Anna Hazare arrest: Civil society groups and NGOs rally against the brutal nature of the crackdown
The Gandhian anti-corruption crusader has been arrested and sent to Tihar. A number of concerned citizens have written to us, protesting the draconian action on Team Anna
It was with a sense of disbelief that the nation woke up when news started coming in than the government had made 'pre-emptive' arrests to prevent Team Anna from carrying out its peaceful protest against corruption and the call for a more comprehensive Lokpal Bill.
Here are a few responses that Moneylife has received from various groups of concerned citizens:
1) Forum for Better Visakha (FBV, a coalition of NGOs and concerned citizens, based in Vishakhapatnam): EAS Sarma, former power secretary, and convener of FBV, wrote to us, condemning the government's "action to trample the Fundamental Rights of Shri Anna Hazare and his team." FBV called it an "onslaught on the civil society and the people of India."
The group's observations are:
a) We are shocked and deeply distressed at the manner in which the government and its minions have trampled on the Fundamental Rights of Shri Anna Hazare and his team. It is nothing but a blatant attempt to shield the corrupt and gag the voice of the people of this country against the scourge of corruption and black money in India. The government's motives are clear.
b) It is ironic that those who are corrupt among the ruling elite are allowed to move freely on the streets of Delhi and along the corridors of power in the Central Secretariat and elsewhere, whereas Anna Hazare who has spoken out vehemently against corruption should be arrested and put behind bars in Tihar Jail.
c) When senior persons in authority were prima facie found to have plundered the nation of its natural resources and stashed away their black monies in tax havens all over the world, the same government had treated them with kid gloves and allowed them enough leeway to erase the evidence and cover their tracks.
d) What all Anna Hazare had said was that the Bill in question should have the necessary strength and ambit to allow Lok Pal to be an effective custodian of the people's resources and their interests. Anna Hazare has not asked the Prime Minister for a lucrative portfolio in his Cabinet, as others did, not grabbed the precious spectrum for personal gains as the Prime Minister's colleagues did, not grabbed prime mineral blocks and valuable public lands non-transparently as some in the government allowed their associates to do and not stayed in five-star hotels as some Union Ministers did. By treating Anna so ham-handedly and in such an insensitive manner, the government has literally brought back memories of the Emergency days of 1975-77.
e) It is ironic that this should happen soon after the Prime Minister delivered his resounding speech from the ramparts of Red Fort on the 64th Independence Day that he would combat the evil of corruption with all his might.
f) The public anger against the scams and the scandals that have characterised the government during the last few years is reflected in the demonstrations and dharnas that the people all over the country have organised today to express their solidarity with the national campaign against corruption. On our part, we, the members of FBV too express our support to and solidarity with Anna Hazare's movement against corruption.
g) The government should know that, while the Parliament is supreme, it is the people of this country in whom the Constitution has vested the ultimate authority to determine the country's future. The people of this country are determined to invoke that authority.
h) The Constitution has conferred Fundamental Rights on each and every citizen. These include the right to freedom of expression of views. No government can ever suppress that right wantonly.
i) We appeal to the civil society organisations all over the country to support Anna Hazare, despite differences in perception, if any, as Anna Hazare's struggle against corruption is the people's struggle against the well-entrenched corrupt.
j) We are confident that Anna Hazare will succeed. We are confident that the people of this country will overcome the insensitive attitude of the government and succeed in setting up a durable institutional structure as the bulwark against corruption.
Moneylife has had more responses coming in from across the country, here's a response we received from OP Monga, trustee of Mumbai-based Forum for Fast Justice, whose two trustees have been arrested in New Delhi: "We hereby inform you that Bhagvanji Raiyani and M Venkatraman, Trustees of Forum for Fast Justice, Mumbai, have been arrested in Delhi along with Shri Anna Hazare at Delhi today morning. They were taken to a stadium which has been converted into a temporary jail by the Delhi Government. They were fasting along with Anna Hazare. They had gone to Delhi to support Mr Hazare.
"The Forum for Fast Justice strongly supports the anti-corruption crusade led by Anna Hazare. We are ready to sacrifice anything for this cause."
In a media release from Hyderabad, Lok Satta party President, Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, said that the detention of Anna Hazare was "senseless."
"Through its reckless and senseless detention of Anna Hazare and team, the Union Government squandered away a precious opportunity to build a national consensus on creating an effective mechanism to curb corruption," Dr Narayan said today.
He said there could be honest and legitimate differences of opinion and approach to the creation of the Lokpal, Lokayukta, and ombudsmen institutions between the Government and civil society. Some of the demands of the civil society on the Lokpal institution may be far-fetched, Dr Narayan said.
In such a situation, the Government is obliged to exercise patience and restraint, explain its viewpoint, and convince the public. Instead, Dr Narayan, said, the Government has resorted to the heinous practice of levelling corruption allegations against Anna Hazare and others fighting against corruption. "The Government's conduct is improper, immoral, immature, and counter productive. If there is any substance in the allegations it is making now, why has it not acted earlier," he asked. Instead of strengthening the Constitutional processes, the Government by its vindictive attitude is alienating people, Dr Narayan said.
He said that the Lokpal Bill has now become Parliament's property and the civil society should recognise that Parliament is an institution elected by people. It is time that all sections including the Government, political parties, civil society, and media mount concerted and authentic efforts to curb corruption, he said.
Dr Narayan regretted that the public debate on the Lokpal Bill has ignored corruption at the State and local Government levels. The Government should strengthen investigating agencies like the CBI (Central Bureau of Information) and the ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau) and insulate them from political interference by bringing them under the protective umbrella of the Lokpal and Lokayukta.
"The need of the hour is mature negotiations and arriving at a consensus, said Dr Narayan and added there is no place for inflexible views in public debate. He appealed to all sections of society to "protest peacefully against the detention of Anna Hazare and others" without "disrupting people's normal life."
The Lok Satta Party is planning mass dharnas throughout the State on 17th August and demonstrations in association with others on 18th August to protest against the arrest of Anna Hazare and his team.
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said that the anti-corruption campaign is a struggle for democracy. It also called upon the government to heed this national call, not just for a strong Lokpal Bill, but also for bringing in systemic change against the corrupt, corporatized, communal, consumerist governance and development model. The entity has also called for an unconditional apology to the nation from the Prime Minister and meaningful dialogue with all people’s struggles on the issue of strong anti-corruption legislation and systemic reforms.
All India Bank Employees Association’s (AIBEA) General Secretary Vishwas Utagi said in a statement on Wednesday, “Release Anna Hazare unconditionally. Don’t curb the democratic right to protest. Remove corrupt people from government. All our unions should hold demonstrations in all cities and towns on these demands.”
Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code is invoked depending on the urgency of the situation, so as to act absolutely—and that the emergent situation must be sudden and the consequences grave.
Did Anna Hazare's peaceful movement warrant such a draconian crackdown? We'll keep you posted as and when we get more responses from citizen groups and concerned citizens.