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Anna Hazare: new age Gandhi or media-fed megalomaniac?

Bollywood biggies Mahesh Bhatt and Anupam Kher argue it out, present two sides of the debate on Anna Hazare, as the country comes out in massive support for the activist.

entertainment Updated: Aug 18, 2011 18:45 IST
Priyanka Jain
Priyanka Jain
Hindustan Times
anupam kher,mahesh bhatt,bollywood reactions

‘Anna is a symbol of hope for the masses’
Anupam Kher

My support for Anna Hazare stems not just from my convictions, but out of personal experience too. My grandfather was a civil engineer with the municipal authorities in Simla and he resigned when a contractor offered a bribe of Rs 30,000 to him.

My entry into the film industry with the 1984 film, Saraansh, too, was ironical.

In the film, I played the role of a retired, principled schoolteacher who does not give in to corruption and fights the system even in his old age.

I find people always complaining about corruption, but not doing anything about it.

People who have experienced some success in life are the selfish ones, because we do not want to stick our necks out and stand up for principles. We are scared that our possessions will be snatched away.

This “we” includes the commoners — you and I, as well as our politicians, who have forgotten that Mahatma Gandhi could have led a life of ease in South Africa as he was a successful barrister. But faced with injustice, he gave it all up and returned to his homeland to fight the mightiest empire in history.

We have progressed a lot in the six decades of our independence, but corruption is affecting every section of society. Whether it is in providing good roads, quality education or safe drinking water, our very existence is in jeopardy because of the corrupt bureaucratic politician nexus.

It was not Anna Hazare, but former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who said that of every rupee spent on development, only 17 paise reaches its intended target....

Where does the other 83 per cent of funds go? Do you know what economic wonders and miraculous rates of growth can be achieved if we plug the missing 83 per cent?

This is a historical moment for our country. There is a man, Anna Hazare, who has become a symbol of hope for the masses. And he is completely non-corrupt.

He lives in a temple, has two sets of clothes and didn’t get married because he wanted to live for the cause. It is time for people of my generation and my seniors to move on.

We owe the youth of India, the inheritors of this great land, to do right by their aspirations. And the time is now...

I have done it because there is no other way for me to live up to my grandfather’s ideals.

I do not want to wrestle with my conscience. I want to live with it...

‘Let’s back the cause and not the person’

Mahesh Bhatt

The question staring at us in the face today is this: Can the ‘strong’ practice respect towards those destined to remain weak?

In that context, the government bungled by arresting Anna Hazare, though I believe that the Jan Lokpal bill that Anna wants to impose on the nation, is as dangerous, impractical and unworkable as the one the government has created.

The reason I say this is that in any democracy, the intent is to empower people, not to create another ‘super elite’ centralised power structure that one imagines will resolve the problem of corruption that has seeped into the very marrow of our country.

It is naïve for people to believe that once the Jan Lokpal bill is green-lit, corruption will be rooted out and India will become a ‘punyabhoomi’.

So what then, should our approach be?

A serious attempt should be made to decentralise the process, identify levels of accountability within the state and assign responsibility for fighting corruption at each of these levels.

We certainly don't need the huge, over-centralised, despotic Lokpal proposed by Anna and his team.

Just as the Right to Information Act (RTI) revolutionised our country and democracy at the grassroot level, we now urgently need an act that protects the whistle blowers who are facing the wrath of the corrupt.

Remember what happened to IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt who rocked the foundation of power centres in Gujarat? He was thrown out!

Anna’s bill will take away power from the people and make the process a law unto itself with absolute power. Let’s look instead at the NCPRI proposal put forward by Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey.

It is the only democratic perspective on the issue of corruption. Open your doors to an alternate Lokpal bill, which is a fair and democratic model for the nation to emulate. The need of the hour is for an informed debate...

Get people who have tackled corruption at grassroot level to resolve the problem. You can’t give birth to a document like the Lokpal bill that will impact generations to come, in television studios where two extreme viewpoints are taken and made to confront each other like savage gladiators.

Yes, corruption is a major issue and the government has failed to deliver on it. So there is place for people like Anna. But lets back the cause and not necessarily the person.

You can’t find solutions in a virtual world. Every Indian will have to get into the crevices of the rotten system and do his bit to fix it.

This is not a Bollywood film where the hero will descend to solve all problems. Like in family, everyone should come together in the darkest hour. We cannot create anarchy by pitting one against another.

I have nothing against people believing in their God, but for God’s sake, don’t impose ‘your’ God on me. You can follow Anna and his team, but allow me the freedom of not following him.

Please don’t do what butcher Bush did to the world, which is, ‘If you are not with me, you are against me.’ That's absurd!

As told to Priyanka Jain

First Published: Aug 18, 2011 11:38 IST