‘Vande Mataram or Bharat Mata are not merely innocent patriotic symbolisms, they are deeply identified with the RSS,’ says Anand Teltumbde. An eminent academic, writer, political analyst and civil rights activist, Teltumbde is a management practitioner based in Mumbai. He has authored many analytical books on Left and Dalit movements, including the acclaimed Khairlanji: A Strange and Bitter Crop.  In this incisive interview, he critically dissects and analyses the Anna Hazare phenomena. In conversation with Hardnews

Sadiq Naqvi Delhi 

  • What is your assessment of the structure, leadership, tone, tenor and ideology of this particular Jan Lokpal movement led by Anna Hazare?

As it appears ‘India against Corruption’, which calls itself a peoples’ movement and which is generously supported by many corporates, is behind this Jan Lokpal movement. As such, it appears quite amorphous and even spontaneous peoples’ movement. But it may not be truly so. The thousands of people that are seen collected at Azad Maidan in Mumbai and such other places in other cities and towns inIndia, and of course, many more in Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, are surely not individuals who all came there on their own. Many have been a part of certain organisations. At least in Mumbai, I have found people who are well known as associates of the Sangh Parivar being involved in the mobilisation of people. This hypothesis gets strengthened by the overall complexion of the movement and the manner in which it is being run. Its slogans, its demeanor, its attitude, its tone and tenor unmistakably reflect the imprint of the Sangh Parivar. Vande Mataram or Bharat Mata are not merely innocent patriotic symbolisms, they are deeply identified with the RSS. Ideologically, the movement reflects a streak of fascism, which, again, is associated with the RSS. There is no doubt that RSS’s pedigree is fascist; their praise for Hitler and Mussolini is too well-known to be forgotten.

Anna Hazare is not the RSS person, as he calls himself a Gandhian. But he also instinctively conducts himself in a dictatorial fashion albeit for the cause that he believes to be virtuous. But then, Hitler and Mussolini also believed in the virtuosity of their ideologies and the cause they espoused. People, who are not carried away by the rhetoric of this movement, are embarrassed by the undemocratic language he so casually uses. ‘Lao, nahi to jao’ is his recent slogan, which means the government has to bring the Jan Lokpal, and that too by the specified date as per his draft or else collapse. 

  • What is your assessment of the Anna Hazare phenomenon first in Maharashtra and now in Delhi? 

Anna Hazare came to limelight in Maharashtra by transforming his village, Ralegaon Siddhi, into an ‘ideal’ village as acknowledged by the State. He had launched the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) (People’s Movement against Corruption), a popular movement to fight against corruption in Ralegaon Siddhi in 1991, which led to the transfer and suspension of 40 forest officials. He carried on his struggles against corruption thereafter against ministers and went to jail a couple of times in connection therewith.


Brilliant Analysis

It is natural that such acts of flowing against current that Anand Teltumbde often does will irk the shallow people, but then that is precisely the intellectual's work. I see this interview providing lots of food for thought for people who are genuinely interested in the future of this country, meaning thereby the majority of people living in it. No amount of legislative reforms can repair the rot of the system. We have a beautiful Constitution and a plethora of well-meaning laws, but none seem to work. There is something seriously wrong with our culture and I tend to agree with Anand that is our caste culture. In one of his books he had expanded the idea saying that this culture with neoliberal ideology creates a resonance. The pathetic state of the country well testifies to his theorisation. I would wish readers don’t react with prejudice and really read it carefully. Anand is surely one of those few intellectuals who have shown high degree of intellectual honesty and integrity to be on the side of people against all kinds of odds and criticism. I for one, am impressed!

simply superb

Anand's analysis is simply superb and to the point. I have seen no analysis thus far of the Anna phenomenon which has so devastatingly shown how corruption is structurally embedded within the neoliberal push of liberalised India. No wonder that PM Manmohan Singh, amidst all the various blunderings of his govt. did not forget to make a stupefying statement that liberalisation is not to be blamed for corruption. Any honest reading of the above report from Dev Kar will attest to what Anand is simply pointing out. This is where the Anna movement and its version of the Jan Lokpal Bill - despite its probably well-intentioned draftees -- fails to take into account the system that produces such corruption in the first place. That same report shows how the capital owning classes form the bulk of the IFFs.

I also like the way that Anand scrupulously in very scholarly ways makes the distinction between feudal lord and feudal chief and reserves only the latter to the Indian context. This derives from his earlier work on how Indian feudalism, due to the caste structure, differs from European forms of feudalism.

It is not surprising that Anand's write up will incur the wrath of those who like to wrap themselves up in the "nationalist" colors and flags and shout louder in order to silence others. Since this is a forum for "those who want to know", I suggest that those who think that fascism is un-Indian, check into the history of the so-called nationalist organization - the RSS - and look for one Dr Moonje who was Hedgewar's mentor. You will find for yourself the ways that Italian fascism was learnt, appreciated and applied by the RSS stalwarts. For one archival evidence see Marzia Casolari's well-researched essay ‘Hindutva’s Foreign Tie-up in the in the 1930s — Archival Evidence’, published in Economic and Political Weekly, Jan 22, 2000.

I pity you...

I pity you...Dont call yourself Indian because some organisation takes pride in saying it!
You are protecting those who made life of every Indian difficult !
Invest your energy in finding ways to eradicate corruption then criticizing those who are working for it. Maybe there are better ways but who has even tried it?
People of all the caste and religions are victims of Corruption, its a disease eating your country.
Fascist are those who cant hail this country despite of living in it !
If you cannot bow to the motherland (Vande Mataram) do you think you should be living here?

An eye opener

I think the article is an eye opener for many who are ignorant of the existence of fascist forces in this country and the ways they operate. Full fledged activism by these zealots is aimed at the root of this new nation born on 15th August 1947. Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. People's welfare is foremost and not the manudharma ideologies.
The conscience of an average hindu is corrupt. They define life within the hindu ethos and never tolerate dissent. Feudalistic morons rule the roost in villages and even in corporate sector. That's why Anna always talks of Village Model and the supremacy of Village Panchayats. Little educated, he is taken for a ride by the Sangh parivar. I fully agree that a strong Lokpal is a must but we should be careful to keep the sangh forces at bay.

Lengthy 'analysis'

Comparing Anna with Hitler and Mussolini will not cut much ice with anybody. We must remember that Gandhi too was totally dictatorial. He called off the movement at Chauri Chaura when it was at its peak. And there was no 'explanation' to his thesis that industrialists are trustees.
And everyone seems to miss the point that the Lokpal concept puts the onus of proving corruption on the citizen, rather than being a deterrent to the would-be corrupt persons. In this circumstance who would risk going through the arduous process of accumulating evidence to nail say a sub-registrar who routinely pockets lakhs per day for the umpteen documents which have to be registered by him/her?
Even the RTI act which fructified through Anna's efforts has resulted in a lot of positive movement, but at a considerable price: Reams of paper are being wasted over officials who ought to be providing that information in a routine manner. If SEBI can force companies to make mandatory disclosures why not compel ministries and officials to mandatorily disclose their decisions/data/reasoning,etc. for the goings on under their departments.
Furthermore, some creative thinking needs to be done to use IT for getting rid for the obsolete means of registration - all websites these days require you to do this! Nandan Nilekani ought to be using his experience to empower rather than enslave people in the name of UID!
As for BJP and its ilk, they should practice what they preach by asking its government to resign and hold fresh elections in the light of its CM having been forced to resign for corrupt practices!

Anand Teltumbde’s analysis of

Anand Teltumbde’s analysis of the movement is largely correct. I agree with him when he says that corruption is not defined properly and the movement does not answer the structural questions. However, I am surprised at his statement that the movement is against Dalits. This movement is not in favour of or against any particular person. It is against the system which has led corruption to get to that level where it has started affecting every single individual. It is very simple for anyone to relate any movement with RSS and fascism in order to break it.
If shouting Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai makes one a RSS person, then I pity the understanding and the nationality of Teltumbde. I cannot think even once that a person hailing the motherland can be related with any fascist movement. If respecting your country is fascism, then fascism is most welcome. No one who thinks that these slogans are wrong has a right to be called an Indian.

Dhananjay Tingal

A strong and effective anti corruption bill is a definite need

The phenomenon has received many a interpretation. I support the movement by looking at it -in an absolutely restricted sense - as an effort with the single point agenda of enacting a strong and effective anti-corruption law/policy. I congratulate the overwhelming participation that it has received.

I appeal to the participants and supporters of the movement to respect and recognise the rights of other social groups without undermining their intentions. So, if the solution is already arrived at drafting a new bill considering all opinions and if the parliament as a whole is with this approach - the supporters of the movement have a reason to celebrate the victory and request Anna to call of his fast. The protests must continue till the bill is presented and enacted. Three or four months time that the Government is seeking can be agreed to.

Let there be a meaningful debate in Parliament and in public -that will help in raising social consciousness on the issue of corruption that I think is very much needed to understand that unless there are policies enacted to ensure economic equality any talk of eradicating corruption will only remain a dream on one hand; the Judiciary, corporate, media and NGO's contribute majorly to the menace of corruption in this country; therefore the anti-corruption framework is not complete if it does not include them. The debates will pave way for subsequent battles on corruption.

On the "saffron" colour of the movement - I had a experience of this at gate No 4 of Tihar Jail a few days back. Rama and Krishna have already made their presence at Ramlila grounds - Ganesha is not very far, he is in queue. Is there anything wrong even if "Jai Sriram, Hum Mandir vahi Banayenge!" shouts are also heard there?

It is necessary to focus on the fight against corruption that involves all sections of the society.