Anna Hazare won. The Jan Lokpal Bill was the rallying point against corruption. Support flooded in as the bill gave vent to years of frustration pent up in people from all sections of society. Corruption, perceived to be all pervasive, seemed to cheat them of their due. Every single individual had a tale to tell.
Why did Anna's crusade against corruption carry so much weight? Why did it attract so much support in such a short span? In the past, we have seen much weightier politicians wearing the Gandhi cap and attired in khadi exhorting larger audiences to declare war against corruption. Why did the politicians fail to stir even those present in the rally ground?
A small story could prove why Anna succeeded while the politicians failed. With peace and prosperity reigning in a small, beautiful kingdom, the king's very able prime minister sought six month leave to spend time with his guru. "Why six months? What do you plan to do," asked the king. The minister's answer that he wanted to learn the gayatri mantra left the king puzzled.
The king knew it was a simple mantra. Asking the minister to meet him the next day to discuss leave, he sent for the head priest and learnt the mantra by heart. Next day, when the minister presented himself, the king recited the mantra twice over, looked triumphantly at the minister and said, "For this, you wanted to take leave for six months? Were you joking yesterday? I learnt it in just in two minutes."
Without blinking, the minister said, "You recited it alright but there is no authority, moral force or legitimacy of command in the recitation." The king was furious at being challenged. He thought old age was making the minister a little senile. A mantra is a mantra, he thought and asked the minister to prove that mantra recitation needed some kind of authority. The minister called a servant and ordered, "Tie the king up." The servant was shell-shocked and did not even move. The king was now convinced that the minister had gone mad. In rage, he ordered the servant to tie up the minister. The servant immediately tied up the minister.
The arrested minister laughed. A surprised king demanded an explanation. He said, "Both of us gave the same order. But the servant only complied with your order because there was authority and legitimacy in your command." Realisation dawned on the king who embraced the minister and sent him on leave to learn the mantra.
Legitimacy is the reason why people, who ridicule the politicians' call to fight against corruption, flocked to Anna in droves across the country. It is good the government acted prudently and conceded Anna's demand. But is this the beginning? When we demand a corruption free country, is it not obligatory for us to contribute by taking an oath that we will not pay bribe? Will Anna administer an oath to all those who joined his crusade for Jan Lokpal Bill that they will not pay a single penny as a bribe and work honestly? If we do not pay bribe, the politicians and bureaucrats cannot be corrupt. Those who left the venue after Anna broke his fast left behind a lot of rubbish for others to clean.
It is easy to raise a rabble against corruption. But do we keep our vehicles behind the stop line when the traffic light is red? Do we pay up and not throw tantrums or drop names when accosted by traffic police for jumping a red light? Will we stop pleading with those nearer to the window to buy a ticket to save us the wait in a long queue and can we refuse donations to bag an out-of-turn seat in a school or college? Can we resolve to abide by law?
Another important question – did this movement touch the hinterland or were city dwellers and the twitteratti enough to draft a legislation for the country.
Demand for action against corruption is as important as protecting the honest from harassment. The Supreme Court in A R Antulay vs R S Nayak [1984 (2) SCC 500] had said, "If it is in the interest of the public that corruption should be eradicated, it is equally in the interest of the public that honest public servants should be able to discharge their duties free from false, frivolous and malicious accusations."
But at present, there is only one lesson from Anna's fast. With the public finding a rallying point, it is about time for the politicians to improve their stakes by their honest deeds or be ready to tackle Annas which will soon sprout across the country, fasting on one issue or the other. How many times will the government concede their demands remains to be seen.