Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare’s biggest mistake and omission is that they are not following a people-oriented plan, but are trying to make their own selves look important. They have forgotten that currently the seasoned chief organisers of mass movements – people like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan – are standing against them. If Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev want to seriously challenge these opponents, then they will have to turn to the people and adopt the participatory model of movements or else they should be ready to accept defeat.
Movements have ended in this country. Youngsters who are 2o years old have no clue at all about what movements are, what defines a movement, how movements are organised or what hardships and sufferings inspire movements. All these are unfamiliar subjects for the younger generation. What was Gandhiji’s movement, what was its nature, how it evoked hopes and aspirations among the people and how, because of the movement, the country was able to see the dawn of independence have not been fully dealt with in our academic curricula.
Leave aside Gandhiji and the Indian Independence Movement, people do not even remember Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement. People don’t remember the movement’s demands either. Gandhiji’s movement gave India many leaders of the stature of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Jayaprakash Narayan and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement gave the country leaders like Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan. The Socialist movement which was led by Dr. Lohia gave the country not only the likes of Madhu Limaye and George Fernandes but also inspired a whole generation. And this generation created a new breed of youth leaders. Sharad Yadav was the first of this generation who entered the Lok Sabha as a mass leader but all this continued only till 1977.
In the series of movements in India, V.P. Singh’s movement can be considered as the last one. But that too, as soon as he became the Prime Minister, was reduced to a bipolar conflict between supporters and detractors of reservation. In the last 22 years the country has seen no mass movement. Mass movements take place only when the sufferings of the people cross limits. Today there is rampant corruption, large scale unemployment and an acute paucity of power and energy and the common man is on the verge of despair, but still there is no movement on these issues.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not carrying on any movement for Hindutva; the Communist Party does not have a movement for redistribution of land and the welfare of workers. Nor are the Socialists carrying on a movement for fixation of prices or dismantling of caste. Before 1977, there were youth-student movements in which inflation, unemployment and corruption were made core issues. But today neither are there student unions nor the kind of youngsters who would understand the importance of these unions. This is why while earlier Gandhiji, Patel, Lohia, Jayaprakash and Chandrashekhar Azad or Bhagat Singh used to be the role models of the youth, today Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan are the role models of the younger generation.
The Right Course Of Action
Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev are up against leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, who were born out of different movements in India. Their movements were anti-government. They have reached where they are today because they always stood for systemic change and socialism. They became the voice of the poor, the backward and the minorities. But unfortunately, with their ascent up the ladder of power, they have become the apologists of the same system that they once opposed and made their political careers. They are seen salvaging the same unresponsive system that is responsible for the rot. They always remain secular to rally the minorities. What the movement against graft lacks is the participation of all sections of society, including the minorities, especially Muslims. Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have decided to take their fight against graft to the next level. Both of them must remember that the source of their power lies with the people. They must involve the minorities in their movement. If they are able to do this, their movement will become truly mass based and popular in the real sense. This move will sweep the ground away from below the feet of leaders who are opposing these movements.
However, caste movements have taken place: the Gujjars tried to paralyse Rajasthan over their demand for reservation; Jats tried to disrupt road and railway traffic for being included among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). But there occurred no movement that made inflation, unemployment and corruption as their central plank.
Some groups did organise movements, like the teachers movement or the movement of doctors working in rural areas but the government resorted to ‘lathi charges’ and crushed them mercilessly. Last year Anna Hazare went on a fast unto death and after 22 years a high tide of public opinion was seen rising again in the country. Before that Baba Ramdev took the issue of black money round the country and tried to organise the people. Baba Ramdev ended up blotting his own public image due to his faulty strategy while Anna Hazare infused the country with a new consciousness in just 12 days. A positive facet of Anna’s movement was that people tried to associate themselves with the movement. Political outfits, in which the BJP’s name can be mentioned as being the foremost, tried to spread the canard that Anna’s movement had seen such success due to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS Sarsanghchalak (Chief), Mohan Bhagwat, insinuated that his cadres are organising the movement. And by doing so he provided the Congress with a potent weapon.
The Congress made use of this opportunity given by Mohan Bhagwat. But the truth is that had the BJP and the RSS had the strength and had they got so much public support, they themselves would have counducted a 7-day rally. A party that could not muster up courage to launch a movement during the last 21 years was seen trying to corner the credit for such a widespread movement. After the conclusion of his fast, Anna did not tour any part of the country owing to health problems, even though people wanted that he should go on a country-wide tour and be in their midst. This was perhaps the biggest mistake of Anna Hazare. Had he visited just 10 places and held huge meetings, on the one hand, the central government and the entire Parliament which passed the Sense of House Resolution could not have gone back on their promise. On the other hand, the people of the country would have been seen extending their support to Anna as they would then have had the confidence that at least one leader has come to stand in their midst.
Perhaps, Anna Hazare has never participated in a mass movement and perhaps this is why he was unable to ably organise a mass movement. A mass movement means a movement in which people can be seen coming onto the streets because of their problems. In the movements led by Gandhiji, Jayaprakashji, Dr. Lohia and V.P. Singh the masses, especially the youth, could be seen out on the streets. During 12 days of his movement, the people stood with Anna Hazare because they believed that after 22 years another charismatic leader who would make their hardships and problems the central agenda has come into their midst in the form of Anna Hazare. It is here that Anna Hazare made a mistake. And perhaps the same mistake had been made by Baba Ramdev before him.
When Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister, approximately 60 districts were Naxal ‘affected’. And today even as Manmohan Singh continues as the Prime Minister, this number has gone up to approximately 270. The Naxals are not foreigners. They are our own countrymen who are poor and marginalised and who have no access to opportunities in life. These people do not have development, food or weapons but they side with and support those who are waging an armed opposition against the symbols of state power, who attack symbols of the system like the police, courts, treasuries and District Magistrates. The government should be worried by this situation but it does not seem to be worried and neither does the moneyed classes, called the corporate, understand its responsibilities. This means that the economic policies implemented after 1991 have failed completely. A country where the highest symbol of power in a district, the District Magistrate, gets abducted, the moneyed classes should be wary. It is amazing that the places where the Naxals have strongholds, are also the places of an unlimited treasure of natural resources and the companies operating here have temporarily bought their safety and security by giving donations to the Naxals. That day is not far off when the Naxals will plan to abduct moneyed corporate officials and owners of mines.
Last year Anna Hazare went on a fast unto death and after 22 years a high tide of public opinion was seen rising again in the country. Before that Baba Ramdev took the issue of black money round the country and tried to organise the people. Baba Ramdev ended up blotting his own public image due to his faulty strategy while Anna Hazare infused the country with a new consciousness in just 12 days.
If this situation has to be averted, then the government and the big corporate houses need to wake up immediately. People like Anna Hazare and Ramdev too should chalk out the correct strategy for movements. The right strategy for the movement because if in raising demands, the common masses will not be made to participate then psychologically it will give its mute support to the path of Naxalism. The most regrettable thing is the state of the Opposition in the parliamentary system. The Opposition has become the B-Team of the government. They think that their responsibility ends with a one-day protest procession against rising prices. The Opposition is not bothered by unemployment, corruption, inflation, power shortage or lack of development, perhaps because their own Chief Ministers work in the same manner as the Congress Chief Ministers. In other words, all Chief Ministers are alike.
Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have again started talk of a movement. Anna’s comrades Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Kiran Bedi are not aware or familiar with the ‘shastra’ or science of movements or with the strength and potency of the participation of masses. Baba Ramdev too is all alone in his organisational structure. His most prominent organiser, Acharya Balkrishna, is in jail. These people have assumed that they are important and are working on the strategy of fasting. They do not know that the biggest architect of mass movements in India was Mahatma Gandhi. He took recourse to fasting only when he felt that the masses were tired and were not ready for a movement. But Mahatma Gandhi never undertook consecutive fasts. During each fast, Gandhiji’s life was at risk. But it should be repeated that Mahatma Gandhi’s first strategy was always to involve people in the movements. Jayaprakash Narayan, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and V.P. Singh all made leading the masses their strategy in movements.
Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare’s biggest mistake and omission is that they are not following a people-oriented plan, but are trying to make their own selves look important. They have forgotten that currently the seasoned chief organisers of mass movements – people like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan – are standing against them. If Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev want to seriously challenge these opponents, then they will have to turn to the people and adopt the participatory model of movements or else they should be ready to accept defeat. Anna Hazare and Ramdev will not be defeated in this fight by the Congress or the BJP; they would be defeated by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan.