Meet Anna Hazare, whose clarion call for a corruption-free India has united the nation as nothing else in recent times. This 1991 interview by Rukmini Shekhar throws a searching light on his thoughts and motives
THE ANNA EFFECTEven as we at Life Positive decided to carry this interview with Anna, the news broke about his success at getting the government to pass the Jan Lokpal bill in the Parliament. All of India celebrated, for the victory was truly of the people. The spontaneous upsurge that the movement generated through every class and community in India, but primarily in the middle class, has rarely been witnessed in independent India and many compared the spirit to what may have prevailed during Mahatma Gandhi’s time. It seems unbelievable that an elderly small-built man from one of India’s innumerable villages should have brought us all together, but that is exactly what transpired.
India is never going to be the same again. For the people are realising that if they come together for a common cause that goes beyond them, then even the highest in the land will have to comply. The root quality that made this stir so effective, to my mind, is sacrifice. There was Anna’s sacrifice of food. And that of the many who accompanied him on the fast. There was the recognition that Anna was fighting not for himself but for others.
His sacrifice of money, comforts and possessions for all these years as he lived like a mendicant in a temple, elevated him to a stature few can match in India. There is also the sacrifice of time, comfort and personal life of the many hundreds of thousands who came together in rallies and camped in maidans, or promoted the cause tirelessly through social networks and other means.
The more the sacrifice, the more the fervour. Enthusiasm leapt up like a great bonfire and burnt the indifference and chalta hai attitude that has been endemic in India. What this whole phenomenon has told us is that people are no longer willing to languish in victim mode and take anything the government dishes out to them, while surrendering every power over their lives to the omnipotent authorities. Now, in a striking demonstration of self-determination and self-esteem, they are demanding accountability from the government, and have given notice that they will not tolerate the flagrant corruption that is destroying our country.
Our country is finally awakening from the stupor that centuries of enslavement to foreign rule condemned us to.
It will not be long before we take the next logical step which is to introspect and take responsibility for our own tendency to look for shortcuts and easy ways by greasing palms; or it could be that we are on the other side and take bribes. Anna’s monumental sacrifice at the Ramlila grounds will, I believe, set the stage for our own sacrifice of a little ease, a little time, a little comfort. Can we rise to the occasion by spurning the temptation to give or take bribes at any cost? Only this will determine our future progress. Will we grow in self-determination, self-respect, commitment to the welfare of our nation, self-reliance and integrity? Can we finally take responsibility for our lives and that of our nation? I, for one, believe we can.
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