As the peoples' uprising against a
venal political class in India shows no signs of abating, a
strange din is evident in some debates and comments. Apart from
reeking of cynicism and a not-so-veiled contempt for the
self-mobilising multitudes, they all essentially converge on a few
broad points. Let us look at them point by point.
One. Parliament is supreme.
No, parliament is not supreme. The constitution of India is, says
constitutional expert Fali Nariman. And the constitution begins
with "We, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA ... resolved to constitute India and
to secure for all its citizens justice, liberty, equality and
Parliament is an institution whose primary task is to legislate to
ensure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.
One does not have to be an expert to know how much parliament has
done to live up to its duties, particularly in the last four
decades. Today, denial of justice to the poor is routine. Liberty
is a luxury of the powerful. Equality is a far cry. And fraternity
is constantly under attack by the sectarian and narrow interests
of the political parties.
Two. You can't dishonour parliamentary proceedings.
Anna Hazare, at no point, has said that parliament needs to be
packed up or bypassed. He and his followers have wanted their
version of the Jan Lokpal bill to be introduced and debated in
parliament within a time frame and not left hanging indefinitely.
His attack is not against parliament but against those who have
hijacked the august institution. Several political leaders and
critics have deliberately tried to confuse the two to attack the
movement as "anti-democratic".
Three. There is a due process, you can't circumvent that.
Very well. Where was the due process when Lokpal Bill was
introduced in parliament eight times in the last 42 years? Why did
it lapse every time? Who blocked the due process? Team Hazare was
not even in sight then.
The arguments of "due process" and "legislation takes time" are
used to suit the interests of the elected political
Take two recent examples that illustrate the real priorities of
our MPs. Last year, after just two days of largely
self-congratulatory debate, MPs gave themselves a three-fold rise
to their remuneration from Rs.16,000 to Rs 50,000 per month. They
doubled their daily allowance from Rs.1,000 to Rs.2,000 and
constituency and office expenses from Rs.20,000 to Rs.40,000.
All this is over and above, free home in the most exclusive parts
New Delhi, free telephones, free electricity, free unlimited first
class air-conditioned travel in train with a companion thrown in.
An immensely important legislation popularly known as SEZ Act
whose implementation has unleashed farmers' revolt against the
government taking away their land for corporations to set up
factories in tax-free zones, was passed in two days and without
debate in May 2005.
Four. Jan Lokpal bill is not going to end corruption.
Of course, not. Who said it would? Certainly, not Hazare and his
aides. They say it is a beginning. And it would simply provide two
possibilities - one, a fear of punishment to the corrupt and the
other a tool to the long-suffering ordinary Indian. Under the
existing system, corruption by state functionaries is not only
condoned but encouraged as there is no fear of punishment (a
corruption case can drag on for 30 years while the corrupt enjoy
The Jan Lokpal bill is just a step towards long overdue reform of
the Indian political system. Hazare's moral courage, simplicity
and sacrifice inspire people, and that is why his call resonates
across the country.
Five. Hazare's movement is fostering a dangerous ideology against
politics, politicians and political parties.
No. It is fostering an unprecedented mass upsurge against the
politics of opportunism, against the corrupt politician and
self-serving political parties.
Today, Indians have experienced, for the first time since
independence, a new type of politics which has begun to empower
them in a real way and lay the foundations of a participatory
democracy. The ruling elite and their apologists, who have thrived
under the existing corrupt system, are scared. By casting gloom,
naysayers are simply ensuring their own doom.
Sudip Mazumdar is long-time foreign
correspondent based in New Delhi and a keen political observer.
The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org