We the People

While the world’s attention was held by scenes of violence in Libya and elsewhere, it completely missed one of the most significant movements in a Democratic governance any where in the world.  An experiment, if it works will be a model for the rest of the world to follow. An experiment in which Civil Society has an active say over governance above the Parliament not just once every 5 years, but continuously over the term of a government in power.

It may be an experiment that is just too complex to handle given the bureaucratic tangles of the Indian Political and Administrative system. Or it may just work.  The Jan Lokpal Bill as it is called has still to be passed by Parliament. Has a Parliament anywhere in the world voted for strong strictures on it’s own functioning?

It might just. Why ?

Because the Bill, or at least a more lenient version of it has been outstanding for over 40 years with no Government in power actually havig the gumption to push it through. But right now there is a chance of it being pushed through not because the Indian Politicians have had a sudden change of heart.  But because one 74 year old activist took up a revered method of protest in India and galvanized large populations all over India in protest s that spilled over into the streets.

He went on a hunger strike for 12 days. And while the Government thought they would solve the problem by throwing him and his core team into prison, all they were effective in doing was galvanizing even more popular support for him. For 12 days it was a ‘see who blinks first’ contest between the Government and 74 year old Anna Hazare.  And fearing large scale violence in the event of Anna Hazare’s death the Government blinked first.  And the people rejoiced.

And while hunger strikes are not an uncommon method of protest in India, ( ‘Iron’  Sharmila Chanu has been on one for 11 years, being force fed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irom_Chanu_Sharmila ) , Anna Hazare’s tool was a simple, effective and hit the depths of almost every Indian’s consciousness. Like Gandhi’s simple message to the British of ‘Quit India’, Anna Hazare’s message was an ‘anti corruption movement’.

Corruption has been at the heart of Indian Political, Administrative, Police and Judicial system, certainly since Independence 65 years ago, maybe before. The presence of which has been resented by those that are victims of it (almost 90% of India) , and celebrated by those that manage to benefit from it.  But its the sheer size of it that has suddenly brought it into focus, with amounts moving into Billions of Dollars and arising from a vast network of Political/ Business alliances.

Some say it is a cultural trait.  I have different reasons.

The Indian Constitution was written for a population at that time of 350 million people. For a largely middle aged, and mostly rural demographic. In a world which did not change much over the five year tenure that a Government had.  It was also written at a time where the general perception was of a populations resistant to change, that lacked mobility, and one where the Founding Fathers assumed would need to be led and nudged into modernity.

If some one had told the Founding Fathers that time that India would head towards a population of 1.3 Billion with 65% under the age of 25, aspiring to modernize, urbanize and partake of a world that was constantly changing on a dime, perhaps they would have thought differently.

Though it was not the principles laid down in India’s constitution that were wrong.  In fact it is reputed to be one of the fairest, most just and precise Constitutional document’s in any Democracy.  The problem lay in the Political, Administrative and Judicial systems that were set up to support that constitution. Systems that were reflective of the Inertia of those times. An Inertia that over time has come into increasing conflict with modern India. Overloaded, unresponsive and uwilling to change, the people responded with the only way they had to overcome the wall of Inertia they faced in their every day lives.  Bribing their way to either survive, to get justice , or to gain vast favors for themselves.

We must wait to see if Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill manages to control corrupt practices or just adds another layer to a large inert bureaucratic machine. But even of the bill does not go through Parliament, Anna Hazare’s movement has achieved huge success. It has brought notice to the Members of the Parliament that their decisions are not just unto themselves. That however effective or ineffective the final Bill maybe it has put all members of the Political Class on notice. But more…

The movement has raised the people of India from their slumber. Not just the disenfranchised, the poor and the hungry, the hopeless.   But the vast middle classes of India who took to the streets. The educated, the students, the ones with jobs to lose, the ones with hope in their future. Who walked together with their domestic help, with the people they would normally bypass without a glance

And that woke the vast Indian Political system from it’s slumber.  Because the urban and semi urban middle classes of India that usually are the bulwark of stability in any Democracy, were screaming on the streets asking almost to overthrow the political system.  No Government, current or the future,  could be safe if that happened. Howls of protest from within the walls of the parliament shouted hoarse that to strike at the Parliament meant a strike at Democracy.  That Anna Hazare’s movement was undemocratic.  They were wrong.

The Parliament is a political  system designed to serve the principles of Democracy laid down in the Indian Constitution. It is not Democracy in itself.  And the Founding Fathers got this one completely right.  The first words in the Indian Constitution are ‘ We the People of India’, and the rest followed. Anna Hazare’s movement had used protest as a tool to make the largest Democracy in the world far far more vibrant,

And the World did not notice that this was done with not shot fired, not an ounce of violence. India’s  second coming was completely peaceful.

90 Responses to “We the People”

  1. austere says:

    Strong, clearly written. perhaps the founding fathers did not foresee the depths that the august body would fall to, and that it would at times be peopled by some stalwarts with less than stellar integrity, questionable education and criminal backgrounds.
    You have to cut steel with steel.
    Which is why I’m worried about the movement being worn down, beaten down inch by litigatious inch.

  2. A P Raman says:

    Absolutely fabulous thinking. I also got my insight correct after reading your valuable article
    “We the People”. I am sure with this awakening world should be a better place to live and we the
    people have to be constantly on vigil.

  3. raghunath says:

    nice read. i dont agree with @austere that our fouding fathers foresee. its the smart manipulation of history and parliamentary rights that is the problem. the history now known is that its only gandhi that got us freedom. others didnot do much. the ruling monarchy has smartly chosen Gandhi name for itself, to encash this historical management to greatest self advantage. the parliament is used to frame laws, many times never understood by the members themselves. a tough job is then left to courts to interprete. its now that courts have starting moving proactively beyond techicalities and dealing with matters head on. constitution had clear thought process on reservations, article 370. what our politicians read out of it, the political mileage and nothing else. its the existing set of people, who efer themselves a previledged class, are the root cause of problems.

  4. Awesomely well written. I agree with you Shekharji and guess we have long fight for corruption to go away from our country. Looking forward to have good knowledge from your blog.

    Regards,
    Jay

  5. umesh goel says:

    Honest and straight.

  6. sanjay says:

    oohh Excellent and very clearly comprehensible. :). It was the victory of Democracy and the defeat of an elected autocracy.

  7. Roopesh Anand says:

    My salute goes to Shekhar Kapur…he understands the problem and more so he understands the motive behind the movement (even after being international celebrity). These kind of people we call stuck to thier roots. Unlike, Arundhati who only know how to criticise which she does not understand or may be does not want to because it hurts thier ego. I really do not see how it was undemocratic. I think govt. would have been happy if he had protested without hunger strike. Because then it would have been dealt with more easily. It means we are allowed to protest as long as it does not pressurize the govt. thats strange…Because I think protests are done to express your demands and ask for justice with exerting a right pressure on govt.

  8. Vinayak says:

    Responsibility of every individual of Nation is the solution to reduce corruption. It is like US, they are more responsible towards Nation. Anti-corruption awareness is more effective than any strong Law.

  9. Avinash J Gaikwad says:

    Well said! What next ?

    If we have to keep the fire burning, then we must make sure that in any future election not even a single candidate who belongs to any political party should get elected.

    I think all the political parties are thoroughly and convincingly exposed during the recent agitation for Lokpal. If someone says that there are no good candidates other than political parties in a nation of 1230 millions, it is difficult to believe and digest.

    First to come is the BMC (Mumbai Municipal Corporation early 2012) election. We need only Anna Certified Candidates for this election and all the future elections. I request all of you to decide on certification to eliminate hidden evils.

    No matter how big (really???) and how power an MP is there is no guarantee that he or she can get elected next time. All the people know it very well that how the govt behaved during the Lokpal agitation. Please keep the fire burning till the next elections and throw out all the wrong people democratically. I don’t think we have any other option.

    Please do not indulge in rating the current elected representatives. Instead of giving rating such as bad worst and ugly we should look for fresh honest people. Off course it does not very difficult. What is important is good intentions the results may not come immediately, but be sure that we are moving in the right direction with good intentions.

    Why Annajees supports were wasting their energy at the MPs residences?
    I feel they must go there again with an undertaking (legal document) saying that the MPs support the JAN Lokpal Bill. Get it signed in front of the media and send it to PM, president standing committee and the speakers of both houses. If the MPs do not agree to sign for support of the Bill then these MPs may/must be requested to sign the resignation letter in camera and send it to the same destination.

    Annajee please turn my nation into a Ralegan Sidhi, staring with Mumbai which is a smaller version of India.

    Please welcome: Annajee and team please plan and shift to Mumbai well in advance of the Scheduled BMC election to select citizen’s candidates

  10. Rishi says:

    Absolute precision – Parliament is by people and hence can not be above people. It gets constituted when people elect the members.
    Why not introduce a test of knowledge to contest for election – when you don’t know read/write- how would you think like a literate person think.

    Adolescent Rahul – proposes to elevate the debate to make Lokpal, an autonomous body like EC – is EC till date able to bring a regulation where no criminal is able to submit and contest for election.

    And yes, the current blasts could be possible deployed distraction of public from corruption movement as rightly said by Austere, this could be one of serial attempts to worn down the movement.

  11. bonny says:

    That’s very well said. I would also like to request all those people who tried to snub Anna Hazare’s IAC movement by calling it anti-constitutional and those who said Parliament is supreme and all the arm-chair scholars and 20 year olds eager to form opinions that – please start thinking beyond C-For-Constitution, G-for-Government, D-for-Democracy! As for India, It’s not I-for-India, it’s B-For-India anyways and it can’t be fitted in the definations that you read in universities.

  12. rajan passi says:

    Sir , am an NRI working at Africa for long . Its my good fortune that I happened to be at Delhi (my home town) and witnessed this historic change of fortune . I was there daily at Ramlila ground and I totally agree with you that this marks a watershed and somehow I feel that Indian Politics will not be the same again . The Game has changed and so have its rules . Its just the myopia of our political class that seems to be blissfully unaware like an ostrich hiding her face in the sand (possibly hoping that this will all blow away ) . Every Battle , Every war Has its centre of Gravity is what Clauswitz said in his Famour Treatise ‘On War ‘ . What I and Million other Indians witnessed at Ramlila Ground was this COG and now the tide has turned .

  13. Sushil Jhunjhunwala says:

    TheMovement isGandhian till now,a mass movement againstCorruption a Herculean effort forJanlokpal bill.AreParties Democratic.

  14. Ankur says:

    Honest observations. Absolutely unbiased. Why dont you guys join CIM (civil india movement) and ask Shekhar ji to be a part of it. Do visit http://civilindia.blog.com and try to do your bit for the nation.

  15. raghwendra kumar says:

    Please translate it into hindi also. Most of the people india know Hindi only…

  16. Pradeep KN says:

    Love Shekars tweets and I have been following his comments since Anna Movement. They are simple straight honest and strikes the chord of millions. Democracy isn’t that complex contrast to our Netas as they project it to supreme and out of reach of common man. What Anna’s movement has shown is the real vibrant democracy. Government acted very foolish immature and tried to crush democracy with hooliganism and by bully but democracy has risen to it’s glorious heights. Cent percent agree with Shekar, we need to keep this movement alive and take democracy into new era where people can participate in every field India matters.
    Jai Hind

  17. abhinav smith says:

    i am getting a feeling that u are getting intoxicated by a misplaced sense of heroism. today u are questioning constituion tomorrow u will question democracy. constitution cannot be amended because population has increased. sir direct movies and not question india’s constitution. civil society movement has wrecked india’s fragile fabric. parliament has suddenly become bad while your agenda had been derived for bjp to take centerstage. anna hazareji has played a political game blaming corruption due to upa. u do not dictate parliament. u do not like dissent. u want to become revered but u are creating a monster. jan lokpal bill is a band aid to a malaise in our society.

  18. Very good article. The root cause of the corruption in India is the sense of privileged category and unusual expectations in the mindset of people. Subsidy, caste based reservation and language based definition of states have worked almost wrongly.

  19. Sivanathan R says:

    Written with perfect clarity…..Greta Sir

  20. While I admire Anna’s intentions and courage in trying to root out corruption from the Indian Government but the solution he and Civil Society are proposing in the form of Lokpal is bound to be unsuccessful and redundant due to the process by which it is constituted.
    Corruption in India originates due to the structure of the Indian state instituted by the British. The primary objective of which was to exploit and control India rather than govern her. British left but we continued on with the same system by giving enormous powers to legislators and bureaucrats. And as always, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The way to reform Indian politics is not to create another body with absolute powers but by divesting powers from bureaucrats and legislators and putting it back in the hands of people where it rightfully belongs.
    Please visit my blog to read my opinion on this issue http://demonocrat.blogspot.com/ and feel free to criticize and comment.

  21. nikhil kapoor says:

    what evidence do we have that constitution apply to anyone?

  22. shukla_harish says:

    Sir,You have been with Resp.Anna since inceptions to till last day and I have observed that truly you have put here what you were feeling in your heart.
    well,You call Annaji and entire civil society team[as especially A.K & KB] in mumbai on BMC election so that India will notice and if favorable result found through campaign than Indian system can be changed on just announcement of C.S. reaching over on any corner where any elections takes place.

  23. DHARMENDRA SINGH THAKUR says:

    our poltical system convert one parsan

  24. Monica Sharma Bajpai says:

    Very thought-provoking piece of write-up on this flaming issue. I wonder where we are going wrong, in not being ‘able’ to extend support to Irom Sharmila.Of course one reason is the apathy of mass-media in highlighting her efforts and the other is the general apathy of our population,towards an issue which they (mistakenly)feel, does not ‘directly’ affect them.

  25. Puran says:

    Can’t agree more. Its must read and particularly by those belonging to political class likes of Kapil sibal, P chitambaram. It would be interesting to know your take on the arrogance & ego displayed by polical class. i wonder if it was only arrogance & ego or the fear that many of them find themselves behind bars if they allowed strong law, prevent them from listning.

  26. Harrish says:

    Very well said

  27. Pankaj Dhawan says:

    Respected Shekharg,
    Article : “We the People” gives a truley observations and explained by u for the nation & to the nation. Sir i am lucky to join ANNA Movement at Ramlila Ground because it was easy to me as i live in Paharganj. I am very much affected by your article which really goes to the nation.

    But here the system of corruption starts from the sale Ticket of Candidate by the supporting Party wether for MP, MLA or Councellor seats. I think today ticket belongs to money power instead of man will in the area. IInd i say that here system of corruption also belongs to Indian Political, Administrative, Police, these all make the atmosphere to be corrupted. We can achieve here target by money easily.

  28. Pranjal Borah says:

    We respect our sacred
    Indian parliament. But not today’s
    parliamentarians. They already littered
    our sacred & respected parliament.
    Disrespecting parliamentarians never
    means we are dishonoring the
    parliament. Instead, they have been
    dishonoring the honorable parliament
    ever since evils make inroads into their
    minds. We are just sweeping the
    impurities out of the Temple of
    Democracy. Because,we are the
    “Democratic Guards of India” declared
    & empowered by the very Democracy
    and Constitution of India. Remember.

  29. bhagyashree says:

    “We the people”…I like the ring of unity that these words bring to us. Anna’s movement brought a jolt to the system which moved on a “chalta hein” attitude, on the resilience of the masses that had allowed the system to become corrupt at every level.
    Infact it brought forward the true meaning of what democracy in India stands for. “WE THE PEOPLE” make India what it is and if we are unhappy we the present scenerio we have the right to demand for change. We have the right to express our opinion, take a stand, albiet peacefully and thats exactly what happened.

  30. Irfan says:

    Yes. The elected members have no right to take granted the power given to them by the people. Lokpal bill is certainly an important step in preventing democratic setup hijacked by selfish individuals.

  31. Arun Tripathy says:

    Well thought out write up. Off course, the masters of political science and public administration may not agree with few of the points mentioned, however, truth of matter is Parliament is never over the top of the people. It’s an important organ of the democracy, but not democracy in itself.

    @Abhinva
    Dear friend, even Gandhi and Nehru agreed, that it was NOT Gandhi’s heroism which won India freedom, but the mass movements (by the peasantry and labor class ) which really added flavor for the Indian Freedom struggle, however, it was Gandhi who initiated an experiment that became history in itself, and his decades of deeds made him mortal. Today, I respect the leadership of Annaji, and follow him though I may not be agreeing everything he thinks. For every human being has their own limitations. Having said that, I must add, it’s a misplaced statement “intoxicated by a misplaced sense of heroism”.

    Will you kindly enlighten us; what is heroism? Is it Dhoni’s winning world cricket, or awakening millions to wake up from their slumber. I agree, there is a partial success, and the real one is yet come…

    I will agree with you, the real success will come, when the same millions will be politically active to realize their, fundamental duties and rights, and follow the similar moral procedure at individual level, then the real spirit of democracy will blossom in this land. We may not agree with the method of Annaji, but let’s support him to unite the mass to realize their potential in a democracy!

  32. Antony says:

    Nice writeup!

  33. Honestly written… Need to express this publicly in voice to the people who are not listening( OUR NETAS)…

  34. Aditi Dahiya says:

    Really nice article sir. It is clear from your articles and tweets that you speak from your heart unlike a lot of other celebs who are afraid to do so.
    It is absolutely irritating the way these politicians labelled the masses as stupid ‘ice-cream eating’ people who like to gather in front of the cameras. I am still not sure if they will pass a strong lokpal bill. But we are awakened now and will keep fighting till the end.

  35. Prasanna says:

    Big Hats off to Shekhar Kapur…He is openly supporting Civil society right from the beigining , while rest of the people from Bollywood are not coming so proactively.

  36. v k says:

    RTI application

    This application is regarding information about Mr. Arvind Kumar Kejriwal (L-403, Girnar Apartment, Kuashambi, Ghaziabad), who is/was a government employee of IRS, and now campaigning for Jan-Lokpal bill.

    1. When did Mr. Arvind Kejriwal joined duty in the IRS?
    2. What is the period of duty of Mr. Arvind Kejriwal in the IRS?
    3. What is the period of study leave taken by Mr. Arvind Kejriwal?
    4. What was the purpose of the study leave? What were the subject and matter of study that Mr. Kejriwal undertook during his study leave? Did he produce a certificate of achievement after the end of study leave?
    5. What was the period of leave-without-pay undertaken by Mr. Kejriwal?
    6. Did he founded an organization or involved himself in NGO activities while on leave? If so, is it allowed as per rules of IRS to be involved in such activities during leave?
    7. Is Mr. Kejriwal still an employee in the IRS?
    8. What are amount of salary and benefit paid to Mr. Kejriwal for his service to the government? Please provide a yearly details.
    9. What is amount of money/donation/gift collected by Mr. Kejriwal and groups/organization associated with Mr. Kejriwal while he was still an employee of Government of India? If so, is it allowed by rules of IRS to be involved with collection of donation/gift while still being an employee of Government of India?
    10. What are the violations of rules that Mr. Kejriwal is suspected of and being investigated?
    11. What are the actions taken, and will be taken for violation of government employment rules?
    12. Is Mr. Kejriwal suspected of corrupt practice for
    a. Not reporting to work,
    b. Obtaining salary while on study leave without actually being involved in purely academic exercise,
    c. Failing to return to work after the end of approved leave
    13. Was Mr. Kejriwal allowed to go on leave-without-pay? What was the period of leave-without-pay? Why was he allowed to go on leave-without-pay, even though he did not perform government duties for the required period after completion of his study leave?
    14. How was Mr. Kejriwal performance during his tenure in Government services in IRS?
    15. What rule allows Mr. Kejriwal to work for NGO and collect donation/gift while still being a Government employee?

    Sincerely,

  37. chaitanya says:

    This is a pretty accurate description of what’s going on in India. My congrats to the author on getting it so right”

  38. Mullah Nasiruddin says:

    Don’t you think Anna Hazare had a providential escape because we have a Government of geriatrics who will bleat we will act while p**ing in the dhoti (or is it achkan) when even thinking of action. We have a government that is ignored. Did you notice the casual way in which the GOI response to Delhi blast was treated and the old men keep bleating. I pray to God we have some BRAVE MEN and WOMEN to come forward and win the elections and take over the Government. None above 65 should be in Government at all. Then all the nostalgis about villages and girlfriends lost in pakhanastan will stop.

  39. B M Kakar says:

    So true !
    Because it is obvious.
    But you have missed to note that this constitution was not written by MP’s elected by our system of democracy. The founding fathers were the creation of freedom struggle that lasted for nearly nine decades. My point, therefore, is that we need to re-look at the flaws of this constitution because it is producing people who are not worthy of occupying such august position as our representatives. We need not romanticize our constitution in the light of its failure to give us true representatives of our people.

  40. Varun Sah says:

    Very rightly said, ‘the parliament is not democracy in itself’. It exists only because we do and whatever they do, they do it for us. Crores are spent for just one session of parliament some of which are wasted by the unruly attitude of our MPs … The idea of Democracy was shattered the very day the cash for vote scam occured and that too they didnt care that the country was watching them. I think the founding fathers would would feel very sorry after seeing the state of affairs of the nation where scams after scams take place with the money going into oblivion. In a nation where major portion of the population lives in poverty , here is a completely opposite picture of politicians siphoning crores in their personal accounts or satisfying their whims by constructing statues of elephants and of their own , that too at the risk of sounding satirical with a Handbag attatched to the statue !

  41. C.K. Rajendran says:

    Beautifully explained. Parliament is “to serve the principles of Democracy” and “is not Democracy in itself”. These words should go deep into the ears of those parliamentarians, who shouted “WE ARE DEMOCRACY”.

  42. zanil7 says:

    This is the reason that Bombay Film worker called as Dancer and Singer only. I have respect to those who are street singer and dancer because they have some idea. Mr. Shekhar you need to study more. Can you answer how much USA’s constitution is and how many amendment they done? (We are not aspecting the answer from dancer – singer)

    यही कारन है, कि बाम्बे फिल्मो के लोगो को नचनिया – गवानियाँ कहा जता है. मुझे सडको पर नाचने – गाने वाले लोगो की क़द्र है क्योकि वे इन नचनियां – गवानियाँ से ज्यादा समझ रखते है. मि शेखर आपको अभी और पडने की जरुरत है. क्या आपको पता है अमेरिका की संविधान कितना पुराना है और उसमें कितने संशोधन किये गएँ हैं? (हम नचनिया – गवानियाँ से उत्तर की आशा नहीं करतें है.)

  43. Dr Rajeev Vatsyayan says:

    A good critical analysis. Anna has shaken and awakened soul of this great nation called BHARAT. This mutiny was and is bloodless……. It is its greatness.

  44. Er.Shashank Mishra says:

    Actually it is not the rules made by our forefathers are wrong as you said but if any rule(or set of rules )written to control a huge system(like our country) it may work correctly for some time but it becomes useless after a period of time.That is what happened to our constitution,So it needs some change or at least to come out of this inertial state.And Anna’s movement was just a pebble in stopped water.We all have to keep throwing such pebbles to keep it in motion.

  45. Amol Nirban says:

    I always wondered why we Indians tend to encourage bribe culture. Your explanation of using bribe as the only weapon by helpless people to fight against the inherent inertia in the ‘system’ really appeals. Was your fan as filmmaker. Since past few days greately in love with your thoughts. Appreciate your positive attitude. And all I know is that this – celebrities do influence the opinion of their fans. Its very important what stand celebrities take. That is why its really appreciable when people like you take a positive stand on peoples’ movement and more importantly – dare to speak in support of such a cause. This is very rare. People like mahesh bhatt and atul kulkarni are unnecessarily misleading the masses. Best regards sir. Parying for your long life.

  46. sanjay bahety says:

    thank you for giving a clear cut idea of need of the hour. Time has come to change the system. We mainly require change in electoral system. It requires a sea change.

  47. PRAFUL DESHPANDE says:

    I appreciate your views, however, I feel that these discussions, debates, so forth and so on….this movement has generated so many positive impacts in the society that generations together would be enjoying the fruits of this, needless to say that SHEKHAEJI given new vision to look at entire movement. like to see active participation of many high caliber citizens.

  48. bhupinder singh says:

    Dear Sekhar,I m really moved with kind of your sum up to whole system of India.You have the power of making things known to the world in your own style.Please keep on righting the right things till things get right.Anna, i have seen the person we been only reading about.Jai Hind.

  49. thomas kuruvilla says:

    hope this movement will help check the rot that has so deeply set in all walks of Governance. Upholding strictly the rule of Law, and de-politicising society and meddling with govt departments should be a priority.

  50. Very incisive and insightful. Bharat has awakened and in this hour we need more and more peolpe to express what they feel in their heart. I hope this is the beginning of a new age where we can free Bharat from the shackles of corrution, diffidence, nepotism and indifference towards fellow citizens.I hope.

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