Lest We Forget other struggles


Lest we Forget Other Struggles

Guest Post

When we witness thousands marching for a Jan Lokpal Bill, it’s time to re-interpret lines from Tagore’s song Ekla Chalo Re

Himanshu Upadhyaya Delhi

originally posted in

Although being a legal practitioner Gandhi walked to Dandi to break the salt law, by inventing a respectable and memorable phrase ‘civil disobedience’.  By walking to the sea shore and lifting a fistfull of salt, he inspired strugglers who resorted to peaceful art of breaking laws, in pre and post independence times. But now there is a man masquerading as Gandhi who is leading thousands to ‘make a law’. A law to get an ombudsman to get rid of that all too pervasive disease afflicting our democratic governance called ‘Corruption’. A legislation whose rite of parliamentary passage and presidential assent is still awaited since last four decades.

We need novel statutory institutions with stronger powers, they shout. From what we see on Newsrack (a very useful resource that captures RSS feeds from English language Indian newspapers and magazines and archives news and articles on a theme for long term tracking and research), on Lokpal there are 22,162, on Jan Lokpal 5,382 and on Anna Hazare’s Fast 7,903 newsclips. We have repeatedly been told that here is an upsurge and a single idea that ‘we the people’ can have voice in legislation-making has caught the imagination of the masses. Political scientists are busy writing polemical pieces asking us that why do people on the Left have a tendency to run away from the place where people are.

When cacophony drowns us, we shall step back, observe some moments of silence and reflection and come out with a muted response, for our definition of ‘we the people’ include those who communicate through signs and not speech, those who communicate orally and not through script, those who can’t dream of entering the sophisticated debates on 24x7 television channels. When icons are being invented and promoted claiming to ‘represent the voice of the voiceless,’ we need to talk against this tendency to ‘represent’.

When we witness thousands marching, it’s time to re-interpret lines from Tagore’s songEkla Chalo Re. We need to go home and read Gandhi’s advice to lawmakers faced with a dilemma. We need to ask ourselves what else made ‘news’ what other battles were fought on the front of law making. In last week of July, Jairam Ramesh came out with a draft of Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill giving ‘we, the people of India’ a month’s time to send in our comments, and soon after Anna Hazare broke his fast, we were to witness it being introduced in Lok Sabha.

I wonder if all those who thronged Ramlila Ground also deliberated upon this bill on which people’s comments were sought. I also wish to assume that some of them like Medha Patkar (whom media kept addressing as ‘key member of Team Anna’) did get time to discuss this equally important piece of legislation. However, if Team Anna’s response to critical dissenting voices and other versions of Lokpal is any indication to go by, by last week of August Anna Hazare appeared to be sending the message that ‘legislation has been drafted, you initiate a discussion over it at once in Parliament’.

Aren’t there some things called sections, sub-sections, clauses and sub-clauses, what is called a fine print? If indeed we wish people to think that ‘novel and stronger statutory authority’ that seeks to police from a peon and policeman to the prime minister and from CBI to judiciary, what about examining what other such statutory authorities have done to constitutionally established accountability mechanisms?

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