Arindam Chaudhuri
[April, 2011]

A seventy-three year old unassuming man by the name of Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare is again set to give sleepless nights to the Government of India. More popularly known as Anna Hazare, this isn’t his first endeavour to take the putrescent establishment head on. He earned his due recognition when he tirelessly fought to develop a model village in the district of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. As it happens to most in our country, for all the good work, Dr. Hazare was also factitiously arrested in 1998 and was released on account of a huge public uproar. Incidentally, the Government of India also recognized his efforts by bestowing him with the Padma Bhushan. But amongst all his mini revolutions which have advantaged the smaller sections of society, this time Hazare is taking up such an issue which is probably the biggest malaise of our democracy and is a cause which affects every living Indian in some way or the other.

Our governments time and again have been most deleteriously corrupt and demonocratic! But in all these respects, the current reprobate government takes the cake! The biggest of scams have surfaced under this execrable leadership. And it's not big simply because times have changed. Even if one accounts for inflation, these are gigantic scams, which only goes on to show that the people in power are knavishly corrupt and greedy like never before. Thus, 2010 can safely be called the year of unparalleled and historic corruption. The year of shame, in which media – especially the electronic media – had a field year and ended up making a lot of people from the civil society very vocal. Amongst them were some people with honest backgrounds and with a spotless record of serving this nation and having a great following in this country – people like Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and the grand old man of India's now famous India-against-corruption movement, Anna Hazare. They decided that enough was enough with the flagitious government's lip service. It was time for the honest man to show his powers, and if necessary, arm-twist the government a little. They came out on the streets. And Anna took to fasting. Fasting to get a people's bill introduced which will give people and their representatives the power to prosecute the quisling corrupt in the government and bureaucracy! On a normal day, a man fasting at Jantar Mantar wouldn't bother many. But it was not a normal day. It was after a year of corruption being exposed one after the other – and a huge role in that too had been played by the much often criticized electronic media of India. Yes, with the need to sustain themselves in the 24x7 format, the media often shows eyeball grabbing programmes; but that does not mean they do not show real news when there is any. The Indian electronic media is full of people and TV hosts who want to see a real change in this country’s cankered economic and political system – and a majority of these media channels are in Hindi and other regional channels. For eyeballs as well as genuine frustration with corruption, the electronic media had seen to it over the entire year that every Indian was not just aware of the peccant corruption but had also seen stammering representatives of the current government unable to defend the very straightforward and scathing attack of the new age Indian TV – which is no more ruled by just one Prannoy Roy but by tens of mini Prannoy Roys who are exceptional in their own ways and often connect more with the common man and not just the elite.

In this day and time, when Anna took to fasting, a different breed of people – more awakened and angrier than ever before – came out in hundreds first and thousands soon after to support this man. The entire show was again covered very well by TV and propagated around the country. In contrast to Anna, my heart does go out for Irom Sharmila, the lady who has been fasting for ten long years without any success and with the government turning a blind eye to her existence. On any other day, Anna could have also spent a few years fasting with the government not budging a bit. Who after all cares if 4000 people come together and demonstrate? A good lathi charge, an arrest of the leaders including Anna and a few hours later, all could have been over. But in the new India, under the scathing eye and leadership of the electronic media more than Anna, all this was not possible. On the contrary, with every given hour, masses only increased. And the government – given its indictable track record in recent times in terms of corruption – had no other choice but to budge and accept Anna's demands to avoid the possibility of a much larger scale uprising. At the end, it's true that Anna led from the front and was ready to put his life at stake. It's true that for every conscientious movement, you need a spotless leader with unblemished credibility. But the fact is that the real support of this leader did not come from the few men who went to Jantar Mantar.. It came from the much criticized newsrooms of India's electronic media, which didn't care about their party alliances but came out all supporting the movement. And anything that makes the elected representatives of India – the politicians – budge is democratic. Every time governments across the world have taken their people for a ride, a people's movement has taken shape. And in modern days, it gets huge support by the online media in developed countries. But in India's case, that being ridiculously insignificant, it was the electronic media showing the way all through. Every people's movement that shakes up the government is most democratic because it shows the general feelings amongst the masses. Calling it undemocratic smacks of unfanciful jealousies, allegiance to status quo and ulterior motives. Masses can't be brought out on the streets – that too without payment – with any frivolous reason. The fact is that the government is surely elected by the masses... But when the same masses see that it is taking the nation for a ride, people have the democratic right to protest and apply pressure. And anyone who leads that movement needn't be an elected representative.

Gandhi was not an elected representative of the Indian masses when he was leading India’s freedom struggle. Thus, the leader is and can be the one around whom the masses rally. And just being elected is not the proof of being democratic. In our country, a host of criminals get elected through shady ways by manipulating our system. Just because they are elected and Anna is not, doesn't make them the pillars of democracy in India. I want to sum up by saying that Anna's movement had the people's support from all over India and it was hugely democratic. It's a success of not just Anna but our country's electronic media. They might be taking a u-turn right now due to various pressures; but the fact is that they can't be kept silent forever. Every time the government goes wrong, the electronic media is today there to awaken the people more than individual leaders. Of course, we need the right kind of individual leaders to snatch such opportunities and bring the people together. Despite attempts after attempts by the government to discredit the people associated with the movement and change public opinion, the fact is that the Anna movement is just the beginning of many such movements to come till we have true democracy in this country. And every time such a movement is successful, the electronic media will play a huge role. Not just because they are greedy for eyeballs, but also because they are committed to a better India and are becoming more and more fearless by the day, ably supported by the online community.
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