The days of quiet content are now over for Anna. The month of August in 2011 was a boon for him. He began a fast against corruption at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan and the country stood in his support. It seemed as if the whole of India wanted to save his life because children, women as well as old people were fasting and also taking out processions.
Now see the game of television channels. Television channels began telecasting this fast like a serial. In those days television channels did not have any second subject, so they made Anna’s fast their subject. On the other side, people felt that this was a good opportunity to air their problems, their difficulties and their disenchantment with the Government by supporting Anna Hazare. Also included in these people were all those who often want to oppose the Government, but because of fear or cowardice cannot do anything. All these people participated and used Anna Hazare’s name and the tricolour flag as a symbol to vent their frustration. It is interesting that the media support initially given to Anna later on became like a bone that has got stuck in the throat, because even though it wanted to, the groundswell of mass support was so much that the media could not downplay the fast. And when they could not play it down, all the television channels entered into competition with each other. As a result Anna became a countrywide reflection of indignation, anguish and anger.
This credibility of Anna which was almost touching the sky was so solid that Parliament had to pass a unanimous resolution in one voice. That was because Parliament and the entire Government felt at that time that if the resolution was not passed then violence would start in the country and people would come out on the streets and take the law in their hands. However, Anna continuously advocated non-violence and frequently cited the example of Mahatma Gandhi and his movement before the people. And the amazing result of this was that that even in such a large countrywide movement, not a handcart was lost, neither did any vendor cry and nor did any criminal elements try to take over the movement in their hands anywhere. No bigger example than this can be given of the success of Anna’s absolutely ‘satvick’ (‘pure’) movement. And as one watched, Anna became the vocal form of the hopes and expectations of 120 crore people.
In 2013 Anna set out again on his yatra. The biggest default by Anna was that he did not set out touring the country immediately after his fast. On the one hand, his health had deteriorated because of the fast and on the other hand a misleading and deceptive picture had appeared before his colleagues. They felt that the people had stood up in their support and they saw this public support in a partisan way, whereas the support was actually an expression through Anna of their anger against miseries. Anna’s colleagues did not have any roadmap before them of how to organise this public groundswell and what ideological direction and in what form to keep it before the people. As a result, the next two years elapsed in uncertainty. Contradictions increased so much that Arvind Kejriwal and his associates separated from Anna. They wanted to go inside the system and clean it, while Anna wanted to create ‘extra parliamentary opposition’, which was the dream of Gandhiji and Jai Prakash Narayan. In other words, public pressure and an organised public should become so important that it can give a direction to Parliament and the Vidhan Sabhas (State Assemblies ) and where the public feels Parliament is not making laws in its interests and aspirations, it can compel Parliament to do so.
In fact, there were ideological differences and it made Anna Hazare weary and dormant. In Ralegan Siddhi Anna Hazare became almost immobile without any andolan or movement. In between, Anna Hazare did go to several meetings in Maharashtra, but in the two years when people wanted Anna, he could not go to the people. During this period rumours spread among the people that now Anna Hazare would not tour the country. Anna however was trying continuously to tour the country, but people didn’t want announcements, they wanted to see action from Anna. In such a situation Anna, because of the inaction and lethargy of his colleagues, could neither begin his andolan or movement, nor his yatra.
Anna wanted to hold a meeting in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan and accordingly expressed his desire to his colleagues. His colleagues and his associates took inordinate time in taking a decision on making preparations for the meeting and told Anna that neither the people nor the Government were ready to help him. Perhaps this was the second blow for Anna, when he felt that he did not have such people who could, according to his desires, take the message of changing the system to the people. In such a situation he became silent and sat down. Circumstances developed where on 30 January 2013, Anna held a meeting in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan. A totally new team materialised and within 15 days had taken Anna’s desire to the people of Bihar. It is here that a picture of the miracle of a people’s leader can be seen. Anna’s desires reached the people solely through posters, leaflets and television and people came to Gandhi Maidan. Patna’s Gandhi Maidan is that historical Maidan where Gandhiji, Jai Prakash Narayan and many other leaders of Bihar have held meetings, but Jai Prakash Narayan’s andolan or movement is still fresh memory in the minds of the people. Various Chief Ministers and various leaders of various parties have been holding rallies at the Maidan. About a month before Anna’s rally, a rally was held at the cost of Rs. 60 crores in which barely two and half lakh people gathered. On the other hand, at Anna’s rally on 30 January, without a cup of tea being offered, almost one lakh seventy five thousand people gathered. Anna’s associates spent the money for booking the Maidan, putting up lights on the stage. The rest of the money the people themselves spent. If both the rallies are compared, Anna’s rally was proof of people’s participation without spending money, whereas there are no two opinions that the numerous rallies held before that in Gandhi Maidan were a demonstration of crowds that had been gathered through other means.
On 31 March this year, Anna set out on a nationwide yatra or tour. Former Army Chief General V.K. Singh, Sufi Jilani, some journalists and some common people were with him in the cavalcade. The yatra started from Amritsar, but this time he could not become a darling of the media. The media did not make his yatra a national event. His yatra was relayed and presented in a manner as if an individual was doing something by compulsion. But because some crowds had gathered, it was necessary to cover them. However local TV channels, regional language channels and cable TV showed this yatra in a very prominent way. Local newspapers devoted one, one and a half, two, three pages to the yatra, but so-called national papers and so-called national channels kept a distance from Anna’s yatra. Television channels did not want Anna’s yatra to be successful, therefore, on television channels and in newspapers in almost every State, it was telecast or published that Anna has cancelled the yatra, he will not be coming to a particular town or city, his health has deteriorated, therefore he is about to go back.
The truth is that that when this kind of news is printed and published and when it is shown on television many times daily, it can be said that a well considered conspiracy against Anna is underway. Television and print journalists would meet Anna and in the name of questions would ask him about his broken magic, differences with Arvind Kejriwal and the absence of Kiran Bedi. Media would ask him everywhere ‘why are crowds in lakhs not coming to hear you?’ And it is in this that the intellectual bankruptcy of the media becomes evident. The amazing thing is that that the media could not distinguish between a yatra and a rally! A yatra is for disseminating a message along the roadsides or to ‘bastis’ located along the roadsides, and a rally is for disseminating and conveying a message to people who have gathered at one place from all around. Anna was not holding a rally but was on a yatra, and the entire media began propagating it as a super flop show. An example of the way the media ignored it is that not one of them wrote about how hundreds or thousands people would wait for six hours or more to welcome Anna Hazare and how, when he reached the last meeting of the day, he would have to apologise to people who had been waiting for him for seven-seven and a half hours. Despite this, people would keep sitting to listen to his speech and Anna would speak copiously to them. All these things the electronic media could not see, and if it did see them, it did not allow them to come before the people as part of a conspiracy.
Now see what else the media did! It covered events at every place where the crowds were fewer or panned or covered the empty space where Anna was to reach three hours later and made it its subject! A few channels even crossed the limits of shamelessness. Their cameraman was present there, it was a place meant for eating food, the meeting was not to be held there, but it was shown that there was not a single person present at the place where Anna Hazare was to give his speech! They showed this through graphics. Now the question is: if there wasn’t a single person present there, the actual footage could have been shown. But a place was shown where there were hardly one hundred or one hundred fifty people, where Anna was to come to eat food after two hours, a picture of that nearly empty ‘pandal’ ( tent ) was shown on television conveying that now Anna’s magic was no more. Local channels were behaving in a totally ‘opposite’ manner. They were showing both the crowds and Anna’s meetings. The day after Anna’s yatra terminated its first leg in Dehra Dun, IBN-7 showed a programme in which it wrote, “Anna: the death of a dream”.
In fact, the whole programme was in favour of Arvind Kejriwal and the television channel correspondent was intent on proving that because Arvind Kejriwal had separated from Anna, the dream called Anna had died. This television channel and its correspondent were such ‘knowledgeable fools’ that they showed Anna meeting V.K. Singh and Ramdev at the house of a capitalist who was a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The television channel also showed a picture of this house even though this television channel’s ‘great’ correspondent knew that the house where the meeting was held was the south Delhi office of a newspaper. Despite this the IBN-7 correspondent spoke a lie. And here itself a question arises : if a correspondent reports according to his desires and sidelines or bypasses the reality, should we then reach the conclusion that Rajdeep Sardesai and Ashutosh want this kind of reporting to be done or they both consider themselves to be very knowledgeable and are journalists with the egoistical vanity of being editors? These kind of reports are being shown by their channel and without paying attention to them, they promote irresponsible reports.
I believe that this is not so, because the kind of findings their journalists are coming up with, if the same kind of findings or conclusions are made about editors, then perhaps it would be an injustice to them. But it is essential to arrive at a conclusion because they are seen to be promoting such irresponsible journalism on their channel. Exactly the same thing was seen on other television channels which are called national television channels. It should be believed from all these events or suspected that somewhere or the other, the signals that passed between the Government and big capitalists resulted in a well considered decision to ruin or destroy Anna Hazare’s yatra. But the people gave a reply to this conspiracy by television channels. While travelling on the road, Anna was greeted by swarming crowds everywhere. Crowds who met him had been waiting for six-seven hours. Thousands of people promised to give him one year of their life. Generally, nobody goes for the meetings of political parties apart from the women who work for the party only the crowds who have been ‘rented’ go but for Anna’s meetings the women from ordinary homes, children, young and old were seen. A 98 year old individual was seen at Anna’s meeting, pledging that he will give his life for the country, all he needs is a command. Whether in Punjab, whether in Haryana or in western Uttar Pradesh, at every place large meetings were held and in these meetings Anna Hazare got to see the same enthusiasm, the same obsession which had been there during the time of fasting in 2011.
The effect of news on television and in newspapers that Anna would not be coming did have an effect on people : when he would reach there the next day, the crowds still came but they were less when compared with what they should have been. It is a mystery how without any source, television channels and other various newspapers telecast and published news that Anna’s tour has been cancelled or he has become unwell and therefore has gone back. But after the meeting would be held, it would become a compulsion for local papers to give coverage to news about Anna. But another game would begin here. The news of Anna’s yatra would not reach from one district to another district, because the page would remain in the same district where Anna had gone. Therefore, Anna’s yatra had to contend with a challenge from the media. Anna gave a fitting reply to it. Hapur, Aligarh, Bhiwani, Bhatinda, Moga – almost everywhere thousands of people were seen welcoming and greeting Anna. At some places Anna’s meeting began four hours late, but still people remained at the meeting for two and a half hours, listening in pin drop silence.
All the political parties of India are afraid of Anna Hazare. There is reason too for being afraid. At every place, it was told in his meetings that he is about to start a serious campaign against corruption, inflation, unemployment, and the broken frameworks of education and the health systems. The political parties were also given a warning by name at his meetings. Anna Hazare himself said that the Parliament of India deceived and betrayed him. A Prime Minister representing 120 crores of people made him a promise in writing and then broke it. Anna Hazare spoke in favour of people’s candidates against political parties and indicated clearly that the public should choose its own candidates and contest against the candidates from political parties. It was here and on this that Anna Hazare most alarmed the political parties. It seemed to them at first that Anna was just a moral power and he would never speak about the system or on the Government, but because of his attitude and approach that a new Parliament should be formed, such people should be sent there who would make a start in bringing change in this country, especially in making villages the main unit for making laws for project planning, for changing the system, laws should be passed immediately in favour of his 25 point programme, Anna became like a grain of sand in the eyes of political parties and that is why, in collusion with the media they tried to ‘blackout’ Anna. Through their journalist contacts they got the most amazing questions put to Anna Hazare, in which there were questions like between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi who can prove to be better Prime Minister or who is he supporting. In fact, political parties want that Anna Hazare should support either Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi. But Anna opposed both and said that anti-people are not eligible for becoming the Prime Minister of India.
The main essence or purpose of Anna’s yatra was not to start new politics. That is why he announced that in the first week of September he would call a People’s Parliament. Through the People’s Parliament he means to rouse the people of this country and tell them that they are supreme, Parliament is not supreme. It also emerged from Anna’s meetings that the current Parliament is standing against the interests of the people. Anna Hazare did not hesitate to say that this Parliament should be changed and those people should go to Parliament who are loyal to the general public, of good character, who are against corruption, who can makes plans to fight against inflation and unemployment. During Anna’s yatra, General V.K. Singh said clearly that such people were needed who could make laws for the benefit of the people within 6 months. General V.K. Singh also said that those people who say they do not have a magic wand in their hand are telling a lie. He was hinting at the Prime Minister. General V.K. Singh also said on behalf of Anna Hazare that he can within 6 months start all those tasks the political parties are afraid of doing because they don’t want to do anything in the interests of the people. During Anna’s yatra, Maulana Sufi Jilani emerged as a big personality. His speeches were liked in the whole country and his language encouraged and enthused the common people. Sufi Jilani drew a clear line between the people of the country and the political parties and said that the people of the country and the political parties are standing face to face.
The media and political parties believe that Anna Hazare is a 75-year-old, ageing person and his voice does not have the strength to make him stand viably. Famous journalist and filmmaker Pritish Nandy believes that people who are seeing an opportunity for change in the form of Anna Hazare, are being disappointed when Anna Hazare gives the time of change as 10-25 years. Anna met many people who said ‘Anna, the time for the final fight has now come’. During this yatra Anna Hazare was viewed as a ‘sant’, a saint, and people were seen listening to him with the same respect and reverence. At many places women, children, old and young were seen listening to his speech with folded hands. People everywhere supported the announcement of Anna Hazare calling a People’s Parliament in Delhi and promised that if Anna called them to Delhi they would certainly come. Now, what will happen in the People’s Parliament, what kind of decision will be taken, and what kind of direction for running the country the People’s Parliament will give to the political parties this will be decided in the first week of September in Delhi at the Ramlila Maidan.