Anna Hazare’s Fast
When a government repeatedly ignores peaceful appeals for positive change, how should the frustration of people be expressed (short of taking up violence)? Fasting is a peaceful method of putting one’s self in jeopardy in order to bring attention of the powers that be.
Even as per the book definition, “blackmail” applies to the use of extortion or threats of causing harm in order to obtain material benefits for self. Anna threatened no one. He demanded nothing for himself.
The government’s agreeing to Anna’s demands was a democratic (not coerced) victory because the tiny fraction of the people of India who participated in the action represented the hearty desires of the masses against corruption. It was the massive outpouring of public support worldwide that caused the government to bow and not just Anna’s fast.
At least here, the government’s action also needs to be commended where they did not make it a prestige issue or try to use brutal force to put down a people’s movement (unlike Egypt and Libya).
Gandhi fasted even after independence. Furthermore, Ambedkar’s statement above was made in the euphoria following independence. If Ambedkar were to see the state of affairs today, he would have advocated all the methods of peaceful civil disobedience, including fasting.
In reality, Gandhi’s fight was not against the white-skinned man (British) but rather against the methods of governance that amounted to injustice, national loot, and falsehood. This is the state of the nation even today, and thus those methods of peaceful protests still hold good.
4. It weakens democracy when an activist group forces the government and elected representatives to do what they want. Why shouldn’t they contest elections and win to get their voice heard?
Our politicians, having forgotten that in a democracy people are the masters, have started treating them as subjects. The democratic electoral system now functions for those who have muscle, money and media power (the 3M’s). That is why it is not an option for an honest group of citizen to come to power through the electoral system and make reforms.
To the extent that the government has been forced to listen to the people's voice, IAC movement has actually strengthened our democracy. When an effective Lokpal bill is implemented, among other things, it will reduce the 'profitability' of public office, reduce the role of money in elections and lead to more honest elections which in turn will lead to a better democracy.
Political parties with ample representation in the executive as well as legislature hold bandhs, dharnas, rasta rokos, burn buses, and destroy public property. And, the political parties are asking why we resort to fasts?
Replicating success simply by copying the fast may be difficult, because the power of fasting comes from the integrity of the satyagrahi, and the popularity of the cause. If Anna sits for a fast demanding that everybody in his village be made rich, there won't be people fasting with him in dozens of towns and cities and nobody will even ask him to s the fast.
Gandhi had also said everyone should fast for self purification, which leads to the achievement of goals.
Jan Lokpal Bill Public Discourse & Drafting Commitee
During the drafting stage, the Jan Lokpal Bill is being exposed to public debate like no other bill in the past has. Numerous suggestions from various groups and individuals who have come forward to participate have already been included and will continue to do so till the date of finalization. A dedicated website, lokpalbillconsultation.org, is gathering inputs from the entire country. Public consultations are planned to be held throughout the country. Pamphlets are being printed for handing out to various public institutions and communities.
7. The bill drafting committee should not include members from the civil society. Bypassing democratic processes for political expediency however desirable the outcome, may be detrimental to democracy itself.
Generally, bills presented in parliament are drafted by government bureaucrats and other non-elected people, and rarely by the politicians (people’s representatives). In the drafting committee for the Jan Lokpal Bill, with equal representation from civil society and government, the step is only more democratic, not less.
Most importantly, the parliament will ultimately debate and vote on the draft, so who drafted the bill becomes less important. Committees for drafting bills have several times taken members from the civil society in the past – Maharashtra has enacted 7 acts like this.
As a side note, most bureaucrats have little field experience in social issues, and are confined to think only of authoritarian/undemocratic structures and processes. Several laws passed after independence like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, POTA, etc. are evidence of such autocratic thinking. Thus, a genuine people’s participation in the drafting committee will only result in more open and democratic national laws.
8. The drafting panel doesn't have a broad representation and doesn't include other eminent people or activists.
First of all, Anna said he will travel around the country collecting all ideas for an effective bill. A dedicated website, lokpalbillconsultation.org, is gathering inputs from the entire country. Public consultations are being held in different parts of the country. So, not being on the panel shouldn't prevent anybody including eminent people from submitting their ideas.
Second, can NAC be said to have a broad-based representation? How do members of NAC get chosen? Is there a transparent process for that? What is the constitutional validity of NAC?
The chief criterion for selection of the civil society members in the drafting committee was to select those people who had drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill. They are the only people who can explain all the background reasoning for having the various clauses and the interrelationships among them. People unfamiliar with the thought process behind drafting the bill will be unlikely to explain various subtleties of this complex legislation during the JDC’s meetings.
In addition, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan are both eminent jurists whose services are much needed in reviewing and drafting the final bill. The fact that they happen to be father and son is irrelevant. Charges of nepotism are meaningless because nepotism implies that the one of them was able to get the other accepted to the panel using their influence.
10. Government’s representatives in the committee are the true representatives of the people of India.
Not true. There is no member of the opposition in the government’s team of five. Opposition parties, also elected democratically just like the ruling party, form an essential constituent of a functioning democracy, and thus should have been included from the government’s side.
IAC’s Support And Timing
Not true. Our active support base runs into several tens of lakhs – in just about 10 days, 35 lakh phone calls have been received for SMS registration, lakhs of email messages, and 400 cities demonstrating mass protests of tens of thousands of people. A large number of people also fasted in their offices and homes without descending on to the streets. And, for every active supporter, there are at least a hundred others who support our cause. Look at the online surveys done by Times of India and others. And, most importantly, our supporters are participating voluntarily and not with inducements. We all know how much a political meeting costs for people mobilization.
First, the government's bill is widely acknowledged to be useless. Second, NAC (National Advisory Council) started drafting their version only in response to Anna's fast.-- note that NCPRI (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information) and NAC's Working Group on TA&G (Transparency, Accountability and Governance) were organizing discussions of the Lokpal bills (JLB & ULB) on April 3rd and 4th respectively -- just before Anna's fast. So, do you believe that without Anna's fast, this would have happened?
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