Age of extremes
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Age of extremes

Can you disagree with a person and still admire him? In theory, you can. But in practice it creates confusion. Karan Thapar writes.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2011 22:38 IST
Karan Thapar
Karan Thapar
Hindustan Times

Can you disagree with a person and still admire him? In theory, you can. But in practice it creates confusion. I discovered this on Tuesday night when I sent a few friends an SMS which read “Much as I disagree with some of his views and tactics, Anna is a truly amazing man.”

Some agreed, a few vehemently did not but the majority responded with incomprehension, even incredulity.

“Et tu,” summed it up neatly. This was apostasy. I had become a self-declared renegade.

Perhaps I was inviting trouble assuming everyone would accept the two extremes of my views without questioning the polarity between them or understand I had not forsaken my original position. But because I still believe one can hold divergent views I intend to explain my position more fully.

I strongly disagree with Anna Hazare’s original decision to fast unto death unless Parliament passes his Jan Lokpal Bill and that, too, before the end of the present monsoon session which, at the time he made this decision, had just 18 days to run. And I certainly oppose Shanti Bhushan’s codicil that amendments can only be made with Anna’s permission. I believe Anna’s stand is tantamount to an attempt to blackmail Parliament. Bhushan’s addition is simply insulting.

At the same time, however, there’s a lot in Anna’s bill I unequivocally agree with. The PM and MPs must be brought under the ambit of the lokpal. The selection procedure needs to be independent of government influence. State lokayuktas should be set up along similar lines. And, although I have no firm position on whether the higher judiciary should come under the lokpal, if it is to be kept out an effective National Judicial Commission needs to be set up.

But agreement with much of its content is not justification for forcing the bill on Parliament. Let me explain why. In a democracy the people express themselves through Parliament. Ours carries the mandate of 1.2 billion Indians. In contrast, Anna may have massive street support but even if you hold that several million have come out in support, and more have done so silently from their homes, it’s at best a minuscule fraction of the population. This is no basis for supplanting, leave aside subverting, Parliament. And remember, if you do you will end up debilitating our democracy, denting our Constitution and damaging our stability.

If Anna has his way today he will set a precedent for Hindu fanatics to demand a theocratic State tomorrow or social conservatives to castrate homosexuals the day after. All of them can claim more genuine majority support than Anna has for his original demand for the Jan Lokpal and none other.

But all this said and done, Anna’s decision to refuse hospitalisation and even a drip, when he knows his health is fast deteriorating and he stares death in the face, is admirable. How can you not admire such commitment to a cause? How can you not be awed by such courage to knowingly court death?

I would say every single Indian supports Anna’s campaign against corruption. We’re all frustrated and anguished by it. We welcome and applaud his leadership. But only a few believe the answer is acceptance of the Jan Lokpal Bill in its entirety without discussion or debate. And an even smaller minority want to force Parliament’s hand. This is where Anna has erred.

Yet his courage and conviction remain admirable. Most of us cheat while dieting. Anna refuses treatment and risks his life!

Thank god I only ask the questions!

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Aug 27, 2011 22:36 IST