Rediff.com is republishing this column (June 7, 2011) which is relevant even today, by Shehla Masood, the Bhopal-based Right to Information activist who was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Tuesday.
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev's fast was barbarically, brutally and abruptly ended on June 5, 2011, and the yogi was shifted to Dehradun in secrecy while the silent protestors were not spared the police's high-handedness. A five thousand strong police force was used to serve an externment order on Baba Ramdev. The decision shows the Congress party was in two minds in dealing with the austere baba.
A month ago the same Indian media went into a loud and vulgar rapture as Anna Hazare went on his four-day fast against corruption at Jantar Mantar. We all saw the hyperventilating television anchors with their idioms and sensibilities forgetting how to evaluate the worth of a protest and captured the mass hysteria, ignoring corruption the most visible rationale, lending to an epidemic of cynicism and anger in them.
Satyagraha evokes in us memories of Mahatma Gandhi who described in a letter in September 1935 to PK Rao, Servants of India Society, as: 'I have also called it love-force or soul-force. In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one's opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.'
Isn't today's satyagraha "individualistic protests" and "manufactured and well-crafted protests? What we are seeing is short-lived and naive playing with the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and with the innocent lives, hobnobbing with a few naïve liberals.
Hunger for publicity at any cost is the hallmark, and moral corruption is manifest. How conveniently are protests being used by opportunists, opponents, blackmailers, politicians and activists! The media is being specially addressed as bhailog. At the same time we are watching the amalgam of forces that drive a protest lacking core and issues of human survival. We witnessed the farce of negotiations recently.
How many know of Irom Sharmila, who has been on a fast for the last 10 years against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act? She is a living example. Injustices cannot be evaluated, modified, twisted, suppressed or brushed aside. The colour of the anti-corruption movement should be the tricolour.
Protest cannot be mocked up; satyagraha cannot be a tool in the hands of fascists and for commercial use. 'The satyagrahi's object is to convert, not to coerce, the wrong-doer.' Success is defined as cooperating with the opponent to meet a just end that the opponent is unwittingly obstructing.
The opponent must be converted, at least as far as to stop obstructing the just end, for this cooperation to take place. Gandhiji used an example to explain this, "If I want to deprive you of your watch, I shall certainly have to fight for it; if I want to buy your watch, I shall have to pay for it; and if I want a gift, I shall have to plead for it; and, according to the means I employ, the watch is stolen property, my own property, or a donation."
When Gandhiji was criticised while offering satyagraha as a method of combating oppression and genocide at Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany, he said, 'Friends have sent me two newspaper cuttings criticising my appeal to the Jews. The two critics suggest that in presenting non-violence to the Jews as a remedy against the wrong done to them, I have suggested nothing new... What I have pleaded for is renunciation of violence of the heart and consequent active exercise of the force generated by the great renunciation.'
Where are our sensibilities? Why is Rahul Gandhi-- who recently asked Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati: why was Section 144 imposed in Bhatta-Parsaul if she had nothing to hide -- not questioning his own government?
Such a premature use of prohibitory orders only exposes the weakness of the Congress government. What the central government did is certainly deplorable. Despite one disaster after another the corrupt dispensation survives because we have no credible opposition as an alternative.
Deep-breathing Ramdev felt the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh will help his political ambitions as planned instead of weakening the corrupt UPA. We watched the RSS-BJP gearing up in April to tackle their crisis with the announcement of LK Advani while sharing the stage with Baba Ramdev in Delhi. He endorsed Ramdev's campaign: 'Corruption has struck at the roots of faith in this country.'
BJP president Nitin Gadkari announced a 24-hour satyagraha from 7 pm on Sunday at Rajghat with top leaders like Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj The voters thought the half dead and divided BJP is geared up. But it lacked seriousness. The general public saw leaders in a happy mood, chatting, singing, dancing, clapping, whistling, eating ice-creams, few sleeping and then disappearing.
How do you justify Sushma Swaraj of the BJP, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, prime minister in waiting and a mass leader of BJP, dancing along while in satyagraha at the samadhi of the Father of the Nation! This was not a kirtan or bhajan at all. It was outrageous to seeing the PM in waiting dancing at Rajghat. Isn't she an elected representative? The BJP certainly didn't show a sense of occasion but sent a message of cashing on public outrage.
When I tweeted, Sushma tweeted back from two different handles.
@MrsSushmaSwaraj: It is the tradition of our party that we sing patriotic songs during our protests & shivirs to keep up workers.
@MrsSushmaSwaraj: Shocked that this is the sole clip picked up as representative visual of the Satyagraha & is being repeatedly telecast.
@SushmaSwarajBJP: Stepped in for a brief moment to boost the morale of our Party workers.
It's time to think twice about our national parties as they stand exposed. It took the UPA a year to act against Raja, six months to arrest Kalmadi and not even a day to arrest Baba Ramdev.
People of India, rise and have the courage to break the shackles of a corrupt political system. The political class is also in a Catch-22 situation.
Shehla was a regular columnist for rediff.com. Click on the links below to read some of her columns.Is Madhya Pradesh losing its green glory?