The faces of mass movements

01 May 2011

IT WAS ONLY IN THE EVENING of the fourth day of Anna Hazare's fast that I visited Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Admittedly, a visit at this late a stage in the development of what was being touted as perhaps the biggest manifestation in decades of a countrywide Gandhian protest movement placed me in the ranks of those rubbernecking bystanders who had decided to drop in more out of curiosity, to witness firsthand what was going on, rather than to extend unflinching and absolute support to a cause that Hazare and his followers were willing to starve to death for.

It obviously discomfited me a bit. Would I, seeking to be a dispassionate spectator, stand out as a misfit among the dedicated and committed activists who were united in their conviction? Would I be able to figure out a place for myself—if such a personal need arose—among the people pouring out in support of the movement?

As I walked toward 'ground zero', with this sense of unease gnawing away, I thought of Baba Ramdev, a controversial yoga-ministering figure of dubious integrity, who had visited a day earlier to extend his support to Hazare's campaign. What was I to make of Ramdev, who had lately bragged about floating a political party, sharing the stage with Hazare? And what to make of Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who is facing charges of corruption and illegal land deals, and yet stated in support of the movement that “it is time such a legislation (Jan Lokpal) to eradicate corruption in the country is enacted"?

Anant Nath is the Editor of The Caravan.