Lying horizontal with my head propped up at a 45 degree angle, I was watching Anna Hazare addressing the crowds at the Ramlila Grounds on Sunday evening on my TV set. Every few minutes, I could hear the crowd roaring with approval, a specially lusty one being let out when the man on the stage proclaimed ‘Lao ya jao!’ — ‘Bring [the Jan Lokpal Bill to Parliament] or go!
It was great fun — and a relief — to watch a non-Rahul Gandhi being cheered on by thousands for who he was, what he stood for and what he was saying.
Over the last couple of days, the crowds thronging to lend their support to Anna and his cause in various parts of the country has been nothing short of incredible.
But reacting to all these displays of electrical charges plugged on to the one power point, there have been some who have been pointing out with a kind of snigger-glee how the whole agitation at the Ramlila Grounds resemble one big tamasha, a fairground, a circus.
Well, of course, it’s one giant carnival. And why shouldn’t it be? Did they expect a mega-gathering in support of Anna Hazare and against corruption to be a morose satsang event? I would say that the problem with most of our public displays of protest — whether they be candlelight vigils or marches — are terribly boring and one thing that a mass agitation can’t afford to be is boring.
Thankfully, with the sort of turn-outs at Ramlila — and elsewhere — there was always little chance of that. Some of the most successful non-violent mass agitations — and I’m thinking of Czechoslo-vakia in 1968, Poland in the 1980s, Egypt in 2011 — had a carnival atmosphere and raucous hub-bub and bustle have always provided a key ingredient to public display of frustrations and anger.
Critics of the Anna ‘carnival’ also point out that people are making money at the Ramlila Grounds. Oh my god! People are making money at a venue shouting against corruption?!
Er, yes. There isn’t anything wrong about money. Or people making money by selling snacks, caps and what have you. Obviously when you have a giant congregation of the sort we’re seeing, people will be selling and buying things there. They do at the Kumbh. They did it at Tiananmen Square.
Where on earth is the correlation between an anti-corruption gathering and people selling and buying things at a mega-gathering? Unless, of course, those samosas and ‘I am Anna’ caps are stolen goods and someone is making an illegal buck.
There have also been some snorts about Anna and his tag team using the media. Well, why shouldn’t they be using the media? Just because social networking devices and platforms like Twitter and FaceBook seem to be the preferred method of airing and distributing views and opinions and information doesn’t mean that those behind the agitation won’t be using the help of good old media.
There’s nothing evil about wanting to utilise the media, is there? I think those who think that Anna and Co. are being ‘hypocritical’ about using the media are genuinely mixing Hazare up with the bona fide Luddite, MK Gandhi.
And then there are those who are shouting ‘Hypocrites!’ when they hear about Anna’s supporters eating. Um, they probably thought that the deal was that everyone who supports Anna Hazare will have to fast like him. Tut tut. I support Anna but I’m not even planning to leave my bed in front of the TV set.
(Mondy Thapar is a Delhi-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal)