Francois Gautier: The other factor behind Anna Hazare’s success
Monday, September 5, 2011The recent Anna Hazare movement embodies one of the most significant and extraordinary happenings in modern India and in the history of the world: one man, using only the tools of his own will power and without any violence, whatsoever, brought an entire government to its knees, forcing it to tackle the cancer of corruption which is eating his country’s entrails. It is an example for the world to follow. Yet, the whole truth may not be all that evident.
Anna has been fighting corruption in Maharashtra for many years. However, he never drew large crowds. Even his Gujarat trip had gatherings of no more than a few hundred. One would wonder what might have caused this sudden upsurge. There may be several factors behind this — the media hype, the blunders the government committed in harassing him, the anger in the people towards the government which needed a channel and, most of all, the support given by the most popular guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Sri Sri draws crowds of one to two hundred thousand wherever he goes. When Sri Sri, as one of the founders of India Against Corruption, extended his support, all these millions of people spontaneously joined Anna’s cause. Swami Ramdev had also earlier canvassed support for an anti-corruption movement, logging nearly 100,000 km, but the police clamped down on his followers and he was forcibly removed. Sri Sri went further and travelled to 14 states across India to address hundreds of thousands at Art of Living satsangs raising awareness about the Jan Lokpal Bill and offering holistic solutions to tackle corruption. The Art of Living, with 10,000 teachers in urban areas and about 50,000 yuvacharyas (rural volunteers) in villages of India, continued spreading awareness about corruption and its solution and exhorted people not to take or give bribes. Stickers saying ‘I don’t take a bribe’ were distributed and enthusiastically pasted by government employees all over India.Sri Sri, who carries a responsible image with all political parties, including the one in power, was also instrumental in facilitating dialogue by meeting different sides involved in the issue. With its back on the wall, the government was thinking of forcibly hospitalising Anna Hazare. It is then that Sri Sri met leaders of the BJP, who were originally hostile to Anna’s left-leaning aides and convinced them to press for acceptance of the key issues in Parliament. It was due to mobilisation of support in both the Houses that the three point resolution was passed. Arvind Kejriwal publicly thanked Sri Sri and the Art of Living for the role they played in generating the outcome that Anna’s fast at Ramlila Maidan accomplished. The Art of Living continues to support Anna Hazare’s fight for a strong and independent anti-corruption authority.
— The author is the editor in chief of the Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde and the author of The Guru of Joy