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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Anna Hazare's Tea Party

It is a well known fact that India's entertainment world, whether it is Bollywood moviemakers or the producers of TV reality shows , owes much of its success to copying, or as they like to call it 'taking inspiration from', the original works created and crafted in the West, especially Hollywood, USA. It seems, taking a cue from them, Anna Hazare and his Team have adopted the same formula to produce media's most favorite political drama ever staged. It has the same script, same characters and the same characteristics as Tea Party, an American populist political movement that is generally recognized as conservative. The two movements not only had a very similar start but also the same aim and objectives - to discredit the ruling parties in their respective countries. Striking similarities in the two movements prove the point that Anna Hazare's Civil Society is the Indian version of the Tea Party in USA:

Tea Party:
Tea Party protesters filled the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall at the Taxpayer March on Washington on September 12, 2009, to announce their arrival on the political scene. The theme of the Boston Tea Party, an iconic event of American history, has been used in the 2009 Tea Party movement that emerged in USA through a series of locally and nationally coordinated protests. Tea Party protests have invoked themes, images and slogans similar to those used during the pre-revolutionary period in American history. The 'tea' in Tea Party has been used as an acronym standing for Taxed Enough Already. But at its core, the Tea Party movement is rife with contradiction, incoherence and a willful contempt for facts or reason. Consider the Tea Party movement, whose foremost demand of a president, who in his first month passed one of the biggest tax cuts ever, is for tax cuts. On July 14, 2010, a Tea Party group in Iowa removed a billboard comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin after receiving sharp criticism from other tea party leaders. The entire tea party movement may not be racist, but there definitely are elements in the movement that have displayed racist posters of President Barack Obama, spit at black congressmen and used veiled language to warn that “our way of life” is threatened by our first black president. Some of the Tea Party followers are fanning the flames created by a group that wants to take down the president and “wants the president to fail”. There is ample evidence that certain elements within the tea party movement have been tied to white extremist elements. Pictures from some tea party rallies show racist and anti-Semitic images. Essentially, it is a new face of the same old right-wing, reactionary forces that have long been working to turn America into a more religious, racist and militaristic country. The Tea Party's most noted national figures include Republican politicians and the movement's supporters have tended to endorse Republican candidates. The movement is not a new political group, but simply a re-branding of traditional Republican candidates and policies. One of the best guides to the Tea Party movement is that a member of the movement is essentially someone who would've earlier identified as a Republican but now calls himself an independent despite being a conservative and voting pretty much exclusively for Republicans. In other words, they are Republicans under another name. The movement's main agenda is to restore power to the Republican Party which lost it badly to the Democrats during the last elections when for the first time a Black was nominated by the party and elected as president in the country.

Civil Society:
Almost 5,000 people from all walks of life gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on April 4, 2011 to show their support for social activist Anna Hazare who began his anti-corruption campaign announcing hunger strike unto death. Political pundits have always been suspicious that embattled BJP was closely affiliated with the Tea Party movement. It has now been confirmed that the Anna Hazare-led so-called ‘second freedom struggle’—as some sections of the media have mistakenly chosen to call it—has close links with the RSS. From conceptualizing this media-propelled movement to successfully organizing it, the RSS, it appears, played a key role in it. The movement was heavily based on the support and assistance of the RSS. Members of the so-called ‘Team Anna’ may or may not concede this but the RSS has itself officially acknowledged this fact. The massive crowds that poured out onto the streets to participate in the movement was, to very a large extent, the handiwork of Hindutva organizations. It is now evident that not only did the RSS mobilize crowds in support of Anna Hazare’s movement but that it even prepared the movement’s very roadmap. The decision to launch a campaign against corruption was taken by the RSS at its All-India leaders meeting in Karnataka in March 2011, and it was only after that, in April and then in August, that Anna Hazare sat on a fast against corruption. Interestingly, a top RSS leader, the late HV Seshadri, even wrote a book on Anna Hazare’s so-called ‘model village of Ralegan Shiddi, which he hailed as supposedly heralding the arrival of Ram Rajya! When the BJP recently failed in its attempt to topple the government, it suddenly remembered its favourite hero Anna Hazare, and, accordingly, so it seems, Hindutva forces decided to achieve their objective by creating this movement ostensibly against corruption. For this purpose, activists of the RSS’s students’ wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, floated an outfit called ‘Youth Against Corruption’. At the same time, Arvind Kejriwal, who was running an organization called Parivartan, got together with flag-bearers of ‘soft Hindutva’, men like Baba Ramdev, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and other such religious leaders, and established a group that called itself ‘India Against Corruption’. It seems that both these organizations, with very similar-sounding names, were established in accordance with the RSS’s plan of unleashing a countrywide agitation ostensibly against corruption. Sushma Swaraj, the senior BJP leader made it very clear during a debate in Lok Sabha that RSS is very much a part of India Against Corruption, the body under whose banner Anna Hazare is agitating for a strong Lokpal Bill. Swaraj emphasized on the fact that even though there is no secret pact between Anna Hazare camp and the RSS but the Hindutva organization is officially mobilizing support through Youth against Corruption, an arm of the RSS student wing, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad. RSS is using this movement to make BJP backdoor entry to power. They want to mobilise people against congress. This movement has become anti congress rather than anti corruption, as was very clear during the recently held by-election in Hissar, and Anna Hazare's declaration to work for the defeat of Congress Party in the forthcoming elections in five states next year.

The civil society movement and the issue of corruption have been weakened with the recent turn of events. Had it not been for the bad name earned by some of the Team members because of their financial bungling, Anna Hazare would have eagerly grabbed the opportunity to copy another political drama - “Occupy Wall Street” - the current hot favorite in USA, and we would have by now seen the emergence of “Occupy Dalal Street” or whatever name and place Anna would have preferred. The Civil Society needs to re-establish the movement and work for a society where people in a real fashion enjoy the corruption-free space in the country. The burden of responsibility therefore lies more on Anna Hazare to make the movement immune from those people and political parties which are abusing his popularity to grab power and let them not make the movement look like Anna Hazare's Tea Party.