‘Lokpal’s no Alladin ka Chirag’

Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
 
Stoic, simple and low profile,Bhupinder Singh Rawat, leader of the Jan Sangharsh Vahini and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), is widely respected as an impeccably honest and consistent leader associated with various people’s movements in the country, with active participation in many struggles for many years now. In fact, he was a key figure in the farmer’s movements against builders around Delhi much before the focus shifted to Bhatta-Parsaul etc. Excerpts from an interview with Hardnews:
 
Like other activists, you too were aligned with Anna Hazare in the beginning. What made you distance yourself from his campaign?
Yes, from the very beginning many people were involved in this campaign. There were people from social movements too. I also attended many meetings. But on the very first day at Jantar Mantar it became clear that ‘other people’ were not needed. It became only a matter of one organisation and others were pushed aside. We did not want to push our way to the stage. When we saw that only a small group of the ‘Anna team’ was calling the shots, we knew we had no place there. 
 
What was Baba Ramdev’s role in this campaign?
Actually it was Ramdev who started this campaign against corruption. It was he who said that “we will bring black money back”. In January 2011, Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar’s people came for the rally. Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare did not have the strength. Ramdev did a rally on Chandrashekhar’s death anniversary where Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, and even Rightwingers like Subramanian Swamy were on the podium. There, former income tax commissioner Vishwabandhu Gupta, who claimed he had been especially called by Ramdev, used indecent and derogatory language against Sonia Gandhi and her political advisor from the podium. I left that place at that very moment in disgust, but these people did not criticise this crass indecency. This is also corruption of a serious nature. I, too, have ideological differences with the Congress, but that doesn’t mean you stoop down to this level — women form an important part of our movements. Ramdev was present later also. He came and supported Anna’s fast.
 
Do you think that Anna and his group should take a stand against communalism too? Is Lokpal the answer to every problem of corruption?
The question is, what exactly constitutes corruption? It has many aspects — social, political, communal etc. Monetary corruption is just one aspect, and we can’t reduce the campaign to just that. Also, the debate has been restricted to punishing the corrupt. They don’t want to go to the roots of corruption. What will this Lokpal do against communal forces? Or untouchablity? Against acquiring land from poor farmers? If people think it is some Alladin ka Chiragh, then they are mistaken. Tomorrow, 77 per cent poor people of the country will come and hold our collars and ask, “What has the Lokpal done?” Anna has become a big leader, so he might think that corruption can be done away with by instituting a Lokpal. I certainly don’t think so. It is important, but it is not the only solution. People need to go to the roots of all kind of corruption. 
 
Anna has not taken a stand on any other movement — for instance, those against land acquisition or for forest rights. 
Yes, it is true. Anna’s work is mostly confined to pockets in Maharashtra. He doesn’t know anything about the rest of the country. And no matter how much the media praises him, I don’t predict any kind of revolutionary change. The media believes in sensationalism — it never reports when lakhs of farmers come for a rally. Eradicating corruption is in fashion today. 
 
The problem that will arise now is this: several struggles, people’s movements, will not be televised; they will not be seen as struggles. For us, it will become difficult to tell the Dalits, the poor, that these struggles too are genuine, that the people who are fighting are good.     

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: AUGUST 2011

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