Spare Us the Gandhian Halo

8082.gandhian Hartosh Singh Bal in Open The Magazine:

On a Headlines Today programme, the channel head, an enthusiastic Rahul Kanwal, is talking to Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal (a former IRS officer who is now a prominent civil society activist). As he begins discussing ‘Ab iske aage kya’ (What now after this?), he turns to Anna Hazare, and asks in Hindi, “You say that those who are corrupt should be hanged, is that not against Gandhian principles?” Anna answers, again in Hindi, “That is why I have said that, today, in many things, along with Gandhi we have to look towards Shivaji. [Unclear] Patel committed a mistake, and Shivaji had the man’s hands cut off. This policy of Chhatrapati, in many ways, we have to think about. Hundred per cent non-violence is not possible. Sometimes, even this has to be done, and that is why I have been saying that these people should be hanged…” Kiran Bedi interjects, “Anna is not taking away due process… he is going by the due process, the point is [that] economic offences today in our country are bailable, [are punished] by fines, minimum imprisonment; [there’s] no recovery of property, it is a joke.”

This is a perfect example of how the Anna Hazare movement has been operating for a while. There is little confusion about what Anna Hazare means: when he says “hang them”, he means “hang them”; when he says “cut their hands off”, he means “cut their hands off”. Kiran Bedi did interject to put a palatable spin on these words, but what she said was clearly not what Anna meant. The accompanying profile in this issue clearly shows these words are in keeping with his past. As a result of Anna’s reformist zeal, the people of his native village Ralegan Siddhi have witnessed the public flogging of those who dare to drink, a ban on all intoxicants, and restrictions on cable TV. It does not take much to see how closely this resembles the ideals of the Taliban, especially if you factor in the idea of a few hands being chopped off. Which is why it is no surprise that the sympathy he has long displayed for the Hindu Right has culminated in his endorsement of Narendra Modi.

The real surprise is that supporters of this movement see what they want to see in the man, belying all the evidence that exists.