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Home > Communalism Repository > India: Why I didn’t join Anna Hazare

India: Why I didn’t join Anna Hazare

by Javed Anand, 28 April 2011

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Indian Express, 14 April 2011

A few weeks ago, I received a call from Mayank Gandhi, Mumbai coordinator of ‘India Against Corruption’, inviting me to be part of a panel in Mumbai to address a press conference on the then upcoming fast by Anna Hazare. “Your name has been suggested to me by Swami Agnivesh. We want Muslims like you, not fanatical Muslims. So please join us and suggest other Muslim names”, I was told.

Great, I thought: Which Indian is not sick of corruption? Here was a budding movement, clearly focused on a single issue but not blind to related concerns. The Mumbai coordinator of the campaign was very clear that they were only interested in “good Muslims” like me and did not wish to get mixed up with the fundamentalist lot. So I thanked him for the invitation and promised to get back in a day or two.

But something I read in the newspapers the next morning made me uneasy, a question popped up from nowhere. Who is presently facing the heat over corruption and who is leading the charge against this malaise? No prizes for getting it right: tainted by scam after scam, the Congress and its DMK ally are the sinners, the BJP are the saints (forget the kalyug in Karnataka).

One doubt led to another. Haven’t we lived through two nationwide anti-corruption movements before, the JP movement in the early ’70s, the V.P. Singh movement in the late ’80s? Neither of them succeeded in rooting out corruption. But both, however innocently and unwittingly, contributed to the poisoning of national politics. JP’s movement and the Janata government that followed gave respectability to Hindu communalism. The V.P. Singh government, opportunistically supported by the BJP from the outside, paved the way for the meteoric rise of the BJP — from two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 to 79 in 1989 — which in turn laid the foundation for the first ever Hindutva-led government in New Delhi. No one in his right mind would accuse JP or V.P. Singh of being communal. I admired and identified with the movements they led. But do ponder the outcome of their movements.

So I called back two days later and said I was keen on joining the movement against corruption but conditions apply: I would be keen on the company I would be required to keep. For example, I was happy to know we wouldn’t have to rub shoulders with “bad Muslims” but what about “bad Hindus”? Or, for that matter, would I find myself sharing a platform with people known for their promotion of “Mr Clean” Modi as prime ministerial candidate? If so, do I have the freedom to declare from the same platform that to me, sponsorship of mass crimes was the worst form of corruption?

The answer was unhesitating, clear and precise: “We are only concerned with ending corruption. No one will be allowed to talk politics from our platform. Beyond that we are not concerned with people’s political affiliation.” Why then the concern about “fanatical Muslims”? But that seemed like a rude question. So I wished the movement success while expressing my inability to join.

That was then. I do not wish to spoil the show for those celebrating the “second movement for Independence” that Anna has won for us. But I cannot hide the fact that I with my missing foreskin continue to feel uneasy about the Anna revolution, for more reasons than one.

Though V.D. Savarkar and Guru Golwalkar thought otherwise, we are all her children. So I am okay with “Bharat Mata” providing the backdrop to the fasting Anna. But did the mahatma in our midst have no problems with the Hindu Mahasabha jumping onto his bandwagon? Did he have to apologise to Uma Bharti (who had jumped on Murli Manohar Joshi’s back in ecstasy as the domes of the Babri Masjid were knocked down), when his own supporters showed the good sense of preventing her from joining the dharna at Jantar Mantar? Did Anna feel any discomfort on seeing Baba Ramdev descend on Jantar Mantar in the company of Ram Madhav of the RSS? If he did, why did he not speak his mind?

Nor did Anna speak when Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi proclaimed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement on Anna’s fast had “created an Emergency-like situation in the country.” Since Modi is no political ignoramus what could that statement possibly mean?

But thank you, Anna, for speaking up now. I was assured that no one would be allowed to make political use of your anti-corruption platform. But who can stop the leader from speaking? So we know now that in your post-corrupt utopia, we should look forward to leaders like Narendra Modi.

Am I being unfair to you since you have quickly clarified that you are against “communal disharmony”. Modi never proclaimed himself in favour of “communal disharmony” either. But your own close associates, lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan and Swami Agnivesh could tell you more. Interested?

The writer Javed Anand is general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy