Signs of welcome change by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (AUGUST 24, 2011)

Revolutions begin with great promise as they articulate people’s frustrations and fears and seek to address them, using people’s power. However, most of them end up in chaos, mindless violence, blood on the streets, reign of terror.

Whether it was French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution - even Gaddafi’s Green Revolution -virtually all of them go the same way. There are exceptions like Jaiprakash Narain’s Total Revolution (Sampurna Karanti), which turned out to be a dangerous joke.

Anna Hazare and his backers (as well as his backers’ backers) did not say it in so many words, but what they intended was a revolution in our national life. Everybody loves transparency and nobody likes bribery (except the bribe receiver). So, at least in principle, every Indian backs the cause. However, our reservations have been not on the cause, but on the consequences of the street overwhelming the state.

We are happy to note that the build-up towards a revolution looks like getting temporarily slowed down and turned towards democratically available, and morally acceptable, processes of negotiations, give and take, attempts to find a fine balance between the ideals of a corruption-free national life and the constraints of rule of law, without which civilised life is unimaginable.

Let me clarify my point a little further with two examples of chaos which gradually can expand into a free-for-all and lawlessness on the streets. While Anna Hazare was still in jail, a crowd of his self-proclaimed supporters were waiting outside Tihar jail. A moment came when a rowdy section of it started drinking liqueur and broke into unruly behaviour. Soon Anna was out of jail and the crowd dispersed. Again, at the Ramlila Maidan, another group started getting drunk and behaving wildly, for which they were reprimanded. Other incendiary elements brought in from the anti-reservation movement and Babri Masjid demolition movement, were filled with potential violence.

At this particular moment we heave a sigh of relief and welcome the breaking of ice between the sulking Union government and the strident Anna camp. A major source of relief for us is that the life of an extremely valuable person among us looks more likely to be saved today than it did yesterday, or the day before. We do not have many Annas among us, and his life must not be allowed to seep away as cynical self-seekers look passively, hoping to use his death (God forbid) for their own nefarious designs.

Now that the ball has been set rolling and the two sides have agreed to disagree (that is the essence of democracy, as opposed to mob rule) the chances are we would be spared a confrontation between the state and the street. Confrontation is a dreaded prospect for a rising power like India.

The two sides have to recognise the fact that no one has a monopoly on knowledge and wisdom. Not just the Anna Hazare team’s draft of Lokpal (Jan Lokpal) bill and government’s Lokpal bill, but the more balanced and sensible draft of Aruna Roy and others have to be presented before a parliamentary committee for consideration. There could be other versions as well, which too need consideration as they also have valid points.

For now, the emphasis should be on saving the precious life of Anna and saving the edifice of constitutional order. Secondly, instead of rushing into legislation we should have a thorough debate on the lines of the Constitutional Assembly Debates to get the best ideas that serve us and the coming generations well.

A word to Anna Hazare: Thanks for the brave fight. Another word for the government: Be sincere. Give us the best deal. Remember, people don’t forget, and the next elections are not too far away. 


(Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam)

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