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Free speech turns free-for-all

A small-time television actor takes the stage at India against Corruption's (IAC) pandal at Azad Maidan on Wednesday afternoon, and starts with abusing politicians.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2011 01:22 IST
Kunal Purohit

A small-time television actor takes the stage at India against Corruption's (IAC) pandal at Azad Maidan on Wednesday afternoon, and starts with abusing politicians. His discourse to the cheering crowd then veers towards the electoral process. "Yeh sab politicians chori se MP aur MLA ban jaate hai. Humaare jaise log inko vote nahi karte. Inko votes buildings se nahi aate, slums se aate hain. Vaise bhi, yeh sab slums ke votes sab bikau hote hain" (All these politicians become MPs and MLAs by deceit. People like us, who live in buildings, don't vote for them. Their votes come from the slums. Anyway, these 'slum votes' can be easily bought.)

Another protester suggested a new constitution for the country. Santosh Shinde, a banker from Lalbaug who took the stage on Thursday afternoon, said, "Our constitution says that the Parliament is supreme. If this is the case, it is time that change the constitution itself. We need a new constitution now."

Although volunteers of India Against Corruption were quick to denounce and dissociate themselves from Shinde's comments, the applause that followed Shinde's speech was an indicator of the mood of the masses. The crowd cheered his exit, seemingly in complete unison with his views.

What has become a frequent feature in the outbursts of those who come for the protests is the anger, bordering on hatred, where politicians are often called 'nalayak' (unworthy), 'chor' (thieves), while calling for a complete 'overhaul' of the system. The remedy for such an overhaul? The Jan Lokpal Bill, according to India Against Corruption volunteers.

One of them, Mayank Gandhi, took the stage to explain what the bill is all about. "We are a first world country, getting a third-class government. This bill will finish the existence of corrupt politicians (sic). But, if there is no Jan Lokpal Bill, our existence will be finished." Gandhi is one of the main organisers of the IAC in Mumbai.

However, not everyone endorses the aggression and provocation coming from the campaigners. Many, like associate professor at the Department of Civics and Politics at Mumbai University, Uttara Sahasrabuddhe, are uncomfortable with the antagonism. “Such anger is a consequence of people not understanding the nuances of our democracy. Such ignorance and ridicule of democracy and its institutions is dangerous,” she said.

However, volunteers defend the language. "We are not against politicians and the IAC does not associate itself with every protester who speaks here. But, we have to understand the anger among the people. We are acting like a pressure valve, which is helping them vent their anger. It is better to have such anger rather than having Maoists, who vent their anger through violence," said Praful Vora, volunteer for the IAC.