It seems EPW editors rely too much on watching TV channels and reading newspapers and very little on meeting people and gathering first-hand information.
The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) has expressed its prejudices and conveyed some outright falsehoods about Jan Lokpal movement in the editorial, ‘What ‘Movement’ Is This Anyway,’ in the issue dated 16-22 April 2011. (The editorial can be read on http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/15939.pdf).
I have nailed some of those prejudices and outright falsehoods in my email dated 20 April to C. Rammanohar Reddy, editor of EPW. My email and Mr. Reddy’s reply are reproduced below.From: kapil bajaj
Date: Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 2:26 AM
Subject: Response to editorial “'What Movement...”
Dear Mr. Reddy, Editor, EPW
I was one of the 400 or so people who sat fasting at Jantar Mantar in support of enacting Jan Lokpal. Earlier, I have worked for about a year as a researcher on local democracy and RTI for Public Cause Research Foundation, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal’s NGO -- and before that as journalist for Business Today, PTI and other organisations.
Here are some thoughts on some observations made in “What ‘Movement’ Is This Anyway?” which I have just skimmed through.
1. (EPW editorial) “The agenda of the agitation was confined primarily to a demand for legislation that would facilitate quick and strong punishment of government functionaries found guilty of financial fraud.
The campaign was, however, blind to the fact that such frauds are a manifestation of a much wider and multifaceted trend of corruption, which as a moral vice is polluting our institutions in various forms…
....Anna Hazare and his followers do not see the connections between these larger issues and “corruption”.”
Me: How does the editorial writer know and be so sure? Did the writer interview 20, 10, 5, or even 2 or 3 of the lakhs who visited Jantar Mantar and other places to show support for the movement led by Anna Hazare? How many did the writer interview?2. (EPW editorial) “As for the participants of his agitation, they were a set of individuals who ranged from middle class citizens to Bollywood stars and urban socialites.”
Me: I sat and slept from 06 April evening to the last day, i.e. 09 April evening, within the large enclosure at the left side of the stage, where 90 per cent of the fasting people had camped.
Over these three days, I could not set my eyes on a single individual among the fasting who was greatly like me -- thoroughly urban, from English-speaking work-place, reading English newspapers, etc.
The people I interacted there were mostly from rural areas and small towns of UP, Bihar, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, etc. I did not hear or see anyone among fasting people speaking in English or reading an English newspaper.
I interacted with a man from Pilibhit (UP) who looked pretty hard-pressed (a casual worker perhaps), a similarly hard pressed guy from a rural part of a district in Maharashtra, an old sadhu in saffron clothes from Maharashtra, a slightly cranky samaaj-sudhaarak-type from Bihar who was camping there along with one of his young followers, a young man from rural Haryana who belonged to Bharat Swabhiman Abhiyaan (of Baba Ramdev).
One urban guy (from Jodhpur) I interacted with was a reasonably prosperous furniture trader, but spoke only Hindi and read Hindi newspapers.
The exact number of Bollywood personalities who visited Jantar Mantar did not exceed six, though for the moment I can recall only Anupam Kher, Pritish Nandi, Madhur Bhandarkar, Raza Murad, and Farah Khan.
I do not know how the editorial writer defines “urban socialite,” but even going by the definition of ‘socialite’ in Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (in two volumes), I did not spot anyone whom I could confidently label a ‘socialite’ in terms of their appearance or behaviour.
3. (EPW editorial) “In his pursuit of followers for his anti-corruption campaign, Anna Hazare, instead of publicly dissociating himself from such disreputable elite figures (belonging to corporate houses and Bollywood industry), allowed them to ride on his back.
He also permitted controversial characters like Kiran Bedi and Baba Ramdev to take over the dais at Jantar Mantar.”
Me: If the editorial writer were to spend even one full day and soak himself in the amazing atmosphere of a people’s movement like the one I experienced at Jantar Mantar, he/she might realise that such movements cannot be anything but pretty inclusive.
It’s hardly possible to start assessing the characters, words and deeds of people joining in and then perhaps take the approval of the masses already present there and, upon disapproval (perhaps) by the majority, tell the guys in question to get out.
Another point: Why should this great coming together of Indian citizens from all sections and strata of our society for a just cause -- an extremely rare and heart-warming celebration of the awakening of our democratic citizenship -- be exclusive of some who are also Indian citizens, howsoever good or bad?
I am absolutely sure, however, that if Anna Hazare at Jantar Mantar were to be replaced by your editorial writer, the latter would have some unsurpassed leadership qualities to somehow bring about the right mix of people of right desirability and right character.
What makes the editorial writer deem Kiran Bedi a “controversial character”?
Does the editorial writer know a single -- a single -- individual in the entire world who is not controversial? Would he/she be kind enough to email me the name of that uncontroversial character?
4. (EPW editorial) ....”Hazare further damaged his credibility by giving a clean chit to the architect of the 2002 massacre of Muslims, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi – who has refused until now to appoint a Lokayukta in his state!”
Me: This statement must go to NDTV and CNN-IBN as ‘Breaking News’.
Over weeks of closely following the utterances of Anna Hazare and other leaders of Jan Lokpal movement, I have never heard anyone saying or even hinting (let alone Anna himself) that he “gave a clean chit to the architect of 2002 massacre of Muslims,” even though several people have been expressing their anger over Anna’s praise for Modi’s rural development work without using enough qualifiers to make it absolutely clear that he was only and only referring to some of the work done in rural development, and nothing else.
5. (EPW editorial) “Although Hazare has now come up with a weak plea of “opposition to any form of communal disharmony”, all along during the demonstration at Jantar Mantar he allowed Baba Ramdev to play a prominent role, welcomed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Ram Madhav, and permitted the performance of havans – disturbing signs of a pro-Hindutva bias that is likely to estrange secular-minded people who oppose corruption.”
Me: Anna Hazare is 73 years old. Does the editorial writer or anyone else know of him ever inciting communal disharmony in any manner?
Can anyone recall any instance, any word, any deed? Will the editorial writer go by what he alleges to be “weak plea” or the pretty open life of this man?
Baba Ramdev visited the venue only once in four days and spent a little less than two hours on stage.
What makes the editorial writer so certain that Baba Ramdev is pro-Hindutva? Does the editorial writer have a scientific instrument to precisely measure a person’s pro-Hindutva character?
Are Baba Ramdev and his followers across the country not Indian citizens? Should Baba Ramdev and some or all of his followers be excluded from the people’s movements like the one we are discussing? If yes, what would be the methodology of that exclusion?
Apparently, Ram Madhav came onto the stage like hordes of other ‘prominent people’ jostling with each other to get a slice of the limelight. No body present there saw Anna Hazare giving any (any) individual a “welcome” other than the simple joining of hands that the civilised behaviour demands.
I or anybody else present at Jantar Mantar over five days did not see anything resembling a havan being performed.
It seems the editorial writer has picked this fanciful story from one of our great newspapers whose rantings and ravings over Jan Lokpal movement have exceeded the expectations of even those like me who firmly believe that Indian media is a beautiful example of Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model.
I did not meet a single --- a single --- individual on stage or off stage who spoke or behaved in a manner that can be described by any stretch of imagination as “pro-Hindutva”.
(What this might mean is that most, if not all, of the participants there were “secular minded people who oppose corruption”. I wonder why none of them appeared to me as “likely to be estranged by disturbing signs of a pro-Hindutva bias,” as the editorial writer observes.)
Interfaith prayers -- conducted by Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Hindu religious persons -- took place each of the four evenings (April 5-8) for an hour each -- to a surprisingly inspired and appreciative response from the large gatherings.
6. (EPW editorial) “The Jantar Mantar experiment, while boosting people’s power, reveals the limitations of the leadership of a popular movement that lacks a political perspective.”
Me: How many of the individuals, who, according to the editorial writer, make up the leadership of the movement, has he/she met and spoken with, even if for 15 minutes?
Has he met and spoken with Anna Hazare? Has he met and spoken with Arvind Kejriwal?
Has he met Swami Agnivesh? Has he met Kiran Bedi, or Prashant Bhushan, or Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao, or Baba Ramdev or Mahmood Madani or Syed Rizvi or Sunita Godara, or any other?
I am absolutely certain that each of the leaders mentioned above completely lack the political perspective of the editorial writer; they may have been successful to an extent in boosting people’s power, but they totally and completely lack the political perspective of the editorial writer.
This EPW editorial makes me absolutely certain that the writer is one of the most perceptive writers I have ever encountered in my life and a great intellectual. He/she also seems to be a great political mind.
If he/she were to take the place of Anna Hazare, we Indians might be able to change the course of history.
Subject: Re: Response to editorial “'What Movement...”
To: kapil bajaj
Thank you for this....let me see if I can convert this to a letter to the editor. If it had been in a different form I could have
Economic and Political Weekly