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I’d rather not be Anna: Arundhati Roy

Posted by Admin on August 23, 2011

The Hindu

If what we’re watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you’re likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind.

For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people. (In this one, the Government collaborates by doing everything it possibly can to overthrow itself.)

In April 2011, a few days into Anna Hazare’s first “fast unto death,” searching for some way of distracting attention from the massive corruption scams which had battered its credibility, the Government invited Team Anna, the brand name chosen by this “civil society” group, to be part of a joint drafting committee for a new anti-corruption law. A few months down the line it abandoned that effort and tabled its own bill in Parliament, a bill so flawed that it was impossible to take seriously.

Then, on August 16th, the morning of his second “fast unto death,” before he had begun his fast or committed any legal offence, Anna Hazare was arrested and jailed. The struggle for the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill now coalesced into a struggle for the right to protest, the struggle for democracy itself. Within hours of this ‘Second Freedom Struggle,’ Anna was released. Cannily, he refused to leave prison, but remained in Tihar jail as an honoured guest, where he began a fast, demanding the right to fast in a public place. For three days, while crowds and television vans gathered outside, members of Team Anna whizzed in and out of the high security prison, carrying out his video messages, to be broadcast on national TV on all channels. (Which other person would be granted this luxury?) Meanwhile 250 employees of the Municipal Commission of Delhi, 15 trucks, and six earth movers worked around the clock to ready the slushy Ramlila grounds for the grand weekend spectacle. Now, waited upon hand and foot, watched over by chanting crowds and crane-mounted cameras, attended to by India’s most expensive doctors, the third phase of Anna’s fast to the death has begun. “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India is One,” the TV anchors tell us.

While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are certainly not. Contrary to Gandhiji’s ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister, the judiciary, members of Parliament, and all of the bureaucracy, down to the lowest government official. The Lokpal will have the powers of investigation, surveillance, and prosecution. Except for the fact that it won’t have its own prisons, it will function as an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.

Whether it works or not depends on how we view corruption. Is corruption just a matter of legality, of financial irregularity and bribery, or is it the currency of a social transaction in an egregiously unequal society, in which power continues to be concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority? Imagine, for example, a city of shopping malls, on whose streets hawking has been banned. A hawker pays the local beat cop and the man from the municipality a small bribe to break the law and sell her wares to those who cannot afford the prices in the malls. Is that such a terrible thing? In future will she have to pay the Lokpal representative too? Does the solution to the problems faced by ordinary people lie in addressing the structural inequality, or in creating yet another power structure that people will have to defer to?

Meanwhile the props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna’s Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the celebration of the nuclear tests. They signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not ‘true Indians.’ The 24-hour channels have decided that there is no other news in the country worth reporting.

‘The Fast’ of course doesn’t mean Irom Sharmila’s fast that has lasted for more than ten years (she’s being force fed now) against the AFSPA, which allows soldiers in Manipur to kill merely on suspicion. It does not mean the relay hunger fast that is going on right now by ten thousand villagers in Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear power plant. ‘The People’ does not mean the Manipuris who support Irom Sharmila’s fast. Nor does it mean the thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur. Nor do we mean the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley. Nor do we mean the farmers in NOIDA, or Pune or Haryana or elsewhere in the country, resisting the takeover of the land.

‘The People’ only means the audience that has gathered to watch the spectacle of a 74-year-old man threatening to starve himself to death if his Jan Lokpal Bill is not tabled and passed by Parliament. ‘The People’ are the tens of thousands who have been miraculously multiplied into millions by our TV channels, like Christ multiplied the fishes and loaves to feed the hungry. “A billion voices have spoken,” we’re told. “India is Anna.”

Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we’ve heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer’s suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer’s agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn’t seem to have a view about the Government’s plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.

He does however support Raj Thackeray’s Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the ‘development model’ of Gujarat’s Chief Minister who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims. (Anna withdrew that statement after a public outcry, but presumably not his admiration.)

Despite the din, sober journalists have gone about doing what journalists do. We now have the back-story about Anna’s old relationship with the RSS. We have heard from Mukul Sharma who has studied Anna’s village community in Ralegan Siddhi, where there have been no Gram Panchayat or Co-operative society elections in the last 25 years. We know about Anna’s attitude to ‘harijans’: “It was Mahatma Gandhi’s vision that every village should have one chamar, one sunar, one kumhar and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way, a village will be self-dependant. This is what we are practicing in Ralegan Siddhi.” Is it surprising that members of Team Anna have also been associated with Youth for Equality, the anti-reservation (pro-“merit”) movement? The campaign is being handled by people who run a clutch of generously funded NGOs whose donors include Coca-Cola and the Lehman Brothers. Kabir, run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, key figures in Team Anna, has received $400,000 from the Ford Foundation in the last three years. Among contributors to the India Against Corruption campaign there are Indian companies and foundations that own aluminum plants, build ports and SEZs, and run Real Estate businesses and are closely connected to politicians who run financial empires that run into thousands of crores of rupees. Some of them are currently being investigated for corruption and other crimes. Why are they all so enthusiastic?

Remember the campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill gathered steam around the same time as embarrassing revelations by Wikileaks and a series of scams, including the 2G spectrum scam, broke, in which major corporations, senior journalists, and government ministers and politicians from the Congress as well as the BJP seem to have colluded in various ways as hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees were being siphoned off from the public exchequer. For the first time in years, journalist-lobbyists were disgraced and it seemed as if some major Captains of Corporate India could actually end up in prison. Perfect timing for a people’s anti-corruption agitation. Or was it?

At a time when the State is withdrawing from its traditional duties and Corporations and NGOs are taking over government functions (water supply, electricity, transport, telecommunication, mining, health, education); at a time when the terrifying power and reach of the corporate owned media is trying to control the public imagination, one would think that these institutions — the corporations, the media, and NGOs — would be included in the jurisdiction of a Lokpal bill. Instead, the proposed bill leaves them out completely.

Now, by shouting louder than everyone else, by pushing a campaign that is hammering away at the theme of evil politicians and government corruption, they have very cleverly let themselves off the hook. Worse, by demonising only the Government they have built themselves a pulpit from which to call for the further withdrawal of the State from the public sphere and for a second round of reforms — more privatisation, more access to public infrastructure and India’s natural resources. It may not be long before Corporate Corruption is made legal and renamed a Lobbying Fee.

Will the 830 million people living on Rs.20 a day really benefit from the strengthening of a set of policies that is impoverishing them and driving this country to civil war?

This awful crisis has been forged out of the utter failure of India’s representative democracy, in which the legislatures are made up of criminals and millionaire politicians who have ceased to represent its people. In which not a single democratic institution is accessible to ordinary people. Do not be fooled by the flag waving. We’re watching India being carved up in war for suzerainty that is as deadly as any battle being waged by the warlords of Afghanistan, only with much, much more at stake.

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24 Responses to “I’d rather not be Anna: Arundhati Roy”

  1. Manish said

    ‘I’d Rather Not Be Anna’

    Really , You cannot be Anna . Even,You cannot get support from a single people in India .. You are supporting the corruption…. You don’t deserve to live in India..Rather you should leave the Country.. There is no any place for the people like you in India.

    MANISH
    NEW DELHI, INDIA

    • Green Red said

      So Manish you are saying that it is okay to be a corrupted Minister who steals deals from cell phone to minerals hidden under Adivasi’s lands but, it is not okay to critcize the biggest so called democracy of the world whose level of corruption cannot be told by the books? If India means 30 percent urban people of which majority are still oppressed and exploited by the few rich, if that’s the caste/capitalist system India is all about that you like then fine, Arundhati Roy is not the best fellow around but, when degree of exploitation and Dalit vs Berehmen is what you love, dear, the whole planet is not for you who is supporting a Dracula like regime with the most obsolete form of caste class and well, since directly or indirectly you are supporting the Salwa Judum and green hunting, watch out. in your own religion if Hindu you are you are not coming back a higher class. at best, might become a rat. Repent Manish since, you may pretty soon find yourself at the wrong time at the wrong place where not Maoists but, people’s massive organizations may get a hand of you and, all that is ruling the state that makes it any better from Brits colonial domination. Repent and join the just struggle along Arundhati Roy, along human rights organizations if you still, consider yourself a human being since, the regime that said Kishenji was recently shot in forest, cannot hide the photos of the truth of such severe tortures that, anybody, anywhere who justifies that sort of killing rather than say killing the guerrilla quick and simple be aware. Not only me but, millions and millions of the real peoples of India will invite you for last duel of your life. Repent and respect Arundhati Roy’s sayings since, no hunger strike can clean up inherently corrupted regimes of the world. Wishing for your gaining sanity before it’s too late, another “Aryan” cousin from the middle east, Green Red

  2. John Smith said

    Please dont do it. I respect you but it is a sincere request you not to write such articles.

  3. aru vyas said

    dear arundhati,

    you are educated. i know
    you are intelligent. i know
    you are intellectual. i know
    you are mature. i know

    but you have to understand that these qualities are which you have, most of the indian has. but you are not suffering form corruption in day 2 day life, because your living standard is not matched with aam aadmi. better you write about aam aadmi. because this can be done by redding book.

    honesty and awards are two different ways, some how you left honesty. arundhati rai is not capabal enough to comment on these kind of “honest aandolan” because the are not fighting for AWARDS, their slogans are not written for AWARDS, they are not attending parties, they are attending raamlila maidaan raily in heavy rain and mud not for AWARDS. i think you read your own ” God of small things. and this time please understand what you written.

    aru vyas
    india

  4. Rajan K said

    it shame you are an INDIAN, especially a MALAYALEE or KERALITE…, it shame on you, never expected such a bull shit from your end…

    • Green Red said

      And Rajan it is not a shame to be a police officer or (CPI M) party cadre to rape a Nandigram resister’s wife in front of him to break his nerves? Bullshit is what your head is full of. If you cannot find rational and democratic ways to disagree with a great author, well, your own head needs being washed and your pen. Shame is the election system that to be elected, large TVs are given to village people who never had electricity in their village. You believe in such phony election? Then shame on your own democracy and genius language that is diluted with counter productive languages. Bit-nicks, before hippies in the belly of the beast, the United States of Amerikkka believed that people say what their head and soul is full of. Humbly send Arundhati a red rose. Then, maybe you are more human, Indian rather than a selfish lover of feudal minded comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie.

  5. arun said

    she has told here a lot of truth.It should not be neglected.some times truth is very strange

  6. Rajesh Thampy said

    Shame on you Roy.. Sad that you are trying to get attention the wrong way

  7. Frequence India first indian radio From Paris Radio indienne Paris…

    I’d rather not be Anna: Arundhati Roy « Indian Vanguard…

  8. deeptam said

    Respected mam,
    lets not talk about who is anna,from where the fund is coming from and whether the bill will realy eradicate corruption or not.
    let just highlight on the 3 conditions…
    1.citizen charters…
    2.lower bureaucracy….
    3.lokpal in state too
    these 3 conditions are very simple for us(the simple indian) to dream that we will get our job done,constitiutionaly.
    But the question arise whether it will function properly or not??
    so,I request you to work on the dream the aam admi had ventured and make it function properly than to critisize a mere person,who can never be 100% perfect.

  9. Open letter to Ford Foundation and Arvind Kejriwal on charge of US bankrolling anti-corruption agitation

    Business Standard published this morning an interview with Arvind Kejriwal and Steven Solnick, India country Rep of Ford Foundation in an article titled Claims that Hazare’s movement is US-funded baseless: Arvind.

    They confirmed Arundhati Roy’s charge that Kabir, a Kerjiwal NGO received $ 400,000 during the last 3 years as funding from Ford Foundation. On the broader allegations whether the US steamrolled the Anna Hazare anti-corruption agitation, they drove themselves further to a corner. We send them an open letter as a reaction to their interview.

    Read more: http://exitopinionpollsindia.blogspot.com/2011/08/open-letter-to-ford-foundation-and.html

  10. [...] here is an article written by Arundhati Roy. I am not sure why she is trying to criticise a mass movement like this. She is a good writer, so [...]

    • Green Red said

      A mass movement that works within the existing bloody regime’s limits knowing that anyhow it doesn’t get anywhere is, not a real mass movement. It is that bloody regime’s showcase. Please, find more radical ways to resolve the regime’s corruption.

  11. Ramesh Berry said

    I think Arundhati Rai have been misunderstood by many. There is no doubt that Maoists are fighting in self-defense against the corrupts and they are making supreme sacrifice. Anna Hazare’s Movement, no doubt, was a mass movement in spirit. But where it is now? It has disappeared and gradually people are forgetting it because it has been a nine days wonder and a moon shine. But the Maoists are still going on with their struggle to end corruption and corrupt rule of the exploiting class helped by the imperialists. They are fighting and living in extremely difficult conditions.

    Anna Hazare’s movement can be compared with the wind which came and went away “unwept, unhonoured and unsung” while Maoist’s movement is a land which can not be swept away by the drama created with the help of the hypocrites. History is supporting the opinion of Arundhati.

    But one thing I do admit, somehow or the other, Anna Hazare’s movement has somewhat helped the struggle against corruption to grip the minds of the masses. I quote Comrade Stalin here, who wrote in his pamphlet on anarchism and socialism: “Theory becomes a material force when it has griped the masses” and corruption has become Achilles heal of the exploiting class which will finally destroy it. People must keep on hammering because the iron is hot.

    • Priyanka said

      very well said sir

      • Priyanka said

        Hello priyanka

      • Priyanka said

        jkghjghj

      • Green Red said

        Ramesh Berry, your saying the part about the wind … “Anna Hazare’s movement can be compared with the wind which came and went away “unwept, unhonoured and unsung” ”
        It helped me like an analgesic. Since Kishenji had died in such brutal manner with utmost levels of torture, I, who for many years had worn T Shirts with Che Guevara image, dealing with Latin Americans who even, have considered his image when dead to a possible return of Messiah, after seeing Kishenji, realized he is not larger in size but, with applications for much higher number of people (say Bolivia plus Cuba plus Ghana), he is the greatest martyr I’ve dealt with in my lifetime. But reading your humane word gave me patience a bit and, over a week of sorrow and desperation – not for fear of defeat of the movement but, for the respect I have had to that fallen comrade, reading your words lifted parts of weighs on my back. Thanks for existence and, knowing the truth. Not saying you are right or wrong to partially credit the Anna movements and all that but, for dealing with the world as is and not as it is presented in the ruling classes’ evil media. Thank you

    • Priyanka said

      gdgdf

  12. Ramesh Berry said

    Wind is Out of the Sails

    Crow is a very clever bird but finally it eats shit. Harr P.Chidambaram when became Union Home Minister, he, like a village school boy said: “If Maoists have thrown the challenge, we accept their challenge”. He demanded them to surrender their arms unconditionally and come to talk. When through that turn coat Swami Agnivesh, he put the trap for the Naxalite leader, Comrade Azad, was killed cold bloodedly in false encounter by the police, and this big mouth Home Minister boasted somewhat like this: “If they will not surrender, they will die like this”. And now the wind is out of the sails and this worthless, good for nothing Home Minister, facing charges of corruption is pleading, beseeching and begging before the Maoists like a fascist cowards: “Don’t give up arms but come to talk”. He is a high ranking cur who speaks with two tongues. He should not be trusted. He is about to be booted out by his own rightist friends within the ruling party. The rightist opposition is demanding his head. To regain his lost political position he is pleading before the Maoists for the talk to regain his lost political position under the charge of corruption.
    Our Prime Minister, who is more loyal to his Fatherland (USA) than his Motherland (India) wants to save him because a thief is always a friend of a thief.
    Personally, I do not agree on many points with the CPI (Maoists) but I also agree with them on many points, or put it like this, I do not agree with CPI(Maoists) on some points but agree with them on most of the points. I admire their bravery, spirit to face extreme hardships and love for the people and their freedom from exploitation of man by man. After all they are fighting with the tribals pushed in the corner in self-defense, which is no offence in India I am sure a day is not far when both capitalism and imperialism will be drown in the river Ganga under the charge of communism.
    The song of the people is:
    Without food we do not want to live
    Without clothes we do not want to live
    Without shelter we do not want to live
    Without education we do not want to live
    Without medicine we do not want to live
    Without justice we do not want to live

    In self-defense we all must fight corruption of the politicians, bureaucrats, judicial officers mafias who have polluted and criminalized our society and have made the life of the people tasteless, unbearable and diabetic rotting from within. In self-defense pull out corrupts out of their house by the neck. It is our fundamental duty as enshrined in our article 51-A of our Constitution.

  13. Ramesh Berry said

    Wind is Out of the Sails
    Crow is a very clever bird but finally it eats shit. Harr P.Chidambaram when became Union Home Minister, he, like a village school boy said: “If Maoists have thrown the challenge, we accept their challenge”. He demanded them to surrender their arms unconditionally and come to talk. When through that turn coat Swami Agnivesh, he put the trap for the Naxalite leader, Comrade Azad, was killed cold bloodedly in false encounter by the police, and this big mouth Home Minister boasted somewhat like this: “If they will not surrender, they will die like this”. And now the wind is out of the sails and this worthless, good for nothing Home Minister, facing charges of corruption is pleading, beseeching and begging before the Maoists like a fascist cowards: “Don’t give up arms but come to talk”. He is a high ranking cur who speaks with two tongues. He should not be trusted. He is about to be booted out by his own rightist friends within the ruling party. The rightist opposition is demanding his head. To regain his lost political position he is pleading before the Maoists for the talk to regain his lost political position under the charge of corruption.
    Our Prime Minister, who is more loyal to his Fatherland (USA) than his Motherland (India) wants to save him because a thief is always a friend of a thief.
    Personally, I do not agree on many points with the CPI (Maoists) but I also agree with them on many points, or put it like this, I do not agree with CPI(Maoists) on some points but agree with them on most of the points. I admire their bravery, spirit to face extreme hardships and love for the people and their freedom from exploitation of man by man. After all they are fighting with the tribals pushed in the corner in self-defense, which is no offence in India I am sure a day is not far when both capitalism and imperialism will be drown in the river Ganga under the charge of communism.
    The song of the people is:
    Without food we do not want to live
    Without clothes we do not want to live
    Without shelter we do not want to live
    Without education we do not want to live
    Without medicine we do not want to live
    Without justice we do not want to live
    Therefore, we say communism or death.
    In self-defense we all must fight corruption of the politicians, bureaucrats, judicial officers mafias who have polluted and criminalized our society and have made the life of the people tasteless, unbearable and diabetic rotting from within. In self-defense pull out corrupts out of their house by the neck. It is our fundamental duty as enshrined in our article 51-A of our Constitution.

  14. Green Red said

    From two angles we ought to comprehend this matter;
    on one side, yes. This Anna is a damn cool reformist and, he is trying to get a word across in a good old classy way. He is sincere, etc. May be to an extent our great sister Roy is wrong and, she does not want to value our “Biggest Democracy of the World”

    Bullshit.

    Recently, this Aravind Adiga guy (if i am not mistaken) published a book called the White Tiger. What was the content?
    I haven’t seen or received that book. i’m living faraway in the belly of the beast, the united states of Amerikkka and, maybe i’ll never see that book but, reviews of that book was self explanatory. A guy’s life goes from some damned village to the city and, what has he learnt? To rise and shine and win, you ought to lie. Deception, corruption, lying, those are the essential elements of getting up and rich in the system.

    Now let’s look back at the Anna’s matter. Imagine you want to put another machine within the Biggest Democracy of the World (that is only applicable to the thirty percent Urban – more Aryan – Indians i understand, if Roy’s sayings are correct in general since, I was born in Iran, not in India) to rectify and and scrutinize cleanness of the hands of a bunch of sister f- – - – -s who have all climbed same pathways one way or another to know how to deceive and present a knife in someone’s back with a smile on his face. How could any machine fix the biggest, most archaic double class system (Castes plus Labor vs Capital) system in the world that has not changed much and, in some angles it gotten worse than when Brits were there. Isn’t it a shame to give Special Economic Zones to the imperialists and other state to do their dirty works right on top of the graves of the moved and displaced tribal villages whereabouts? what happened to the promises given to the central state’s cotton breeders who have to put their land’s deed in the hand of the shark loaners when they want to purchase their seeds for another year of creating cottons that due to the US subsidizing its own ranchers has a fallen price? weren’t they supposed to be given special clean loans? did that matter ever get resolved? or aren’t they committing suicide again?

    Come on, nothing has changed nor, nothing can change within this filthy system that from one side is a running dog of imperialism and, at the same time acts as a petti imperialist by importing cheaper labor and young girls as harlots from Nepal that, due to their fear, even after overthrowing their Royal family have chickened out and dared not to do a thing since India might give them asphyxia of goods and energies if they don’t play the capitalist game?

    India needs a revolution from top to bottom

    Long Live People’s War in India!

  15. prakash said

    is this true?

    “Until made financially stable by the success of her novel The God of Small Things, she worked various jobs, including running aerobics classes at five-star hotels in New Delhi. Roy is a cousin of prominent media personality Prannoy Roy, the head of the leading Indian TV media group NDTV,.[2] She lives in New Delhi.”

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