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At The Heart Of It with Shoma Chaudhury - The Lokpal Face-Off - August 19, 2011

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Published on Aug 19, 2011

Excerpts from The Lokpal Face-Off
"To look at the Government's behaviour first, it goes without saying that the arrest of Anna Hazare is something that we must all condemn across the board. It is crushing our civil liberties. It is diminishing the space for protest. All of which is the absolute foundation stone of democracy. And no matter how much you disagree with someone, democratic societies must defend with their last breath, the right of every citizen to have their say peacefully. The government's behaviour has also been upsetting for many other reasons. There have been many comparisons with the emergency era but those are misplaced because this government doesn't even have the will to be genuinely draconian. They have instead reduced politics to petty bureaucrities. They have hidden behind the small print in administrative rule books. Right from the Prime Minister, the Home Minister to all the powerful ministers in this government, have shown a singular lack of political imagination."

"The demand of the Anna Hazare campaign is the Jan Lokpal Bill. The Jan Lokpal Bill for all its good intention, is an extremely flawed and dangerous piece of legislation. It seeks to create an extremely autocratic super powerful centralised institution, which does not sit well with the basic principles of democracy, which is kept safe by the checks and balances between different centres of power. What the Anna Hazare campaign is fighting is the centralisation of power in Government. Why then is it seeking to centralise power within itself? That is not going to be the answer. One day, if the Lokpal institution is corrupted or if it goes into the wrong people's hands, then we will have another extremely difficult situation. When you legislate, you legislate for the future. So it is very very important for us to get into the details of the Jan Lokpal Bill. There are two layers to this. There is one which is the demand and the desire to eradicate corruption and that is a very valid demand. Then there is the means to that and that is something that one has to engage with. We can't blindly ask that Jan Lokpal Bill be passed in its entirety."

"The Anna Hazare movement will certainly make the political class more careful, more circumspect about not being as brazen as they have been about corruption. But the media attention is extremely low on many other legitimate forms of protest, when tribals come to protest, when farmer protest, when protests are over the issues of livelihood, of land, of things that affect the middle class, television media has absolutely no time for it. Those protests are crushed, police shoot at them and no proportionate attention is given. This kind of whipped up hysteria is extremely distressing because in many ways, this campaign is an apolitical campaign. It wants to sweep corruption aside without thinking of the root causes of corruption. It does not see how all of us are entrenched in systems of corruption and it is not going to go away by just bringing in one piece of law."

Don't forget to read Shoma Chaudhury's cover story from the latest issue of Tehelka--
Reign of the Tin Men: The charade of Anna Hazare's arrest exposes a government bankrupt of political ideas. But there are some lessons there for everyone else too. Shoma Chaudhury on the dark events of 16 August. With Revati Laul http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.a...

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