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Playing village card

Chandra Bhan Prasad

How many Anna supporters are ready to live by his code?

A leader's actions or opinions are measured by his vision which he has acquired over a period of time. So, in a way the actions are context specific. We all know that same thing can have different meanings depending upon the context in which it is being referred to and a pattern follows. For instance, a person who propagates organic food will not have nice things to say about food products which have chemical fertilisers. Therefore, his vision is bound to be coloured and those who know him would be aware why he has such a stand.

Anna Hazare's fascination for village life, panchayat raj and anti-corruption movement are connected. One of his key demands is that all Bills that are passed by the Parliament must get a nod from all the panchayats across the country.

Dr BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi had plenty to comment on the villages of our country. To Gandhiji, India's soul rests in its village. "...Independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is necessary..." is what he had said.

Dr Ambedkar had a totally different view. For him, villages were oppressors' paradise. "... What is a village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance and narrow-mindedness..."

Unfortunately, even Jawaharlal Nehru didn't agree with Gandhiji. Pandit Nehru called for rapid industrialisation and urbanisation.

For Gandhiji, India was to be a collection of village republics. With glorification of village life, Gandhiji had set a roadmap for India. To him, industrialisation was not beyond the charkha. That belief made him a conservative. His philosophy of gram swaraj was thus a misfit in modern India. The Congress ignored all that Gandhiji had said. Instead it went ahead with the idea of industrialisation and urbanisation. Clearly, the nation had rejected Gandhiji's idea of gram swaraj.

Hazare wants to revive the same idea of village republic. His Jan Lokpal verses Delhi's Parliament has several arguments. His contempt for the Members of the Parliament has many reasons. The main being that 150 MPs have criminal cases against them. Unfortunate indeed; but what about the panchayat heads?

I definitely don't need to explain how the panchayat elections take place in our country. Most of us know that many times the elections are rigged. So, the integrity of panchayat heads is questionable. The sarpanch, as these heads are referred to in the villages, also distribute below poverty level cards and MNREGA job cards. Those who live in the villages know how the distribution of these takes place.

But Hazare who has no respect for facts and insists on glorifying village panchayats. And what is his social code for villages? What kind of India does he want to build?

Visit his village Ralegan Siddhi and one will get a glimpse. There is a complete ban on use of tobacco/cigarettes. No can cook non-vegetarian food. None can watch films other than religious movies. During weddings the villagers can only play bhajan CDs. And what happens to those who defy the code — public flogging of the rule breaker.

Here is a situation. What if Hazare forms a political party and wins majority in the Parliament? In all probability he will start replicating Ralegan Siddhi across the country. How many of his supporters would like to live in a country where there is a ban on non-veg food and films?

Unfortunately, his views on women are even feudal. Women must be chaste before marriage, once married they must produce sons who will grow up to be brave soldiers. It is strange that a person living in a democratic country can have such views about women. Only Hazare can explain why he has such archaic views about women.

Has he forgotten the basic right that a citizen of this country enjoys — Right to Freedom? All citizens are entitled to express their views. I doubt that a man like Hazare has anything nice in store for the people of this country and therefore, I am worried about those who support him — the upper caste.

Is it not time to ask questions as to how many of his followers are ready to live by Hazare's code? How many of his supporters are ready to move back to villages and spend the rest of their lives celebrating village panchayats? How many villages are ready to self-impose a Ralegan Siddhi code on themselves? If the answer to most of these questions is in the negative, is the slogan — I am Anna — not undergoing a crisis?

In my opinion this crisis revolves around loss of moral values. The majority of the middle class belongs to the upper caste. If the middle class suffers a moral failure, the society is doomed. History is full of such tales. It is time that the upper caste did a re-evaluation of what transpired in August.

[Courtesy: The Pioneer, October 15, 2011]

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