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Graft Has No Colour

Graft Has No Colour

June 05, 2011

Tainting the anti-graft movement with political or religious hues will make it a ‘mission impossible’ for the pioneers.

It all started when a 73-year-old man made it to global headlines with his relentless fight against the rampant corruption that seems to rule Land India. Kisan Bapat Baburao, popularly known as Anna Hazare, is a veteran soldier though, and has pursued his ‘Bapu’ (read Mahatma Gandhi) like crusade against regional and national-level graft for some 33 years now. But when the 45-year-old yoga guru and evangelist Baba Ramdev (actual name Ram Krishna Yadav) took up the cudgels against corruption and began his fast-until-death on the morning of June 4, his anti-graft campaign gave rise to quite a few controversies.

While Hazare is a social activist to the core and has managed to keep political and religious hues off his movement, Ramdev happens to be a ‘spiritual guide’ and a professed supporter of Saffron India – often identified with the parochial concept of Hindutva. And that very fact may keep the progressive forces away from the fight to bring the huge amount of black money back to the country – billions of dollars to be precise, stashed away in the tax havens across the globe.

Incidentally, the UPA government had earlier sent a written assurance to Baba Ramdev on enacting a law on black money and declaring it as national asset for which a committee would be set up. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, along with Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay, also held a marathon meeting with Ramdev, trying to persuade him to give up his indefinite fast. The talks failed to reach any breakthrough though, with the yoga guru insisting that all his demands must be met with.

But unlike Hazare’s campaign against graft, this one lasted even less than 24 hours as the police made a pre-dawn raid at the Ramlila Ground on Sunday and broke up the fast, using teargas and batons. Ramdev was detained and later flown to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the centre of his global yoga business.

Ramdev gets Hazare’s support

Of course, there was no lack of mass support when Ramdev launched his fast with a yoga session at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. Leaders from other communities were present as well, and Anna Hazare himself supported his cause.

Speaking to reporters in Ralegaon Siddhi, his native village, the Gandhian explained that there were no differences between him and Baba Ramdev over the corruption crusade. Accusing the government of cheating civil right activists on the issue of Jan Lokpal Bill (a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that will probe corruption cases), he said, “I support Ramdev. When we went on fast, the government conceded to all our demands. But now that we have sat for the Lok Pal Bill, they are backing out of the fundamentals agree upon. So, we will fight together against corruption.”

Will ‘saffron hue’ mar the cause?

Although Hazare has gone out of his way to support Ramdev, the omnipresent ‘saffron politics’ may very well create fissures between the two camps as is apparent from the very beginning. Quite a few leaders of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were present at the Ramlila Maidan while Sadhvi Ritambhara, member of both RSS and VHP and one of the accused in the Babri Mosque demolition case, actually joined the fast and shared the dais with Ramdev.

Some of the leading figures of Anna’s camp find it quite disturbing. Activist Medha Patkar denounced the Ramlila Maidan show as a publicity stunt and Swami Agnivesh maintained a conscious distance from the yoga guru while supporting his cause.

“Communalism should be kept away from this fight against corruption,” he said and went on to clarify the nature of Hazare’s movement. “Anna Hazare has kept his fight against corruption away from politics. We don’t want to see the civil rights group divided. Anna Hazare is very particular about keeping people like Sadhvi Ritambhara away from the dais.”

But even such scathing statements did not deter other prominent leaders like Kiran Bedi (an ex-IPS turned social activist) and Justice Santosh Hegde who were very vocal in their support.

“The cause of Baba Ramdev is the same as that of Anna Hazare. We met Baba Ramdev before he sat on dharna. We are with Baba for a common cause; it is a fight against corruption. We should see the cause and not the colour,” Kiran Bedi has told CNN-IBN.

While Bedi has tacitly admitted the entry of the Hindutva colour in the people’s movement against graft, Justice Santosh Hegde has been more precise in defining their stand. “Presence of communal forces does not matter till it is confined to fight against corruption. Background of the person is not important if it’s fight aganist corruption. This shows that people from all walks of life are joining the campaign,” he told the Press when asked about Sadhvi Ritambhara active involvement.

Ramdev, has, however, drawn flak from Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati who thinks that Baba should “clean up his own house” first as he has already built an empire worth Rs 11,000 crore. “The reality is that Ramdev is trying to mislead society,” the religious head had said. His accusation may or may not be justified. But one must not forget the fact that none of these religious leaders would like it if the Baba manages to steal their Hindutva thunder and impress their followers in due course. After all, fight against graft will never lose its popular appeal and the moral overtone will always be more acceptable to secular people who shy away from mere Hindu communalism of any sort.

It is not clear either, whether and how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intends to play the Ramdev card in a bid to put the UPA government in trouble. As of now, the BJP is extending moral support to Ramdev’s cause and hopes to get mileage out of the anti-corruption movement. But the BJP may not want to be directly associated with the yoga guru as it will politicise the whole movement and may actually eat into its vote bank, should Ramdev choose to join mainstream politics. The senior leadership may not be too elated if Ramdev garners enough strength to dictate terms.

Crusaders shedding elitist garb?

Whether India is back on the Gandhian track and taking its fight against corruption as seriously as Bapu took his political crusade, only time can tell. Meanwhile, one can take note of a few interesting points that distinguish Ramdev’s all-too-simplistic 10-point charter of demands.

For instance, how realistic will it be to slap death penalties or life term on the corrupt or abolish the land acquisition law altogether, instead of modifying it as per our current requirements? In yet another dramatic but fuzzy demand, Ramdev wants a recall of currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 as it makes it “easier for corrupt people to transport, carry and store large sums of money for the purpose of illegal and corrupt dealings.” Such demands may have popular value but will certainly fail to impress economists and law-makers.

And that is exactly where the discordant note strikes. I do not question the right of a spiritual guru to lead a nation to a die-hard fight against corruption. My only doubt is: Are we adequately prepared to do so? Changing the current order of things calls for an in-depth understanding of the socio-economic nuances. It also requires drafting a foolproof alternative that will have enough credibility. And finally, we should be able to take responsibility for our actions, instead of letting lose popular sentiments and then sit back to watch the unsavoury consequences.

While Hazare’s movement has essentially drawn the elitist and the middle class, Ramdev seems to command a bigger following of aam admi (common man). And that calls for noon-clear analysis, well-thought-out strategies and the power to inspire people from every walk of life – irrespective of their professional and political calling. It also calls for a change of heart at the grassroots – so that every common man will abide by the rule of the law and will have the courage to say ‘no’ to corrupt practices that rule our everyday life.

It’s a difficult and dangerous task – both for the pioneers like Hazare and Ramdev and their growing number of followers. Especially in a country that ranks 87 out of 178 countries on the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index and where the tentacles of corruption are spread far and wide in all horizons of life. The bigger the moolah, the deeper goes the root of corruption, not only in terms of black money or ill-gained land but even then when you and I take the policeman to the nearest alley and ‘negotiate’ terms for drink driving or jumping lights or for talking on the cell phone while driving. Nominal offences, do you think? Nay, monstrous offences that kill thousands of people every year. And all because we are a corrupt nation without a thought for others. Let the elitist, the middle class and the grassroots people join hands and fight for a common cause. Let the leaders of the anti-graft movements lead us to the right path. Once we accomplish that, a better India will be awaiting us tomorrow. 


  • monti saha
    monti saha
    19.06.11 03:22 PM
    political issues should be kept miles away from such moral causes to curb out corruption. however in the recent scenario party influences has been on the air.. corruption is a social menace and should also be curbed out in a social way
  • yuvaraj Pawar
    yuvaraj Pawar
    15.06.11 11:26 PM
    Analysis of these events involving crusade of Ramdevbaba and action/inaction/atrocities from UPA clearly suggests that average Residents are truly vulnerable. People with power and authority can get away by doing anything. Media can be bought and sold. How about running through political actions?

    1. Baba gets contacted by UPA seniors.
    2. UPA seniors makes statements pro Baba`s causes.
    3. Baba`s movement gathers momentum and gets voice from common man.
    4. Ruling party gets into action to save/ creat face. With past events such as CWGs, 2G, Anna Hazare`s Fast, LAVASA it had got negative publicity.
    5. Political middlemen meets BABA, convinces him and his inner circle and gets him write a Letter ( handwritten..BABA and trust having 1100 Crs turnover doesn`t have a secretary, typist and Printers?? )
    6. Baba starts FAST ( may be to create popularity and to show public at large his efforts )
    7. Next day, political BIGWIGS, playing dirty politics releases the letter into Media and....
    8.BABA`s credibility is at stake. He starts using strong words and shows determination.....
    9. Here is the last resort for Ruling Govt.. use the Law and make the agitation unlawful..throw the Masses into lurches at 1pm while they are sleeping tight...

    10.. Paid media starts questioning ethics of Baba..functioning of his trusts, financials, Patanjali ect.

    What a story???

    The outcome is we all will forget it sooner or later. No one is bothered to change the system.. if Political Party`s are not able to act on any issue for past fourty years, then why are we not raising voices? Does the common man have any rights?

    Friends, this is the only way uprising starts. 1/4th of the world is having KRANTI.

    WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA SHOULD SUPPORT RIGHT CAUSES BROUGHT OUT BY LEADERS OF COMMON MAN..tomorrow may someone walk on the ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi in truth and spirits.. we may find a new leader..away from family partnerships, heritage leadership roles...

    Long Live India. Long Live the Cause. Long Live the Freedom Spirit.. freedom from corrupt and corruption.
  • Interesting
    13.06.11 09:52 PM
    Matheikal, Let's hope you're wrong, shall we? Because I don't see anyone else actually doing anything about the problem. Perhaps, just perhaps these guys can get something done. It does appear that the government is taking them seriously and that many people are certainly behind them.
  • matheikal
    13.06.11 09:37 PM
    Ramdev will fail in this mission. Because corruption is the birthright of every Indian politician and Ramdev is a politician. Before the next parliamentary elections, you will see Ramdev floating his political party
  • nikhil
    07.06.11 09:01 PM

    When I say "silent", what I mean is that the report was covered, but was tucked away in a small corner of newspaper. This ensures very few people read it.

    But when its about ramdev, its all over the front page.
  • Piyush
    06.06.11 07:48 PM
    Every color including Saffron has right to voice opinion and injustice.

    Freedom of speech is not an exclusive right for so-called "secularists". Indian constitution guarantees equal rights regardless of religious affiliation.

    It is Indian English media controlled by Congress govt which is hell bent on giving anti-graft movement communal color just because the voice is raised by a Hindu yoga leader.

    Through out its history religious leaders of India have had an active role opposing corrupt political system. Be it Chanakya or Ramdev.
  • Anirban Banerjee
    Anirban Banerjee
    06.06.11 06:33 PM
    If the media was silent, how did you hear about those comments?
  • nikhil
    06.06.11 02:57 PM
    Secularism is not a one way street. While there is hue and cry about ramdev's association with people from RSS, the media is silent about a comment made by the leader of the jama masjid, who said osama bin laden is innocent. Similar statements supporing bin laden were made by important leaders of the muslim community. Why were'nt they held up for it?

    Look it up on google if you don't believe me.
    06.06.11 09:50 AM
    Commendable projection of issues beneath surface...
  • Mirza Ghalib
    Mirza Ghalib
    05.06.11 10:03 PM
    This is nothing short of a planned kidnapping and attempt to kill baba. Police should also be dragged to court for being responsible for creating a situation that could have resulted into stampede, people were lucky that the fire was controlled else we would have seen pictures of mass murder today. Our PM will once again make a statement "I did not know anything about it (just like what he had said in 2G scam case)". What a shame, What is our President doing? seems she was enjoying the french open womens final while her sisters were being drageed barabarically and beaten in her backyard.

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