But this isn't what actually happened, is it?
Those of you in other countries might be wondering what I'm talking about. Last week, Anna Hazare and a band of about 150 followers demanded the Government enact the Jan Lokpal Bill, which would establish in India a chief ombudsman and anti-corruption panel ostensibly outside of governmental and political influence. They demanded this by way of a fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar and, unofficially, scores of millions of Indians offered their support to Hazare through social media platforms and those ubiquitous status messages. On Saturday, April 9, the government agreed to all of Hazare's demands and the fast was broken with glasses of lemon water.
To my mind, Hazare and his Jantar Mantar crew – and the crores of Indians supposedly behind him – uncorked that lemon water a little too eagerly. Well, it's not that they shouldn't have broken their fast when they did; their goals had been achieved. It's that the fast, the movement and its goals, are misguided in the first place.
Before going any further, Hazare and his personal politics need to be removed from the equation. Yes, we know he's largely responsible for the remarkable development of one 'model village' in Maharashtra, and that he is described as a Gandhian due to his beliefs in non-violence and a better lot for all Indians: however, we also know that he lauds Narendra Modi's heavily contentious land reforms in Gujarat, and that he disregards the democratic process in India due to its base of ill-informed voters – the same voters who make up the masses for whom he purports to act. However necessary it may seem to cut the aam aadmi out of the process in order to get anything done, this view strikes me as a prime example of circular reasoning, and of no use when you're trying to change the world.
But Hazare isn't the question here. The question is corruption, and how to scale back its presence in every tier of Indian society. Hazare's answer – at least, his prelude to an answer – in the form of the Jan Lokpal Bill is littered with legislative riddles, and has the potential to become corrupt itself. More than that, it seeks to address the symptoms of corruption rather than the root cause, which is based in the entire country's mentality of acceptance – not the greedy deeds of a reprobate elite.
Then there are those status messages expressing solidarity with Hazare. The sentiment is noble and fine, but I fear they give more support to sheep mentality than to an ideological shift. First of all, the concept is not new: right-thinking people who do their best to consider the needs of everyone have pretty much always been for a fair and just society, and against corruption – so nothing has in fact shifted, it's just been voiced in a slightly different way.
Second, while the collective calories exerted in typing 'Stand with Anna Hazare and rid India of corruption once and for all' (or, more likely, copy/pasting it from someone else's profile) might reach into the millions thanks to the number of people involved, it means little if you pay an on-the-spot fine next time a traffic policeman catches you speeding. Unfortunately, corruption doesn't have clear-cut good and bad guys, like murder or robbery. Corruption doesn't mean the Suresh Kalmadi or the 2G guys are the sole objects of rage and condemnation. Corruption requires acceptance and participation from you, the good-natured member of society. This is why 'corrupted' has a different ring to it than 'murdered' or ''robbed'.
We're all complicit. I am too, I've been here long enough. Real change can't come from throwing new laws and committees at the symptoms as they spring up; it'll come from attacking the cause, the ghosts in the machine, by refusing en masse to indulge in corrupt activity. If someone steps forward and leads that kind of charge, I'll be the first to trumpet their name and cause from the rooftops. Until then, like pretty much everyone else, I'll keep my head down and try to stay out of black money's way.