical, jaded me that is incapable of seeing purity in anything is not someone I want to be. I would rather be naive or expectant than treacherous. We gave the political system 63 years to get into this shape. Surely having a Lokpal can’t destroy India before we even come to know, that we must guard so much against an idealistic intent?

If you have lost hope, dreams, belief, what is the point? You might as well suffer a change in the object of your cynicism while we give it a shot, because I think we can do this, and I definitely think that even if we fail, we will most definitely not be worse off.

It is a risk worth taking.

It is a struggle we owe our motherland.

It is time to return to our roots and in a time of turmoil, turn to the motto we chose to guide out path and trust our destiny to work itself out.

Satyameva Jayate – Truth Alone Prevails