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September 16, 2011

Sanitized surrealities! The popular retreat into regression!




[From my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in VOICE, 1-15 September 2011]

It was pitch dark inside. The film was darker. What else could it be with all the shades of black it had despite being named, ironically, Gulal or saffron? Quite apparently the maverick director has delivered one more masterpiece ensuring, in the process, that Bollywood has come of age. It was now grappling with, as the critics would declare, issues far more serious than the existential crises of the erstwhile heroes triggered by the compulsions of making tea for the first time in their lives. You remember Wake Up Sid, don’t you?
Precisely for this reason, Gulal was a welcome change, or so it seemed to me spellbound by the magic it has woven with so much conviction. It has brought back student politics in the mainstream discourse. That too in the era when middle class gets repulsed by the mere mention of the term student politics, like all other politics! On top of that, the locale it chose was far away from the metros. It was an area where roads were ruled by macho jeeps and not by soft and suave sedans. An area where Royal Enfield Bullets were the passport one needed to enter the positions of power!

Life, as portrayed by Gulal, was a life of gray shades. Nothing here came in easily discernible and likable colours of black and white. All characters of the movie, even the protagonists, had evil designs of their own. They had an ideology as well! Oh lord, that dreaded word again? Here were people making sacrifices for it, that too when it was pronounced to be dead decades ago! Where are you dear Fukoyama?

Something struck me then. This ideology was not the same as I have known it to be. It came from the world it depicted, reconstructed and longed for. The world of Gulal was a world of Bannas or big brothers lording over an area and fighting among themselves for the quest of Rajputana, that ancestral property which was ‘usurped’ by the nefarious machinations of post independence democratic India.

Sheer audacity of the thought stunned me! Someone could really accuse a democratic India of conspiring against the world of Bannas? The reality was other way round, wasn’t it? Then came the realization that the banality did not stop there. The big brothers were upto something else as well, something far more serious. Ideology, for them, was a conduit to reclaim that longed for world back from the realities of our times.

They wanted to build a world that suited their whims and fancies. A world where none but their caste existed. This was not for nothing that the film having a number of characters was so majorly dominated by the presence of just one community, that of Rajputs! I tried recalling how many of the characters belonged to other communities and could not count more than four. Needleless to say that all of them were peripheral to the story!

Seeing Gulal in this light was sickening me. I wanted it to be just an exception, a discordant note from the annals of contemporary Hindi Cinema. It was not. Gulal has followed Omkara, another ‘masterpiece’ from another infant terrible of cinema of our times. Barring the fact that the protagonists of that movie were Brahmins and not Rajputs, everything else was strikingly similar to this one. Everything in fact meant everything. The quest for power, the disgust for democracy, the machinations one names it and there it was! Worse even, the biggest existential crisis of the ‘hero’ was his social status. He was just a ‘half-brahmin’ in the lands privileging purity of birth over anything else. The film did not have many characters from other castes/communities was beside the point.

Omkara, sadly, was not an exception either. All it has achieved was going one step closer in expunging all those did not want to be part of their world. It was a move up from the world of Praksh Jhas where villains were all from lower castes/communities while the ‘hero’ taking on them came, always, from the higher echelons of the society. Remember Gangajal and Shool! Not that they did not have negative characters from the upper castes. They certainly did as in Apaharan. But even the negative ones have a chance at redemption, an option closed to the more unfortunate ones, marked to be of lowly status forever because of the accident of their births. Some shift it was from the times when the ‘heroes’ used to be poor and thus supposedly from the lower castes/communities.

The change was not accidental though. It was in the making for a while. Neither was it confined to cinema. This subversion of reality was infesting almost all aspects of popular culture slowly. One of the best English news magazines was doing cover stories on the return of the Brahmin, I wonder if they have ever gone anywhere to return! There was Naipaul as well, the definitive Indian writer for the west despite not being born in India as well as abhorring almost everything Indian. The books written by him were so full of the lament of the decline of our country, attributing it to the injustices done to the Brahmins in post-independent India for good measures

I have encountered this first many summers ago, in those lazy afternoons spent in my grandma’s village reading popular Hindi literary novels. Rag Darbari, one of the most famous Hindi novels, comes readily to the mind. I remember I was so beguiled by it. Set in a mofussil town, it told the story of power play as it unfolds in the countryside. It represented the world, my world, so accurately. What I did not notice then was the fact that this world too was sanitized. I tried recalling the characters of the novel and finding out how many of them belonged to the lower strata. I failed again. Barring just one character, named Shanichara , no one came to the mind. Moreover, the very name of this character Shanichara was a telling comment on his status, Shani being the malovalent god in the Hindu cosmology, more a harbinger of bad luck and miseries!

A mofussil town, of all places, cannot be empty of the people from the weaker sections. Despite all the distress migration, despite all the displacements, a huge number of them remain confined to the boundaries of their villages. So where did they disappear from the Rajputana of Gulal and from the village of Omkara ? Had they all left the Shivpalganj of Rag Darbari en maase? For where, if they actually did? Why did we not notice them leaving?

We did not, because they did never leave. They did not actually have anywhere to go. They were just being erased from the cultural history. Their presence was an eyesore for those hell bent on making India Shining! Their India as a superpower by 2020 dreams had no space for these people, seen more as liabilities than being real people, of the same blood and flesh as are we.

The popular culture was not really ‘popular’ anymore. It did not represent the dreams, desires and even disgust of the silent majority, a majority in numerical terms but devoid of any stakes in power! These people were superfluous, an appendage to the Indian citizenry. The unspoken truth for powers that be is that India could do far better without these people!

Are these people really so inconsequential? Not really. Quite on the contrary, the shining India needs them to wash their clothes, to cook their food, to drive their cars. In short, they are required for ensuring the very basic survival of the great Indian middle class. The problem is that they need them while also wanting them to be invisible. They feel uncomfortable with everything these wretched ones. Their complexion stains the shine of India. Their dialects sound so much depressing in the face of impeccable English of their masters. For the favoured children of destiny, most of these dirty creatures even stink!

How to deal with the issue then? By making them invisible, the ‘popular’ is showing the way forward. The project actually goes well with the other favourite pastime of the elites. The project of denigrating democracy, I mean. They want it to be replaced by benevolent dictatorships who could ensure ‘varnashram’ in their villages. Is not that the best system to keep those lesser mortals ‘in their place’? It would be even better if the dictatorship has some ‘divine’ tinge to it. The mighty ones knows that failing to do so would mean a disaster in the form of all the unpleasant faces crowding the parliament and assemblies and forcing the acts like ‘reservation’ down their unwilling throats!

Use them but don’t see them seems to be the new Mantra for the New India!

September 06, 2011

कैसे कैसे तहरीर चौक, कैसी कैसी तहरीरें!

[रविवार में प्रकाशित]

जगहें चाहे कितनी भी खूबसूरत या महत्वपूर्ण हों, भूगोल के बंधन को मुश्किल से ही तोड़ पाती हैं. यूँ भी राष्ट्र-राज्य और उसकी अपार ताकत वाले हमारे समयों में भौगोलिक सच अक्सर भू-राजनैतिक सच भी होते हैं और इन 'सचों' की हिफाजत करने को वो फौजें होती जिनसे पार पाना असंभव न सही पर बेहद मुश्किल जरूर होता है. फिर भी, कभी कभी ये बंधन टूटते हैं और ये टूटना तब होता है तब, जब ऐतिहासिक प्रक्रियायों और कारणों के चलते ये जगहें सिर्फ जगहें न रहकर आम इंसान के गुस्से, विक्षोभ और सपनों का प्रतिबिम्ब बन जाती हैं. ऐसे कि जैसे तहरीर चौक.

मिस्र की राजधानी काहिरा का अब तक नामालूम सा एक चौक जो देखते ही देखते दुनिया भर की मुक्तिकामी और तरक्कीपसंद जनता के सपनों और संघर्ष का पहले प्रतीक, और फिर मील-पत्थर बन गया. ऐसे कि तहरीर चौक से उठती आवाजों का जब जवाब आया तो तमाम सरहदों और उनके अन्दर रहने वाले हुक्मरानों की हिफाजत को खड़ी फौजों को रौंद के आया.

काहिरा से उठते अय्येहुन्नास ('कोई है' के नारे के लिए अरबी लफ्ज़) का जवाब जब मनामा ने, बेनगाजी ने, ट्यूनिसिया ने लब्बैक (हम एक हैं) कह के दिया तो यह भूल कर दिया कि उनके सामने हथियारबंद फौजें खड़ीं हैं और यह भी कि दुनिया के किसी मुल्क में फौजें अवाम की हिफाज़त करने को नहीं होतीं. बस , कुछ ही दिनों के भीतर पूरे अरब-विश्व में लब्बैक और अय्येहुन्नास की गूंजती हुई आवाजें थीं , दशकों से सत्ता पे काबिज तानाशाहों की फौजें थीं और उनके सामने सीना तान कर खड़े लोगों के निडर चेहरे थे.

जान हथेली पर लेकर निकली इस अरब अवाम के गुस्से में दशकों से स्थगित सवालों के सारे जवाब हों न हों, उन रास्तों को ढूँढने की मुकम्मल ख्वाहिश थी जो उनके देशों को आजादी, बराबरी और लोकतंत्र के रास्ते पर ले जायेंगे. अरब लोगों ने ये रास्ते ढूंढ भी लिए. खबर भी नहीं हुई कि अवामी गुस्से की इस तपिश में मिस्र और ट्यूनिसिया की तानाशाहियाँ कब जल के खाक हो गयीं .

सत्तायें जानती हैं कि ढहती हुई हर तानाशाही गैर मुल्कों के मजलूम गुलाम लोगों को उम्मीद देती है, उनके आजादी के सपनों को लड़ने का हौसला देती है. यह भी कि फौजों के सामने बिना डरे खड़े हो जाने वाला हर एक शख्स हुकूमतों की ताबूत में एक और कील होता है. यूँ कि उसके चेहरे से गायब हो गया डर हुक्मरानों के चेहरों पर उतरने लगता है. और यहाँ तो तहरीर चौक से शुरू कर फौजों के सामने खड़े हो गए लोगों की कतारें थी. फिर इन मुल्कों में पहली बार , हुक्मरानों के चेहरे पर वह डर उतरने लगा जो उन्होंने अपने जाने लोगों की किस्मत में लिख दिया था.

इन तमाम देशों के संघर्षों में साझा बस एक चीज थी, तहरीर चौक पर देखा गया एक साझा सपना. सो इन तमाम मुल्कों ने, उनकी अवामों ने, तहरीर चौक का शुक्रिया भी अदा किया, ऐसे कि उन्होंने अपने मुल्कों में विरोध की सबसे बड़ी जगहों को तहरीर चौक बना दिया. अब तहरीर चौक संज्ञा नहीं एक विशेषण था, आजादी, अमन और बराबरी के सपने देखती जनताओं की ख्वाहिशों का सर्वनाम था.

पर फिर अचानक काहिरा का तहरीर चौक बरास्ते टीवी चैनल्स दिल्ली के जंतर मंतर से होता हुआ हमारे बेडरूमों में उतर आया. चाहे काहिरा में उमड़ती लाखों की भीड़ के सामने जंतर मंतर के चंद हजार लोग किसी गिनती में न हों, बावजूद इस सच के कि काहिरा में कम से कम तानाशाही के अंत की ख्वाहिश लिए अपनी जान दांव पर लगा कर सड़कों पर उतर आई भीड़ के सामने एसएमएसों से कोई खतरा ना होने की आश्वस्ति पाकर ही घर से निकले इन लोगों का तहरीर चौक के संघर्षों से दूर दूर तक कोई साझा न हो. अपने को तहरीर चौक कहने वाला, और इलेक्ट्रानिक मीडिया के अन्दर अपने कारिंदों से कहलवाने पर आमादा यह कुछ अजब सा तहरीर चौक था.

अरब देशों में इकठ्ठा होती भीड़ों पर गोलियां चलाती फौजों के बरअक्स इस भीड़ में बिसलेरी और बिस्कुट बाँटते लोग थे, वहां शहीद हो रहे लोगों के सामने यहाँ सिर्फ स्वास्थ्य के इजाजत देने तक अनशन की घोषणा करते लोग थे.

उस तहरीर और इस तहरीर में फर्क सिर्फ इतना भर नहीं था. यहाँ तो फर्क बुनियादी मूल्यों का, मान्यताओं का भी था. उन तहरीर चौकों में तानाशाहों के खिलाफ सारे अवाम की गुलाम इच्छाओं के कैद से बाहर आने की छटपटाहटें थीं और यहाँ एक दलित मुख्यमंत्री की दलितों वंचितों को कोर कमेटी में शामिल करने की मांग का भी उद्घोष जैसा नकार था. वहां दिलों में उबल रहा गुस्सा न केवल सरकारों बल्कि सरकारी शह पर जमाने से जनता को लूट रही कंपनियों को भी मार भगाने पर आमादा था और ठीक उलट यहाँ के तहरीर चौक के तो प्रायोजक ही कार्पोरेशंस थे.

अकारण नहीं है कि यहाँ के तहरीर चौक के नेताओं के हाथों में थामे कागज़ के पुलिंदों में कार्पोरेशंस के खिलाफ एक लफ्ज़ नहीं है, बावजूद इस सच के कि सरकारी भ्रष्टाचार के सबसे ज्यादा लाभ उन्हें ही होते हैं. वहां मांगें शासन में सबकी भागीदारी की थीं और यहाँ कल तक सामाजिक न्याय के खिलाफ, पिछड़े वर्गों को मिलने वाले आरक्षण के खिलाफ खड़े लोग रातों रात 'देश ' की आवाज बन गए थे देश के नेता बन गए थे. वहां सपने सबके साझे सुख के थे और यहाँ भ्रष्टाचार को उस मुल्क में भूख से बड़ा बताते लोग थे जिसकी 80 फीसदी आबादी 20 रुपये से कम में एक पूरे दिन की जिन्दगी जीती है. उस देश में जहाँ नरेगा को सरकारी धन का अपव्यय बताने वाला फिक्की 'इस' तहरीर चौक पर सबसे आगे खड़ा होता है. उस देश में जिसमे हर बरस अम्बानियों और टाटाओं को 80000 करोड़ रुपये से ज्यादा की कर्जमाफी देश के विकास के नाम पर मिलती है.

वहां की लड़ाई सबके हक और हुकूक की थी और यहाँ संविधानिक प्राविधानों की वजह से कुछ शोषित लोगों के आगे बढ़ आने से सदियों से सत्ता पर काबिज लोगों के माथे पर बन रही चिंता की लकीरें थीं. वहाँ तानाशाहों के मिजाज से चलते शासन के खिलाफ एक लोकतांत्रिक संविधान बनाने के सपने थे और यहाँ बाबासाहेब के बनाए संविधान को खारिज करने की जिद थी.

वहां एक तानाशाह को भगा कर सामूहिक प्रतिनिधित्व वाला स्वतंत्र समाज हासिल कर पाने की जद्दोजहद थी और यहाँ एक व्यक्ति को संसद और संविधान से भी ऊपर खड़ा कर देने की हुंकारें थीं. या यूँ कह लें, कि वहां लड़ाई जम्हूरियत हासिल करने की थी और यहाँ उसे जमींदोज करने की.

बात साफ़ है, कि इस तहरीर चौक पर लिखी जा रही तहरीरें उस तहरीर चौक की इबारतों से न केवल अलहदा हैं बल्कि उनसे मुख्तलिफ भी हैं. अब समझना यह है कि 'हमारे' तहरीर चौक पे ये अजब तहरीरें कौन और क्यों लिख रहा है! समझना इसलिए कि फिर लड़ना भी पड़ेगा, असली तहरीर चौक की विरासत बचानी भी पड़ेगी.

September 05, 2011

बकरियों को पानी पिलाती इस बच्ची की ‘जात’ भी बताओगे अन्ना-भक्तों?









तस्वीरें बहुत कुछ कहती हैं. कई बार तो इतना कुछ की सारे शब्द गैरजरूरी हो जाते हैं और नजर उन तस्वीरों के सच को समझने को नाकाफी. ऐसी ही चंद तस्वीरें यहाँ हैं.. देखें और इनके द्वारा उद्घाटित सत्यों से जूझें, गर हो सके तो!

दृश्य 1- यह अन्ना के अनशन को तोड़ने के वक्त की तस्वीर है. उनको पानी पिलाती दो बच्चियों की तस्वीर! उस वक्त की जब अन्ना के अनशन के शुरुआती उन्माद के बाद बहुत कुछ साफ़ होने लगा था. उन वक्तों की जब अरविन्द केजरीवाल के जेनयू में दिए गए ओबीसी आरक्षण विरोधी भाषणों के अर्थ समझने की कोशिशें शुरू हो गयी थीं. उन वक्तों की जब आरक्षण को देश बांटने का खतरा बताने वाले 'श्री श्री रविशंकर' के बयान फिर से पढ़े जा रहे थे. उन वक्तों की जब अन्ना के मंच पर मौजूद तमाम संतों की विश्व हिन्दू परिषद् की धर्म संसदों के मंच पे बैठे होने की तस्वीरें कम से कम सोशल मीडिया पर जारी होने लगी थीं.

इसीलिये, अन्ना को पानी पिलाती इन मासूम बच्चियों की 'जात' बताना अन्ना और उनकी टीम के लिए बेहद जरूरी हो चला था. उन्होंने बताया भी, की इनमे से एक बची दलित है और और दूसरी मुस्लिम.

इस तस्वीर के ठीक बाद इन तस्वीरों को देखिये जो अन्ना के आन्दोलन के रंगमंच दिल्ली से हजारों किलोमीटर दूर मध्यप्रदेश के रींवा जिले में एक शोध के सिलसिले में भ्रमण करते हुए मेरे द्वारा ली गयी हैं.

दृश्य 2- यह अपने गाँव से बहुत दूर ग्राम समाज के साझे चारागाह में बकरियों को पानी पिलाते हुए बच्ची की तस्वीरें हैं. एक बच्ची जिसकी उम्र अन्ना को पानी पिलाती बच्चियों की उम्र के बराबर ही होगी. अपने कद से जरा सी ही छोटी बाल्टी ढो रही इस बच्ची को देखें.

दृश्य 3 - एक बकरी के सामने पानी रख कर यह बच्ची अब दूसरी बाल्टी लाने जा रही है. वह बाल्टी जो आप अभी तक देख नहीं पाए थे.

दृश्य 4- अब यह बच्ची अपनी दो बकरियों के साथ है..

दृश्य 5 - अब आप दोनों बाल्टियां देख सकते हैं. लगभग खाली हो चली बाल्टियां..

दृश्य 6 - बच्ची अब घर लौट रही है, बशर्ते की हमारा आपका 'मध्यवर्गीय' मन उसकी टूटी-फूटी सी झोपडी को घर मानने की इजाजत दे सके. घर की चारागाह से दूरी का अंदाज भी आप चाहें तो इस तस्वीर से लगा ही सकते हैं क्योंकि मैंने अपनी जगह नहीं बदली है. सिर्फ मोटरसाइकिल पर बैठे बैठे कैमरे की दिशा बदल दी है.

दृश्य 7 - लगभग दृश्य ६ की पुनरावृत्ति है. बस कैमरे को थोडा जूम पर ले लिया है!

[थोड़ा सा ध्यान दें तो एक और बात नजर आएगी, यह कि बच्ची ने अपने स्कूल के कपड़े पहने हैं. शौकिया, या फिर उसके पास और कपड़े हैं ही नहीं यह आप तय कर लें!]

मेरे दिल में एक सवाल आ रहा है बस.. की अन्ना को पानी पिलाने वाली बच्चियों की 'जात' का ऐलान करने वाले क्या इस बच्ची की 'जात' भी पूछेंगे, बताएँगे? शायद नहीं, क्योंकि इस बच्ची की 'जात' तो वो पहले से ही जानते हैं! वे ही क्या, पूरा इण्डिया ही इस बच्ची की जात जानता है! जाने भी क्यों न, श्रेणीबद्ध विषमताओं वालों यही समाज है जिसमे ऊपर जाने की सीढियां नीचे वालों के नसीब में नहीं होतीं!

अब तय हमें करना है कि हम उनके जन्म की दुर्घटना के आधार पर बच्चों का भविष्य उनके माथे पर लिख देने वाले मनु बाबा और उनके नए अवतार अन्ना के ‘इण्डिया’ के साथ खड़े हैं या..

September 03, 2011

Amidst Manufactured Madness: Being a Gandhian was never this Cool!


[First published in my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in UTS Voice Sept 1-15, 2011]

I am not Anna. I do not even want to be. Yet I feel a little uncomfortable, if not scared, to say this aloud. For, almost everyone else does claim to, if not want to, be ANNA! Of course, this everyone else is not actually everyone but only those who matter, only those who have the rights of passage to our bedrooms, peeping out of the television sets! But then, those who do not matter do not exist as well, do they? Clearly, in my wish of remaining who I am and not being Anna, I am a minority and like any minorities of our country, I am destined to feel scared.

The fear is not something unsubstantiated. There is something brewing in the air, something very close to madness. Yet, quite unlike madness, this one seems to be endearing and intoxicating for many! It has engulfed the whole Indian nation, or so the electronic media says! Having said that, the media invites the presiding deities of the frenzy who then start delivering sermons with all the might they could extract out of their lungs. One note of discord in my eyes, and these benign messiahs first pause, and then their gaze turns into a menacing stare.

The stare unnerves me, labels me as a traitor, and condemns me to be exiled from the nation, their nation. Being excluded from this ‘nation’, just because I do not want to be someone else is scary, even more so because it labels one as the other, the enemy. The project of manufacturing madness is complete.

The madness has a certain method to it, well orchestrated and complete with down to the last minute detailing of performative aspects. The performance has been, till now at least, par excellence as well. Suddenly, Anna caps have given even the sexiest head gears a run for their money, and a quite burial, perhaps, to the Gandhi topi, that powerful symbol of the Indian freedom struggle. I wonder, though, if it is time to edit all the history books and add FIRST to the phrase Indian freedom struggle!

This madness should ensure that. For a fact, that one was not fought with 24*7 media coverage, nor was being a Gandhian a ‘cool’ thing to do. Wearing a Gandhi cap, then, exposed one to the dangers of inviting police on a hot pursuit. Quite unlike our times, when wearing an Anna one gives one a license to do away with the helmets , perform stunts on public roads and then laugh scornfully on the hapless (and ‘definitely corrupt’) cops watching you!

Neither was it possible to be a Gandhian and ask for ‘beating’ the corrupt ones with shoes! What a new form of Ahimsa, or non-violence this is! A section of Indian political spectrum have practiced and championed this ‘ahimsa’ for a while, not imagining even in their wildest dreams that someday ‘Gandhi’ himself would come to legitimize it. They had never identified with that Gandhi. He was so unmanly, so timid for them, one known for trembling at the very mention of violence and withdrawing movements if any Chauri Chaura happens anywhere! They eventually had to bump him off the scene even.

They are quite happy with this Gandhi though. What else could have suited them more than a Gandhi brandishing swords, calling upon his people to take recourse to Shivaji’s methods, and asking for capital punishment for the corrupt ones? They must be finding it hard to conceal their grins even when compelled by media cameras to present a calm and composed demeanour.
And, was that Gandhi a dim-wit as well? How could he not see corruption being limited to the dirty species names as the politicians and the bureaucrats as the new one does? He found it everywhere, in the actions and deeds of his enemies, his followers and even within himself. Remember all the fasts he went for to seek repentance and purify himself? What a poor, fallible mortal he was! How could we survive with his real self as the father of the nation?

Giving that Gandhi an image makeover was so long overdue! Thank heavens; they have this brand new one, pure, flawless, devoid of any human weaknesses, almost god-like and therefore both more suitable and susceptible to their designs!

Maybe this is the time to edit all the history books and add ‘THAT’ to differentiate that uncool Gandhi from the new, ‘hep and happening’ one!

Just as a clarification, I have never been much fond of Gandhi. I have rather been very uncomfortable with many things he did, forcing Babasaheb Ambedkar to accept his conditions during Poona Pact for example. Further, he should have done far much more for the Dalits, the minorities and the tribals. I believe that He could!

But then, I have never doubted his integrity. I could never. Whatever Gandhi did, he did that out in the open. In not doing much for the downtrodden, in my view, he was a victim of his idea of political independence being far more important than social justice at best and a prisoner of his times with no access to the vocabulary of social revolution at worst. Yet, he was open to dialogues. Even if not self-critically, he engaged with Babasaheb. He was, at least, ready to listen to views contrary to his. Even when faced with seemingly irreconcilable stands, he tried to find a path accommodating as many as possible.

This is what makes that Gandhi so unappealing to those behind this bout of mass hysteria. They are not for conciliation. They would rubbish the demand of a Dalit chief minister not belonging to the party in power at the centre. Rather they would mock at her just demand of inclusion of dalits in their leadership by redirecting it to the same central government they are so skeptical of!

They would let the opponents of reservations in employment and education run the show from behind and would give space to demands for scrapping this constitutionally guaranteed mechanism for ensuring social justice. They would actually target only those institutions of modern India which have gave a little space to communities erstwhile excluded from all seats of power. Unlike Gandhi’s ‘chavanniya’(25 paise) membership model to fund his movements, the lieutenants of this new model would get the movement funded and sponsored by the corporations. In return, they would ensure that the anti-corruption bill proposed by them does not even mention corporations forget providing for mechanisms to investigate into corruptions so rampant within them.

They would ask for the right to recall, but would never ever think of getting elected themselves. They would talk of right to information for everyone else, but would ensure that they do never declare the sources of their funding, their expenditures and so on! And then, they would jump on the high pedestals of morality and would denounce everyone who is not with them. And for them, everything would reduce to what their newfound Gandhi says! Whatever happened to the idea of consensus, of debates, of dissent and democracy!

Even when this Gandhi, seething with anger against corruption does not have much to say on many other issues, at least equally, if not more pressing than corruption. This Gandhi did not open his mouth when tens of thousands of farmers committed suicide, many of them in his own state. For him, the fact that more than half of the children of our country are severally malnourished is not an issue! And even when inviting Irom Sharmila to join his protest, he seemed to have forgotten that this is a country where thousands get killed in fake encounters even in ‘normal’ states like Maharashtra, Andhra and Uttar Pradesh! For him the only issue is corruption, even when the Planning Commission of India proposed fixing poverty line at 15 rupees in rural and 20 rupees in urban areas, confirming in the process that more than 80 per cent of our people earn less than 20 rupees a day, and thus have nothing to bribe anyone.

They would not here any of this. Raise any of these issues and these self-appointed crusaders against corruption get angry, really angry at you. For the simple fact that they are ‘everyone’ and they are speaking for everyone. Rather now everyone is Anna, Anna is everyone and he alone has the right to speak for everyone. The rest of Indian citizenry, it seems, is erased from the public consciousness.

All this when these self-designated guardians of the nation command the respect and allegiance of less than a million Indians on Facebook and even lesser on the streets? The thing that matters is that these are the people who matter, led by a small coterie of urban, elite English-speaking self-designated messiahs of the middle classes. And when they claim to represent ‘everyone’, only prudent thing to do is to silently accept that because they are also the leaders of the ‘civil society’. Now, who would want to be at odds with them and getting marked as ‘uncivil’ and corrupt! Barbaric is the antonym of civil, remember?

Let me be a traitor then. Not merely for the fact that being Anna challenges all the notions that define rational modernity, the quest for individuality and the need for having a clean break from the times one was never an independent human being, but also for the fact that being Anna is bartering the idea of a diverse but equal India for an India which is perhaps less corrupt but increasingly dictatorial and undemocratic India led by a benevolent patriarch! I shiver at the thought. Isn’t even a deficient democracy preferable to dictatorship? I am not ready to march back into the regressive and repressive era of feudalism, even if the feudal is Gandhi, the second, himself!

And I am sure that I am not alone in this quest, for I do not see many of these Annas once the television set is switched off.