IN THE past week, the world has been captivated by the bitter confrontation between the Indian government and a short, bespectacled seventy-four-year-old man named Anna Hazare, a self-styled anti-corruption crusader. On August 16, Hazare’s arrest and internment in Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest complex of high-security prisons, sparked candlelit marches across the country, leading a shaken government to order his release in less than twelve hours. In a stunning turnaround, Hazare refused to leave, insisting that the government remove all conditions on his “fast-unto-death” in protest of the government’s recent anti-corruption legislation, which he feels is not strong enough. Hazare walked out of Tihar a national hero on August 20 and is currently lodged within the expansive public grounds of Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, surrounded by tens of thousands of supporters, national flags, and mammoth portraits of Mohandas Karamchand (“Mahatma”) Gandhi. Today (Wednesday) is the ninth day he has refused to eat. As an admirer of Gandhi’s, I have found the ceaseless comparisons of Hazare with Gandhi—propagated by the media, Hazare’s supporters, and Hazare himself—troubling and inappropriate. I am not alone in my reservations about Hazare, who is not a popular figure within left and progressive circles in India. His movement has been portrayed, so far accurately, as a narrow, middle-class, upper-caste phenomenon that is dangerously tinged with authoritarianism and Hindu nationalism.
more from Mitu Sengupta at Dissent here.