Anna Hazare seems to be suffering from a strange case of foot-in-mouth disease of late. The Gandhian, a follower of non-violence and peaceful protests, has found himself in the dock for two recent comments condoning, and even propagating violence.
Yesterday, after the Slap, his first reaction 'Only one slap?' may have tickled everybody (possibly because it reflected the general mood of the public), but drew sharp criticism from all spheres. Even though he backtracked almost immediately, and spouted the same old lines of there not being any space for violence in a democracy, the damage was done.
A few days ago, his comments against alcoholics were stronger still and seemed to promote vigilante justice. While speaking about how he managed to get the men in his village of Ralegan Siddhi to give up the bottle, he prescribed public flogging of alcoholics -- a statement that has been termed Taliban-like by the Congress, which is at the receiving end of his anti-corruption crusade.
More than fearing backlash from political parties, Anna should perhaps give a thought to the country's impressionable youth, who the 74-year-old has managed to bring together in a way that few politicians in independent India can claim to have. They have been inspired by his steadfastness, strength, beliefs and commitment to non-violence.
His sudden transformation into a vigilante may not just confuse them, but also mar the significant equity that he has built over the last few months among the youth of the nation. Maybe he should just stick to fighting corruption, and leave drugs and alcoholism to the rehab centres. Otherwise, his remarks may end up becoming a slap in the face of his crusade.