I was not really surprised by the vibrancy of the agitation led by 73 year old career activist and Gandhian Anna Hazare for the implementation of the ‘Lokpal Bill‘ which is an anti corruption legislation try to deter top officials from engaging in graft- which is is the second nature of public life in India, where election tickets are auctioned off to the highest bidder irrespective of the candidates credentials. With the spree of cases of graft in India exposed in the media from the CWG fiasco to the 2G scam; the youth in the country has been disgruntled with the ‘governance deficit‘ in the country.
The global scenario is quite receptive towards social and political upheaval from Tunisia to Yemen, not to forget Tahrir Square in Cairo to Globe round about in Sohar, Oman to Pearl Square in Manama. This churning has been catalyzed and facilitated by the trans formative power of Social Media, the Google Executive in Cairo to facebookers across the Middle East; Web 2.0 is playing a role which defies conventional political authority. The power of civil society to create content for their cause is a game changer. The role social media is playing to mobilize people at a spot, impacting collective consciousness of the public to drive change has been demonstrated in revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and recently in the Arab World. The revolts we are talking about here is something which I would term as ‘First Order Transformations’ ; its a fight to ensure basic. democratic civic liberties in oppressive and archaic regimes. Its important to bring in people’s voices in to the policy making platforms even if it means voting in Muslim Brotherhood in power or the Shia Nationalist parties as Walid in Bahrain. This scenario is not ideal for the western powers as these are anti American in ideological posturing like Hamas in Palestine.
The policy reform which Social Crusader Anna Hazare has been trying to bring in since the last four decades is not really new, and every time its been stalled under some pre text as no corrupt politician or civil servant, would like to have an anti graft legislation hovering around his neck. The major difference is this time around is that civil society and youth in particular are fed up of the system and they want to make a difference. They see a Gandhi like figure in Mr. Hazare to spearhead the movement for change, the Lokpal Bill is just a contextual weapon; a metaphor. The NGO movement Web-site Avaaz is getting thousands of hits every hour on its Anna Hazare struggle webpage. The English electronic media is supporting this initiative as well as cable TV eye balls are in their millions. The NRI community is contributing via the web, voicing its support. Similar copy cat demonstrations are growing across the country in support of Anna Hazare and the Government is responding to the protests by taking pro-active changes.
The question is whether this movement can garner traction to scale up in to a meaningful civil society drive to force crucial institutional reform beyond the single topic of anti graft legislation. I am happy to see the educated middle class finally wake up out of its slumber and join the agitation for change. We are viewing a Second Order Transformation to make democracy to what democracy should be- by the people and for the people. This vital so that we keep this system as a system of checks and balances and not a monarchy and oligarchy in the clothing of ‘one man, one vote’ paradigm. Thats a system we need, and I hope thats a system we work towards from now on…..