By Uma Sudhir
I can’t explain the tingling sensation I have been feeling since the morning. Somewhere inside there is an unexplained sense of joy, as though waiting to burst out and dance. The reason for my excited, almost exhilarated state of being, is a 71-year-old man. The same congenial looking man who is sitting at Rajghat on a one-day fast.
He looks like a man from another time and age who simplistically believes things can change. He utters truths that are simple and straight. You could dismiss him as a simpleton. He talks in a language that must seem quite mindboggling to the spindoctor-spokespersons of various political parties who can play with a thousand words and say nothing at all. Because he seems to be getting across to so many people across the country, touching their heartstrings straight, without any professional image-managers to teach him the art.
There he sits nodding at people, smiling, clapping his hands, trying to join in as music and patriotic songs play, some in tune, some out of it, filmy and non-filmy. They blare out of the not-so-professional sound systems. But that does not matter. Everyone is happy to join in the chorus. Whether they are in tune or not, whether they know the song or not, again does not matter. Their vocal chords are strengthening the voice of the people. That is what matters.
The spirit is important. And what is much more important is that a sea of people is sitting there and also watching him on television screens across the country, believing in this man and what he is talking about. In the power of the people to bring about change. There is an alluring childlike innocent hope for change, sans cynicism. You can call it naive optimism. I thank him for letting a nation and its people, that includes me, rediscover that simple self-belief.
Whether it will really lead to change, will it be constructively planned to sustain the momentum and bring in a revolution, I am not really sure. I could hear voices at Rajghat, saying we are not looking to topple governments. When political voices speak, they are only looking to topple governments and take the chair themselves. Anyways, no one believes any one government is any better than the other. The government is not the enemy and we know it. “We are looking to bring fundamental change, we will go step by step. We will not give up. After all, don’t drops make an ocean. So first the Jan Lokpal Bill.”
Anna has called this a second war of Independence from corruption, bribery, extortion and intimidation. How I wish I were also in Delhi to feel that magical current in the air. On second thoughts, may be that is not necessary. There is reassurance in the thought that there are many, many more across the country, and even abroad, who are feeling the brightness of the light in the eyes of that 1965 war veteran. And are feeling enthused to do something themselves. To be part of the change themselves. When was the last time this happened? It may have happened after Mumbai, 26/11, that shook the nation. But this is not a dramatic waking up. We were almost gently cajoled to sit up and take notice of what this man was telling us.
There was contempt and arrogance in the government’s allegation that those claiming to talk on behalf of civil society were in fact usurping governmental prerogative and power. There was chicanery in declaring that if they want to stay out of deliberations, the government would go ahead and finalise the Bill and present it to Parliament all by themselves. Nobody bothers to explain why neither the parties in power nor those out of it failed to take any initiative in that direction till Anna came on the scene.
I almost suspect a Baba Ramdev was trumped up as the central actor among civil society doyens with a larger gameplan to discredit and sideline saner voices like a Prashant Bhushan, an Arvind Kejriwal and a Kiran Bedi.
In a way I am glad, permission was denied for this gathering at Jantar Mantar and instead this is happening at Rajghat. Because what this man has shown us is the Gandhian path once more. That this is about the common man and the farmer. Who has to pay a bribe for a certificate, to get a loan, to get his driving licence, to get college admission for his wards. Here at Rajghat and elsewhere across the country, Anna’s supporters are from all walks of life. No one has been able to point fingers at this man, Anna Hazare, because he has lived an exemplary life of ideals and simplicity and he is an open book, with 20 years of work in the public sphere that has shown what a difference one man can make.
Those who we wanted to bring about the changes in India, have let us down. This man is talking about new choices. We would be fools not to go for it with all that we can muster from within ourselves.