Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Side effects of the Anna Wave

The Anna Hazare episode, for a number of reasons, had a lot of personal relevance for me.
Firstly, I got a wonderful topic for my social psychology project, working on which gives me genuine satisfaction since I have always been interested in the goings on in the society much more than pure bookish knowledge and it feels great to have such a topic that helps me understand more and more about the psyche of the society. Of course social psychology is all about society and every single theory, every single chapter is on decoding our social behavior. But what I like about my topic is, its scope is much beyond the textbook. There is political science, management as well as crowd behavior. Even writing a couple of lines on it has got me all excited.
Secondly, I came to know many people from a different angle. Discussing the complex dynamics of the Anna Phenomenon with my project teammates Miss S and Miss B made me understand them better.
With one, I came to discover many similarities in thinking pattern and the kind of attribution I usually make that till date I had not been able to discover due to our outer dissimilarities. With another I came face to face with the differences in our perceptions, the superficial similarites notwithstanding.
Then there were friends who were frantically supporting Anna and whatever Anna was saying. Such people engaged me in a lot of debates both online and offline and I came to realise how poorly informed at times the youth is about what it is proud to flaunt.
One characteristic that emerged from my interactions with such Anna supporters was "either you are pro-Anna or insensitive to corruption/have an elitist attitude/corrupt yourself/a hopeless and a mindless UPA loyalist/traitor." There was this "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" tenor of Bush in their language.

With such people around, you were not allowed to use your mind, deliberate and say that both the bills have loopholes and we actually need a better bill, a middle path. You were not allowed to say that you were all for a strong Lok Pal Bill and that you do not bother whose stable it comes from. You had to be either Pro Anna or Anti Anna. And if you were anti Anna, you faced situations like 6 likes and 70+ comments (60+ of them negative) on your status update about Anna. You faced situations like having to defend an article you wrote for an online magazine from the midnight till the wee hours. You chose to observe strategic silence for a couple of days till you decided people were being misled and were being too naive. When you again started posting links of articles that pointed out the flaws in the JLPB or were against Anna'a tactics, by and by people socially boycotted you. You were muted.
Interestingly, gradually there also came out people who realised that the concept of Lokpal rooting out corruption is more wishy-washy than practical. But now that the bill had been tabled, they had to take a stand. Such people didn't find it difficult to see the flaws in both the bills. Some of such people supported only Anna'a protest and not the bill per se (amusing I know, probably it ws sadistic happiness at seeing the ruling party battered) and some who found fault with the method itself and not much with the bill.
Unlike the initial days of the protest, the country's intelligentsia seemed to be finally voicing their dissent,  openly criticising team Anna's method, its inflexibility, its obstinacy, its unreasonable demands and finally its provoking language.
I chose my side after doing my bit of research on Anna and the movement. On particularly that whether fasting is the right way to go for the fulfillment of demands. And I had cautioned my readers in my previous post on Anna's fast that there may be copy-cat fasts, with less worthy motives but with as much popular support and the leader having as much moral uprightness as Anna. And in hardly two months, we have been given every reason to see in reality the manifestation of that fear. I am referring to the Kudankulam Protest in Tamil Nadu. A slightly different situation but one that still entertains the same fears.

Around 106 villagers are on indefinite hunger strike demanding an immediate halt to the project in which 1 unit has already been completed. Protestors have blocked all entry points to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Now I won't go into which party is right here. Neither will I explain my stand on the issue of nuclear energy. What brought my attention to this issue and made me blog on it was that I came across this news report about a thousand people trapped inside the power plant complex without much of their food and water supplies left. These are the contract workers and officials as well as their respective families who cannot venture out as their gate passes are being snatched away by the protestors so that they can't return to the complex. Even before the protest started, as one worker rues in the report, there was an air of animosity towards their like. They were socially boycotted and the shopkeepers refused to sell them groceries.
 And now this fast. How morally upright is it exactly?
Emotional blackmail while at the same time being insensitive to the fact that there might be children and elderly starving inside the complex, not out of choice but out of the virtue of having no way out- a classic case of the end being good (at least for them it is) but the means not. Isn't it ironical that whoever fasts cites the example of Gandhiji but fails to take into account his stand on ends and means. Gandhiji believed that means are the seeds of which the end is but a natural flowering. Simply put, he was against the dictum of 'means justify the ends'. But in today's world, starting from the supposedly Gandhian Anna Hazare, means are given a backseat (yes I include Anna Hazare here due to his utopian thinking that he can bring law making to the streets by fasting and can get away with any law he brings up by virtue of having popular support, exaggerated by the media and in any case, the support constituted mainly of pathetically uninformed supporters).
Sad, but true-Gandhiji is only being exploited to give a touch of morality and integrity and to make the message and the messenger more appealing. On the Kudankulam issue, it grieves me no end to ponder over the fact that the non-violent method of fasting (but i also feel that fast unto death is violent as it amounts to an attempt to suicide) is being simultaneously used with something as violent as having 1000s trapped inside a complex with their food and water supplies running out fast. Newspaper says the agitation will resume tomorrow. Let's see what happens. Protests are a part of democracy but when things go overboard and people refuse to think with their mind and don't budge from their stand inspite of logical arguements and written assurances, it doesn't leave a very good taste in the mouth. Anna Hazare anyone?

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