I read about this news item in Times of India today, headlined “CONG RESPONSIBLE FOR 99% CORRUPTION: BABA RAMDEV” : http://tinyurl.com/BabaRamdevTOI
I am very happy that fellow-activist Arvind Kejriwal, through his relentless campaigning, has succeeded in pitching the battle against corruption to the national centre-stage. I am also happy to read that starting from April 5, Anna Hazare will be putting his life on the line by going on a Fast-Unto Death to campaign for the “People’s version of Lok Pal Bill”.
However, I want to strike a warning bell right now. I fear for the future as I see that the people’s movement against corruption is drifting in a wrong direction – a political direction. I see a historic opportunity about to be sacrificed for short-term gains in the battle against corruption. I see that we are about to sacrifice something truly divine and worthwhile – the RTI movement of the citizens — for the support of saffron allies who have no real love or sympathy for our cause.
UNDERSTAND THE BEAUTY & SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RTI MOVEMENT.
Friends, let us remember that each RTI activist – each citizen who uses RTI to expose corruption — is a fighter against corruption. Let us recognize the significance of the RTI movement, which is truly a grassroots movement of citizens. The beauty of this movement is that by relentlessly filing RTI applications and appeals, lakhs of citizens are simultaneously staging a Satyagraha against corruption at various levels of governance, in all states, all cities, all districts and all villages. Sometimes, we may feel that nothing is happening, but that is only because of our zeal and impatience for change. A mighty ship like India does not change course by 180 degrees within 5-6 years, because it has so much momentum and because it is truly a democracy and not a dictatorship. But when this ship changes course by even one or two degrees, the results are massive in its cumulative effect over some years.
LOOK AT OUR GAINS OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS:
• If we take an overview of the past five years, since the passing of the RTI Act, there is a dramatic rise in the extent of citizens’ participation in governance. It is not members of political parties, but individual citizens across party lines, who are engaging the administration in a dialogue.
• We all are constructively engaging with the government and asking for Rule of Law. Lakhs of people are individually and collectively ordering the administration and the government – from the President, Prime Minister, Governors, Chief Ministers, and seniormost IAS and IPS officers, to the smallest karkhoon and constable – to comply with the requirements of the law.
• We have collectively begun to become aware of how the law operates, how the administration is bound to operate by rules, norms and manuals! This is a priceless achievement for our democracy, because it was never done in the past!
• For the first time in history, citizens are informing the media about how the administration functions, and not the other way around!
• For the first time, we citizens are not solely dependent on the judiciary to bring about change. we have discovered alternative ways to PILs and Writ Petitions.
• Unlike the aam aadmi who has no faith in the system, and no faith in himself, we have cultivated the faith that this system will change, and that we – each one of us – can be a system changer!
• And last but not least, the agenda dictated by RTI activists is not a caste-based, religion-driven or regional. UNLIKE THE DIVISIVE & EMOTIONAL AGENDAS OF POLITICAL PARTIES, OURS IS TRULY FOR THE COMMON MAN. WHAT WE WANT IS PROPER AND LAWFUL ADMINISTRATION! It is an agenda that unites us all, regardless of our party affiliations.
• Clearly understand who we are in a collective sense. We are NOT people who run after votes, power, position and corrupt gains. We are people who work more-or-less selflessly and fearlessly for the country. Hum apne chappal ghiste hain apne desh ke liye, kyonki hum mein badlaav laaney ki cheshta hai aur shraddha hai! Each and every RTI activist I meet has the keeda to take on the system and challenge it to function in a lawful and legitimate manner!
• Please, my friends, recognize who you are. Recognize your own achievements! You are – each one of you — a genuine hero, and a modern-day freedom-fighter. Please don’t devalue yourself by saying that nothing positive is happening; you are truly the change that you want to see!
• Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of RTI activists and law-enforcing citizens, the government and administration at all levels is being forced to change the way it is functioning. In response to your strivings, my friends, fresh policies are being made. It is not a 180 degrees change, but it is definitely a change of a few degrees already — and this mighty ship is still turning.
DON’T HAND OVER OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST CORRUPTION TO SAFFRON POLITICAL LEADERS!
The campaign against corruption belongs to you, my friends! It belongs to all of us – unknown, unsung heroes and freedom fighters. We have collectively spent crores of rupees, and crores of man-hours for it. It does not belong only to Arvind Kejriwal or Anna Hazare or any other well-known leader whom the press recognizes, or whom the government may be ready to talk with.
And it most certainly does not belong to the likes of Baba Ramdev and Swami Agnivesh, who are plainly playing to the gallery and trying to steal away your leadership! They have done nothing against corruption so far. If they are really keen on supporting the anti-corruption movement, let them first implement anti-corruption rules and mechanisms wherever the saffron parties are in power.
WE ARE ANTI-CORRUPTION, NOT ANTI-CONGRESS!
Although we may publicly berate Dr Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Prithviraj Chavan and others belonging to Congress, our opposition is issue-based, and not party-based. We appear to oppose them only because they are leaders of the ruling coalitions. We RTI activists are all bound together by our common love for clean administration, whatever our individual party leanings may be.
Please understand that the power to make positive changes primarily lie with the ruling parties in your States and at the Centre. If we ally with the opposition parties on public platforms, these parties will try to create the impression that we are politically opposed to the ruling parties. They will suck us into party politics and distract us from our purpose, and divide us among ourselves.
Our message has to be loud and clear: WE ARE NOT POLITICALLY OPPOSED TO ANY RULING PARTY – WHETHER CONGRESS OR NON-CONGRESS. We are collectively party-neutral and open to dialogue about good administration with every party.
But we will not sit in the lap of any party that wants to want to give us false hopes, and exploit our sentiments to gain votes.
It is my sincere opinion that Baba Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh and others like them, with their new-found love for the anti-corruption agenda, are dangerous exploiters. They will only degrade and cheapen our movement by politicizing it. Indeed, they will cause a huge setback to the anti-corruption movement that RTI activists have carried so far on their own strength.
Allying with such people may seem like a short-cut. We may feel that we are being clever by using them, but don’t be under any such illusions! They are old hands at the game of politics, and they will use us and our movement, and discard us like used paper-napkins after their targets are achieved. Let us avoid such dangerous short-cuts, and let us avoid sleeping with strange bed-fellows.
Friends, I have no rivalry with Arvind Kejriwal or, for that matter, with Anna Hazare. In fact, they are my heroes and role-models, and they inspire me to keep exploring innovative solutions to our problems. Arvind especially is a dear friend, and I keep taking his advice and collaborating with him on several fronts. So I hope that he (and the followers of Anna Hazare) will not misunderstand my intentions in writing this. I hope we will continue to be friends and comrades-in-arms.