Ever since the Anna Hazare led anti-corruption movement demanding the lokpal bill has gained fancy of the entire nation, several people have been drawing parallels with the Jai Prakash (JP) Narayan’s movement in the mid-1970s.
Ramlila ground, where Hazare is to start his indefinite fast from Friday, was witness to the June 1975 rally by JP, one of the biggest in the capital’s history with over one lakh participants.
Old timers associated with the movement in different capacities said though the people’s response is similar to those times, the issues and the leadership cannot be compared.
JP’s call was for a sampoorna kranti (total revolution) with raising of voice against repression; team Anna is calling for a Lokpal bill to fight graft.
“JP movement saw political involvement from day one. Today, the political parties are seeing this fight against corruption more as a fight against Congress,” pointed out Shravan Garg, group editor of Dainik Bhaskar. He was 27-years-old when he worked with JP.
John Dayal, who has written a book on Emergency, said, “JP’s movement involved a range of issues affecting democracy. Hazare is not a freedom fighter.”
Moreover, the depth to which JP penetrated cannot be compared to team Anna’s agitation as “this is a superficial movement, which is not asking for structural changes,” he said. “Calling this movement as a second freedom struggle is a slur on the freedom fighters.”
The very words ‘movement’ and ‘agitation’ evoke a strong response from Harihar Swaroop, former journalist with news agency PTI who covered the 1975 rally.
“JP’s was a movement, Anna’s is an agitation or a campaign,” he said. Echoed Tarun Basu, then a 20-something junior reporter with news agency UNI, “JP’s movement was ideological whereas this is not. Nobody can doubt the motive to fight corruption, but all that they (team Anna) are cashing on is people’s frustration against corruption.”
Not just the issues, old timers also question the “stature” of leadership in today’s movement. Sudhin Bhadoria, who was 24 then and actively involved with JP, said, “There are no luminaries today. There is a difference in the vision too.”
While Dayal called it as a “populist movement” in wake of the widely televised reporting, former Delhi police chief TR Kakkar, then 35-year-old, said, “Anna has conviction. So TV or no TV, he will have followers.”
But will the movement sidetrack the real issues? The warning comes from former HT bureau chief TR Ramachandran, who was with UNI when JP was arrested, “This movement can be hijacked by political parties. It can veer away from the main issue.”