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People’s Movements and the Anna Upsurge

The absence of collaboration
between the Anna Hazare
campaign and people’s
movements fighting for
democratic rights elsewhere in
the country was stark and for that
both the limited nature of the
campaign as well as the shortsightedness
of the various social
movements are to be blamed.

The nationwide upsurge under the
leadership of Anna Hazare has put
the issue of corruption – both in
high places of government as well as in
day-to-day life of common people – at the
centre of public consciousness.

Yet, the distance that was very visible
between the ongoing people’s movements
in India and the Anna Hazare campaign
remains a troubling issue challenging the
latter and asking it to reflect upon it. They
must ponder over the fact that all major
streams of the dalit and adivasi movements
in the country remained outside
this campaign even though some non-
governmental organisations (NGOs) did
bring some of these groups to take part in
the agitations at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.
The minority groups and their leaders,
by and large, were either critical or indifferent.
Most conspicuously, the banners of
most of the movements going on against
mega-mining and industrial projects in
Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West
Bengal and elsewhere were missing. The
forest workers’ organisations who have
been on the forefront of the campaign for
the Forest Rights Act and are trying hard
to secure its proper implementation were
not only absent but came out with sharp
critiques of the Anna led campaign. And
other movements of the workers especially
in the unorganised sector did not feel
enthused
to take active interest in the
Anna campaign either.

The autonomy and self-determination
movements in Kashmir or north-east could
not relate this anti-corruption campaign
to the issues they were fighting for. The
civil liberties movement including the
People’s Union for Democratic Rights and
the People’s Union for Civil Liberties kept
out of the Anna campaign. Even the symbolism
of having a dalit and a Muslim girl
to offer coconut water and honey to Anna
to break his fast did not make up for the
persisting gap that the campaign has with
the people’s movements. In contrast, this
entire range of people’s movements solidly
identify with Irom Sharmila’s protest in
Manipur. Sharmila has been force-fed
in a hospital prison for over 10 years in
defence
of the right to life and liberty of
people of Manipur and has demanded the
withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special
Powers Act.

At the same time, these groups ought to
examine whether they did the right thing
by not recognising a clearly democratic
element in the Anna upsurge, not considering
the corruption issue as a part of their
democratic rights campaign and thus
missing an opportunity at this historical
moment. That “democratic” element caught
the imagination of a vast number of common
people who not only were present in
Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan but also thronged
solidarity rallies in big and small towns all
over India. Were they led into a trap by
Congress spokespersons who characterised
(and later regretted the Act) the Anna
campaign – as a move by “armchair
fascists, over-ground Maoists and closet
anarchists” – a refrain which some eminent
personalities continued to maintain till the
very end ? Even when the government and
the parties in the opposition had come
around to respecting the democratic voice
of the Anna campaign ?

The presence of Medha Patkar, leader
of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, in the
core group of the Anna campaign did lend
some credence to the participation of some
social movements. Yet over the course of
the campaign it was clear that while she
was committed to the goals of the Anna
campaign and some of her followers were
with her in it, the nationwide network of
the National Alliance of People’s Movements
(NAPM) was not mobilised in support
of the Anna campaign.

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Les opinions exprimées et les arguments avancés dans cet article demeurent l'entière responsabilité de l'auteur-e et ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux du CETRI.