Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

139. Divided: Still Growing Strong

The Nation is divided once again.
However, there is nothing to be worried about it.
We always have been a Nation with multiple views and cross-cutting perspectives. When was it last that we were united?

During many incidences of bomb blasts? Post- riots? Kosi floods? Nakshalite attacks? Tsunami? Earthquakes? Pokharan? During emergency? Post emergency? During freedom and partition in 1947? During 1942 “Chale Jao” movement? During 1905 when Bengal was partitioned?  In 1857?  During Shivaji’s time? During Rana Pratap’s time? Gautam Buddha? Shankaracharya? Shirkrishna? Ram? Upanishadic seers? Indus Valley Civilization? Arya rule? When?

Consider any kind of social reforms, educational reform, political reform or religious reform – the existing society always seems to have divided opinion. Look at any historical movement, and the Nation/the society is divided, never united 100 percent. Every time a person or a group of persons put forth some new idea, they were ignored, ridiculed, opposed and threatened – not necessarily in this order! The great souls, the leaders carry it on until their ideas; their thoughts are accepted by larger society. Some of them die alone and their ideas are accepted long after they pass away. So, no point in expecting that on an issue like corruption, there would be total agreement.

For the last few months, the topic of discussion is India Against Corruption (IAC) campaign. To be brief, the topic of discussion is ANNaa  Hajaare. Many of my friends from Maharashtra feel that since Delhi is the center of the movement (meaning ANNaa is fasting in Delhi), and I am presently in Delhi, I must be participating in that. On the other hand, those from Delhi who know me, think that as ANNaa Hajare is from Maharashtra, I must be attending all those events. (I don’t know whether they expect all from Haryana to participate because Mr. Arvind Kejariwal happens to be born and brought up in Haryana!) Out of 10 conversations these days, I find myself either listening or speaking about IAC campaign 13 times! I say 13 times, because we keep on repeating ourselves!

I am going to Raamaleelaa Maidaana– where team Anna is on indefinite fast demanding Jan Lokpal bill. The New Delhi Metro Station is throbbed with hundreds and thousands of people, all going to Raamaleelaa Maidaana. There are people and people everywhere.  Metro has deployed additional person power to manage the flow, and they are doing well. People are chanting slogans in Metro station – a rather unusual scenario. Actually the crowd leads me to the right exit gate in the station. After coming out of the station, the crowd leads me to Raamaleelaa Maidaana. People greet each other with ‘Vande Maataram” and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’.  All roads seem to be leading to Raamaleelaa Maidaana.

However, I am just coming from Connaught Place. The Rajeev Chauk Metro station has hundreds and thousand of people – coming in and going out. They are least bothered about corruption and IAC campaign. I walk through Connaught Place for half an hour. I see hundreds and thousands of youth and adults roaming around the shopping place. Their dilemmas are different – whether to go to McDonalds or Subways, whether to have cold coffee with ice-cream or milk shakes with ice cream; whether to purchase Sony laptop or Reebok shoes.  They all are Indians, but IAC is not on their agenda. I ask couple of them about the proposed IAC march from K block to Raamaleelaa Maidaana and they plead complete ignorance about it.

Towards Raamaleelaa Maidaana. On the roadside, there are Tri-colors for sale – in various shapes and sizes. There are wristbands, there are badges, there are small flags, there are big flags, there are pieces which one can put around neck, and there are hair bands. There are Gandhi Topees (it should be actually called Nehru topee) – “I am Anna” written on it. People purchase it. The children and the women are happy with this opportunity. Whether India is corruption free or not, they are earning some money for the time being. It is like any other religious festival or political rally for those who are selling. They sell what sells. They have only this option to earn two meals a day.

One has to stand in a queue to enter into the ground. In April at Jantar Mantar it was much easier; one could just go in and come out. But here, the police protection is geared up to next level. There is a baggage screening and personal security check. It is better to take care in advance than lament later. Security check has become part and parcel of our life – but it is for our safety, so everybody cooperates with police.

Some people do not have patience. They break the queue and move forward. Some of us remind them that this is too is a kind of corruption. They smile but nevertheless keep their newly gained position. Someone else says, “Ok, let them go first. Does not matter.” Well, will these kinds of supporters – some who bully around and others who meekly accept will be able to stand the ideology of IAC? I doubt. For that matter, what is the ideology of IAC beyond Jan Lokpal bill? I need to explore that.

In the ground I see three young girls and two young boys pulling big plastic bags from their purse. They start picking up the garbage. I ask them whether they are IAC volunteers. They are not official volunteers but they think that spreading garbage here is bad. So they try to keep the place clean in their own way – by their own will. I like the self motivation of these youngsters. 

I see another queue. What is it for? It seems that someone is distributing biscuit packs. People stand there; they want one more biscuit pack. Are these the same people who are supposed to be fighting corruption? Distribution of free water I can understand, but distribution of free biscuits? What for?

After few hours I am out of Raamaleelaa Maidaana. I go to a Food Plaza to have a cup of coffee. The café is crowded. I see two women sitting together and there are two empty chairs. I ask their permission and join them. I ask them, “Have you been to Raamaleelaa Maidaana too?” “Oh, No,” they laugh and say. The mother shrugs her shoulders and says, “Maybe one day I would go.” And she asks me, “Is it interesting?” What does she mean by interesting, I do not know. I smile. The young daughter says, “People with no other work to do have time to visit, I am busy.” Then realizing that I have been there, she keeps quiet.

To the woman on the café counter, I say, “So, how is it going?”  Certainly it was a vague question. She beamingly says, “This is good for our business.” I smile not knowing what to say on that honest remark.

So, there are people – with different perceptions and different priorities. There are people – with different opinions and different affiliations. There are people – with different expectations and different dreams. There are people – with different involvement and different level of responsiveness. There are people – with different understanding and different readiness to take responsibilities.

On one hand it seems that IAC campaign has not moved from where it was in April.  What IAC does also triggers different criticism. There is a discussion about sovereignty of parliament, democratic processes and role and identity of civil society.

Well, if you count support only by numbers:  that would be a mistake. Presently both IAC supporters and IAC critics are trying to quote different numbers. For example, IAC quotes number of missed calls and number of people who join the protests. But they forget that giving ‘missed call’ is as free as breathing air and people come to protest venue for limited time – like I was there only for few hours. That does not guarantee my commitment. IAC critiques say that this is only middle class movement and weaker sections are away from it. But they forget that change always triggers with the involvement of very few to begin with. If only one person is convinced, and s/he has no crowd to support does not necessarily mean that the person is wrong – maybe s/he is just ahead of time!

With all these, I see that the campaign is becoming strong. That the campaign has sustained to keep the issue in mainstream for six moths at a stretch is itself an achievement. That large number of youths and adults are taking time to participate (maybe just for few hours) is itself an achievement. That we take pride in carrying the tri-color is an achievement. That we see young generation taking charge to guide traffic and help others is a big change. In a mass gathering there are no vulgar dances is an achievement. Beyond 15th August and 26th January, people remember India is an achievement. People seriously discuss issues like sovereignty of parliament, role of parliament, role of civil society, self discipline is an achievement. Some people feel that they have a space to contribute is an achievement.

That some of the Indians are raising the voice against the method of IAC and others are accepting to listen to their views without labeling them as traitors is an achievement. It shows that we are ready to respect other perspective – even if we may not like it.

Well, I see that India is growing strong, even if we are divided.

You may also like to read http://thistimethattime.blogspot.com/2011/04/125-evenings-jantar-mantar.html, Wrong Choice


  1. the first couple of paras -- when have we indians ever united - that really hurt...very sad isnt it?

    the lady in the cafe asking, 'is it interesting?" what kind of a question is that ? but guess we indians do crave for entertainment in all forms, always :(

    ur perspective on the event as against the media coverage was more real. thanks for sharing your thoughts

  2. Good observations, good questions but no comments from yourself.

    Not to comment is as good as to offer a silent support!

    With no classifications and reservations, I strongly oppose the way chosen by Anna!

    It is more harmful to the parliamentary democracy system than the corruption itself!

    Ravindra Desai

  3. The IAC movement is getting support from all parts of India. But, there is more needs to be done.

  4. I too have many reservations with the campaign. But this has at least made the youth to make a comment, take position on the present state of governance. This is an opportunity have public discourse on corruption and to make mass appeal for not to be a party to corruption.

  5. I must say that I read something that is more realistic and in deapth analysis of the present situation of Anna Hazare and Lok pal bill movement..

  6. Dividedly we are united! हम होंगे कामयाब, हम होंगे कामयाब, एक दिन. Beautiful post.

  7. Sujathajee, I am not sad about not being united .. that actually is our strength. We can live with multiple ideas and perspective at the same time. We need to work with our strengths rather than aiming at artificial unification.

  8. Shri. Ravindra Desai Sir, welcome you here after a long time. Well, I do not go to extremes - either in support or in condemnation of IAC campaign. The democracy is not at its best and it is time we have systemic change. I agree that IAC is putting the onus only on politicians - which is partial truth. We need to do more to fact the issue of corruption. I hope that IAC awakens to this reality. However until then, we need to do most of the situation - by most I mean strengthening democracy in right way - not the preset way - once we vote and keep quiet for five years!

  9. Rajeshjee, we are in agreement here. Lot is being done but still more needs to be done. Can we make best of the situation? - That is what only time will tell!!

  10. Preeti, presently the public discourse seems to be more emotional - thanks to insensible government! But as you rightly point out, the discourse should continue to bring in positive change - a systemic change.

  11. Suniljee, it sounds more realistic because I am writing my experience here. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  12. Subramanianjee, yes, we will be successful one day - for which people like you and me will have to keep on contributing :-) Thanks for your kind appreciation.

  13. Wonderful post with so many different perspectives! When we are participating in something, we feel that the whole world is with us but from outside, views may be completely different.

    While reading your post, I was remembering sitting in Ramleela maidan more than 30 years ago, listening to Jayprakash Narayan and his call for "sampurna kranti" (total revolution). Such heady days and so many hopes of what we wanted to achieve!

  14. there are so many posts on this ongoing Anna episode but most of them are seems to be somehow favoring or opposing the move by ANNA, but this particular post is I found very balanced and has covered all clours of the movement, really a wonderful post on the happenings around....

    lets hope and pray that the sentiments fo the people against corruption remain same and it does not turn out into a mere emotional outburst of people out there.

  15. Suniljee, thanks for your kind words and also thanks for introducing this post to the readers of your blog. I always try to see the other side - it helps me in many ways.

    I would certainly like to read your memoirs of Nava NirmaaNa movement - have you already written anything about it? Will explore.

  16. Irfanuddinjee, welcome to Times Change. I join your hopes and prayers!

  17. Deepakbhai, :-)
    And thanks for those grammatical corrections.

  18. What i felt is even if Government doesn't passes the Lokpal Bill But Anna has got the victory as he has United The Great India Again !! People are ready to do anything for Anna because all of us want to get rid of Corruption !!

    Jai Hind ,Jai Anna !!

  19. Padharo Rajasthan, Welcome to Times Change. Glad to note that we agree on this point of youth involvement by Anna.


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