The Mahatma's great grandson, Tushar Gandhi, tells MiD DAY where and why Bapu would have disagreed with activist Anna Hazare's anti-graft movement and fasting
The media hoopla with Anna Hazare at its centre, the civil society on the peripheries, the UPA-II as the target, and political parties lurking in the shadows reached level two on Independence Day, as Hazare had promised, and was a super hit.
The vehement sloganeering by civilians resounded across the nation, facilitated by the glare of the TV cameras.
Tushar averred that Bapu would have exhorted
people to look within, instead of pointing fingers
But what's so civil about this protest anyway, to paraphrase legendary rock band Guns N' Roses. To understand the anatomy of the protest sparked off by Anna, MiD DAY spoke with the Mahatma's great grandson himself.
In an exclusive conversation with us, Tushar Gandhi said that the manner of the protest reeks of publicity, and is adversarial in nature, while Bapu's method was more reformative. But, he hastens to add, he respects Anna's right to his individual point of view.
Anna is being hailed as a modern-day Gandhi or messiah. Do you see shades of the Mahatma in his movement?
As far as the non-violence aspect of the protest is concerned, yes. I would not be too critical, but if at all a comparison is to be made, Bapu's method of fasting was completely different than that of Anna's. Bapu would not have threatened anyone the way Anna has. But I believe Anna looks up to Bapu as his icon, and as an individual. He has a right to his point of view.
Do you think fasting has lost meaning because of the manner in which it is being used?
Well, there is the danger of it being trivialised. During Bapu's time, fasting was never used against an opponent. Rather, it was used to lead a friend to the right path. Anna's is more of an adversarial protest. It is to defeat someone rather than reform them. Bapu never accorded importance to emerging victorious; his aim was always the dawning of realisation. That is the big difference.
From the far west to the Gulf, the world seems to be in the grip of uprisings. Do you think such uprisings would eventually lose steam?
A protest that is thought through has a better chance at success. Also, protests for a cause closer to the heart survive longer. I hope the one led by Hazare lasts longer, otherwise the anti-graft movement will be discredited. Since this morning, the rationale behind the struggle has shifted. Earlier, it was Anna's fight for the Jan Lokpal Bill. Now, it is the citizens' fight for the right to demonstrate, a democratic privilege, which has been curtailed. So, for me, the meaning of the protest has changed.
The world has changed since the days of the Mahatma. Revolution now means social media, page 3 celebrities and reams of publicity. Is this the new face of reform, Gandhian in its ends, but not in its means?
I would say this is the PR face of the movement, where we are all peacocks preening ourselves in front of the camera. Real activism is happening on the streets, which are devoid of celebrities and pretty faces, that remain in the studio. But both are doing their duty, since without PR, it is difficult to promote a movement. But many a time, it is just a desire to be seen, rather than a real belief in the cause. True revolution is always the result of an absolute disenchantment with the system, and Anna is among the few people who citizens can look up to.
Anna has struck a chord somewhere. Do you think this is the right way to stamp out corruption endemic to the system?
I agree that he has touched a chord. But he has taken the populist road by turning our people into accusers. Corruption is a two-way stream. I don't agree with Anna's saying that the poor have no choice but to bribe. Instead, everybody has got addicted to it. Just changing our leaders is not enough. If Bapu were here, he would have asked people to first do some introspection, acknowledge their own shortcomings, and overcome them. He would have appealed to people to 'be the change', as goes his saying.
What do you think of Hazare's presence in one of the talent shows on TV?
The camera has the power to lure anybody and everybody, and Hazare is no different.
Do you think the Jan Lokpal Bill will make a difference?
I don't think so. First, we have to address our addiction to corruption and that of bribing people for small things.
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