“The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” one of Aesop’s most famous fables, is a familiar story. It concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly raises the alarm about a wolf, only to see his flock meet its demise when weary villagers ignore his cries for help when a wolf finally does appear. Social activist Anna Hazare and his team could learn a thing or two from this tale.
When they first raised a war cry against corruption last May, people responded to their call in huge numbers. In August, people flocked onto the streets in support of the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill. A few months later, when the alarm was sounded yet again, this time in Mumbai, the response was weaker; Team Anna’s cries over corruption seemed to be losing their impact.
Disheartened by the failure in Mumbai, the social activist decided to shift the venue to Delhi. On March 25, Anna Hazare held a daylong fast to mobilize people against corruption and spread awareness over the need for an all-powerful ombudsman to tackle graft in society. Without waiting for people’s spontaneous support, Team Anna mobilized a sizable crowd to demonstrate the popularity of their movement.
Yet the constant demands for attention have taken their toll, and turned Anna Hazare and his team’s campaign into a farce. Not only has the anticorruption movement lost its gravitas and dignity, it has also seems to have become a platform for attacking the establishment.
Dissent is a hallmark of a healthy democracy, but when such privilege is used to undermine a democratic mandate and produce chaos, it’s important to look at the real motivations. Long before Team Anna decided to campaign in last month’s assembly elections, the movement was already suspected of being guided by rightist elements in society.
Anna Hazare’s association with yoga guru Baba Ramdev makes his political intent all the more clear. Ramdev is trying to help bring about a rightist government at the center – his crusade against black money appears, for example, to be aimed solely at the Congress Party. But if civil society groups start advancing political agendas in the name of fighting societal ills, their credibility – and their message – is compromised.
The problem with Anna Hazare in particular is that he seems unwilling to accept the reality that corruption India is less about politics and political parties, and more a symptom of deep-rooted social problems. That’s what needs changing, not the government.