By Munjal G. Shroff
Smyrna, GA: Social activist Anna Hazare’s much-publicized anti-corruption campaign is now out of the media spotlight.
As the media “buzz” has now shifted, it is a good time to look at some aspects of the movement, without the blaring and sometimes misleading lights of the media.
First and foremost, Anna Hazare’s movement shows that corruption is now a real political issue amongst India’s vast population. Importantly, his rallies in and around Delhi have reflected the anger of entire gamut of the Indian society. Young people, the current and future lifeblood of India, came out in droves to raise the flags and banners demanding a cleaner government. Businessmen, students, and working class, all came out together in the open so that their voices could be heard.
The majority of the demonstrators were new to the Indian political scene, and products of the “New India.” Few were there to rekindle memories of protests during the British Raj, as most were too young to personally recollect those times.
Nonetheless, in India consumerism, dreams of business success, high corporate salaries, and urban living are driving the younger generation, to come out onto the streets and into public, to fight against the menace.
They are drawn to this humble figure, Anna Hazare, who dresses himself in simple, traditional, and rural clothing, who has no official corporate or political position, and has little personal wealth or property. No new imported cars or new flats. He, in many ways, is the antithesis of what the “New India” seemingly relates to.
He is an older man, and though a noted social worker and reformer, has little of the headline-grabbing CV that most young people would gravitate to.
But, despite this seeming contradiction, Anna Hazare was able to connect himself with the younger masses of India. This is not only a lesson for India’s beleaguered political class, but an important observation into an interesting part of India’s societal psyche.
Anna Hazare’s movement shows that integral to the larger “psyche” of Indian society, is the idealized archetype of an elderly, frail, simple, ascetic man, who shines the light on important societal struggles. Sound familiar? To all future writers of “Letters to the Editor” please understand that I am not comparing Anna Hazare to Mahatma Gandhi, in a social or political manner. What I am trying to point out is that, both men, represent different incarnations of a common societal or even civilizational archetype, that is deeply embossed onto the Indian psyche. This embossing has not faded, despite the onslaught of socio-economic change seen in India over the last 25 years.
So, despite the socio-economic dreams of the New India — corporate positions and income, urban living, disposable income, and airline travel — when it comes to socio-political ambitions, these find a voice deep in India’s past.
For, it is the aged guru, the simple ascetic, the detached social reformer, who still holds sway over the New India’s socio-political ambitions.
An important lesson for India’s self-indulgent political class, and yet another testament to how India and her polity has the strength to let the ancient and the modern not only co-exist, but even intermingle.