I am no Anna-fan. I have reservations against his version of the
Lokpal Bill as i have against the government's and the recent one by
Ms. Aruna Roy. But i do support the need for a strong and effective
Lokpal at any cost. In this article i shall try to deconstruct the
arguments put forth by Ms. Arundhati Roy in the article published on
the opinion page in The Hindu on the 22nd of August 2011. I shall
launch the rebuttals by mentioning the location of Ms. Roy's arguments
in the said article.
The first paragraph begins by calling the movement "embarrassing and
unintelligible" and assumes in the conclusive assertion that it is a
movement about Anna Hazare only. The point, Ms. Roy, is that you
forget it has members like Prashant Bhushan on his panel to satisfy
your assessment and parameter of 'intelligence'. Mr. Pashant Bhushan
is a person, Ms. Roy, with whom you have collaborated a number of
times in campus protests on various issues. Reality check needed, the
humble, Ms. Roy for there are people like Arvind Kejriwal who have
been spearheading and master-minding the movement since its inception.
Paragraph fourth : Ms. Roy says the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) "will
administer a giant bureaucracy...." Either Ms. Roy seems to have not
read the Bill or seems to have not been able to "intelligently"
comprehend the same. The JLB is merely a bill that seeks to construct
a strong Lokpal at the centre and Lokayuktas at state level to act as
curative or a preventive bodies in the present context; to deal with
systemic corruption in governance primarily at the top levels of
bureaucracy, ministries etc etc.Ms. Roy's subtle assertion, and a
factually incorrect one comes at a point in time in the article after
she has categorically labelled the same as "draconian" and declared a
factually flawed version of its understanding. Ms.Roy, are you too
influenced by the linguist Noam Chomsky(which actually you are as you
say) to argue a case which in terms of philosophy would account to
misleading vividness based on flawed, dramatic premise? Or is it an
intentional act of abusing language to inflate the degree of your
assertion so that two wrongs make a right.
Paragraph fifth: Ms. Roy's grand narrative of the common woman's grief
and dilemma is exactly what the JLB seeks to address, if Ms. Roy
chooses to read the bill sincerely and with an 'intelligent' mind that
is. Ms. Roy, the public declaration of individual government servant's
work profile in the Citizens' Charter, as demanded by the JLB, will
make it easier for any "her" to be aware of the vulnerability of any
government office to come under Lokpal's surveillance. Also, the
Lokpal is merely to investigate and prosecute the corrupt officials
and not to help her get a license to set up her business.
Paragraph Sixth:I wonder why Ms. Roy chooses to attend seminars and
protest meetings by liberal elitists who basically work in the
language of symbols that are as "aggressive and flag waving" as she
alleges the Anna-supporters to be.
Paragraph seventh and third: It is indeed unfortunate that Irom
Sharmila's fast could not gain as much of a mass support as Anna got
but to dismiss the ongoing as populist is to dismiss the opinions of
millions of thousands of common men and women who have been attending
the same with as much of fever with which you speak on NBA, Ms. Roy.
Yes, India is by and large a bourgeois society. Yes, that office goers
did not identify with other causes as much as they did with this one
in the same spirit. Yes, more and more urban people have been lending
solidarity to the same. But Ms. Roy had you chosen to take a pulse of
the ailing thousands of Indians, or people residing in India as would
prefer to address them politically, you would have known for a fact
that villagers from Haryana came to attend the movement too. There
were large scale demonstrations in Ralegan Siddhi. These are, Ms. Roy,
if you know the Indian demographics correct, not people from the urban
conglomerates. Further, eunuchs from Haryana too came to register
their protest in favour of Anna's stand. The surviving victims of
Bhopal Gas Tragedy too lent out their voices in his support. So, Ms.
Roy, kindly do not resort to clubbing these sizeable numbers in your
pompous plethora of sophisticated tag in some arbitrary and extremely
fascist linguistic jargon. These are the also among the 'marginalised'
who you think have absolutely no representation in Anna's movement.
Ms. Roy, if you choose to hear out Anna a little more, you would have
appreciated the fact that he did talk about farmers' protest and other
issues apart from the JLB. Humble Ms. Roy, the country for the time
being is merely focused on one issue because no movement can bite on
too many issues to chew the cud properly. Perhaps grapes seem sour to
you as not many support your stand on issues more than once.
Ms. Roy you had come to campus to attend a meeting by agitating
academicians against semester system in April. You said on being asked
and i quote,"The whole Anna thing is bullshit!" I wonder, how you
managed to pen an article on "bullshit" so feverishly. Also,if coming
to attend the agitation then was an act of solidarity to 'people' at
large celebrating the right to express themselves in a democracy, i
wonder how to rate your argument on scale of determining a stand
vis-a-vis elitist politics. Is your support for democracy only then
when a small coterie invites you to attend a protest or when your
"love-bites" to media, as you cynically used the phrase in a similar
meet at campus supporting Valentine's Day celebrations, are deep
enough to bypass the popularity of a "fresh-minted saint", as you
chose to call Mr. Hazare in your article?
You did not attend the slut walk. Does that mean you do not support
the feminist cause. You did not speak about the terror attack when
Mumbai wept. Pardoned then, when Taj was attacked, may be because it
targeted the capitalists. But even this time also you did not. They
were plebians in Zaveri Bazar who were hit. Does that mean, Ms. Roy,
you do not share any one these concerns. When you are entitled to not
lay hands on every issue that demands as immediate attention as say
the Kashmir controversy, does not the same argument apply to other
'popular' leaders of their times? Do members of the civil society also
have the right to choose which issues they wish to address without
being slotted in neat categories by liberal democrats who are as
staunch in their views as say the far right RSS. Ms. Roy, in order to
be an activist or a mass leader, you need not always be an
anti-capitalist, anti-establishment, anti-government each time. There
are people who 'intelligent'ly work within the system to clean it up.
So. Ms. Roy, when you say that Anna and and the Maoists are one in the
sense that they seek to overthrow the government, i demand my right to
differ be respected. Maoists resort to callous violence to overthrow
the state power. This mass upsurge seeks to make the government
accountable and answerable by absolutely non-violent means. Anna never
demanded UPA to step down from power. He has been asking him to merely
table a bill in the parliament. Identify the difference, Ms. Roy.
I agree that Arundhati Roy has a notable observation to make regarding
the absolute silence in the Jan Lokpal Bill on corporate corruption.
But unfortunately she fails to propose a model on how to try to cater
to putting a check on the same. Ms. Aruna Roy has a couple of
constructive interventions to make in her version of the Lokpal Bill
too. The need of the hour is to work for bringing a collaborative
definition of a strong Lokpal instead of merely dismissing this mass
movement as bourgeois humbug. Hope Ms. Arundhati respects and
appreciates the law of democracy in terms of not just championing the
trumpet of the freedom of expression but also the humility and
'intelligence' to listen to what others have to say. And hope that
civil societies collaborate structurally and ideologically to
contribute their dutiful bit in bringing up a strong Lokpal Bill.