India Insight

The thin line between activism and hooliganism

Whether one supports the principles of Anna Hazare or not, there is no denying the movement has managed to strike a chord with people from almost every section of society.

The frustration with corruption has breached its maximum level, and that alone awakened the so-called political activism among Indians.

However, a few high profile incidents on the streets of New Delhi may damage the cause of the activists.

Several incidents have been reported across the city which show that for some people, support for the movement is a licence for hooliganism and drunken driving.

A group of Anna Hazare supporters, apparently drunk, clashed with police late on Thursday outside the Ramlila Maidan, after they tried to force their way through the VIP entrance, local media said.

VIDEO: Reactions to Anna Hazare’s agitation

Anna Hazare’s fast against corruption united tens of thousands of people across India. The social activist is now recovering from the near-two week fast in his home village of Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra. But the government still faces the challenge of passing the Lokpal Bill. Reuters spoke to a few people on the streets to get a sense of what the common man thinks about the anti-corruption debate.

Probable Lokpal Bill: Neither Anna’s nor govt’s version

By Arup Roychoudhury

The events that transpired since Anna Hazare first went on a fast in April, when the word “Lokpal” was embedded in the minds of people throughout India, seem to have given Hazare’s protest a very one-dimensional view — that of black versus white.

The Indian press corps, across medium and languages, may have also contributed to the polarisation. Most seem to have taken a pro-Hazare stand with little or no coverage given to any counterviews.

However, this is still being seen as essentially a political movement, with many angles and viewpoints to it. And, like many political movements, chances are it will probably end in a compromise rather than “victory” for either the ruling Congress coalition or Team Anna.

Among the protests, India’s poor get on with life

“Shoe polish, sir?” That was a quote your correspondent was not expecting to record as he paced through the crowds protesting in New Delhi in solidarity with Anna Hazare, the 74-year-old poster boy for India’s fight against endemic corruption.

Among the waving flags, painted faces and punched fists of thousands of mostly students and young professionals on Wednesday, were beggars, trinket-sellers and shoe-shiners plying their trade seemingly indifferent to the din around them.

The sight gave pause for thought as to how far the spiralling protests against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scandal-plagued government have trickled down to an underclass of hundreds of millions of Indians living below the bread line.

Defining democracy: the challenge on Independence Day

As India celebrates her 65th Independence Day, a potential spat between the government and members of so-called “civil society” raises important questions about the dichotomy in a democracy.

It is a tough balance between giving citizens the right to protest and making sure those protests don’t impinge upon the very rights a democracy guarantees.

Police on Monday denied permission for veteran social activist Anna Hazare to renew a fast to the death in New Delhi. Police say Hazare, who is campaigning for tougher laws against corruption, failed to meet certain conditions to conduct a mass fast.

Is the world’s largest democracy yielding to politicians before its citizens?

By Annie Banerji

One would think India would be able to have a parliament worthy of its name to represent the world’s largest democracy.

But for many civil society activists, who have championed an anti-corruption campaign for months in the wake of government scandals, the Congress party’s ruling coalition is doing its best to water down a potentially game-changing anti-corruption bill which is slated to be brought to parliament during the ongoing monsoon session.

The Jan Lokpal Bill (citizens’ ombudsman bill), propagated by septuagenarian Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare, aims to form an independent, powerful institution to prevent corruption by prosecuting top officials.

Manmohan Singh: middle-class darling no more?

For nearly two decades, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the darling of the Indian middle classes, who saw the Oxford- and Cambridge-trained economist as a rare alternative to the stereotype of the uneducated, corrupt and criminal politician.

Prime Minister Manmohan SinghThat love affair had begun to fray at the edges of late, after Singh’s perceived inaction over several corruption scandals that had emerged in his second term as premier, but now, it may finally be over.

As thousands of mostly middle-class Indians across the country demonstrated in support of veteran social activist Anna Hazare’s hunger strike against corruption, the anti-government and anti-Singh mood was very much palpable.

Fight against corruption good; what about the method?

Even as Anna Hazare’s protest demanding an anti-draft bill gains nationwide momentum and nears a solution, there has been some criticism of the methods the veteran social activist has adopted in his crusade.

While everyone seems to agree with demands of more transparency in the system and more accountability in governance, Hazare’s fasting to force the government to accept his demands has led to some calling his tactics as being unconstitutional and unreasonable.

The primary argument is, if a single man can launch a protest, and within four days can virtually force the government to come up with a tweaked version of a legislative bill, does it augur well for a democracy?

Business tycoons express solidarity with Lokpal bill protests

Leaders from India’s influential corporate industry on Friday expressed solidarity with Anna Hazare in his campaign for a tough anti-corruption ‘Lokpal’ bill, joining ranks with thousands across the country galvanised by the activist and his Gandhian method of non-violent agitation.

Word about Hazare, who is on a fast until death, has spread through television, SMSes and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, drawing thousands of protesters on to the streets across various cities at a time when stories of mass corruption are dominating the media.

The government is under increasing pressure to resolve the impasse with protesters, who are now demanding that their nominee head a team to draft the Lokpal bill, before the agitation takes on new dimensions and the health of Hazare deteriorates.