Sunday, August 21, 2011

At The Other End of Extremism

As the barren mountains of Tora Bora saw the dust settle from the rolling away of T-62 tanks of the Soviet army post the failed invasion of Afghanistan, the Peshawar Seven, comprised of seven Mujahideen warlords, capitalized on the vulnerable advantage that the new country presented. The men as well as the Afghan army resorted to killing, raping, looting and plundering whatever was left of the war-ravaged country.

The country needed a hero. A young preacher and ex-guerilla from the ranks of the Mujahideen in Quetta, Pakistan - Mullah Mohammed Omar, answered the call, and formed the ‘Taliban’. His lashkar (consisting of the youth, or the students of madrassahs from all over Af-Pak regions) had high ideals – they did not loot, did not kill the innocents and did not rape. And most important of all, they did not take money for what they did. They wanted to root out corruption that had slithered into the system of the country, and succeeded. Mostly.

That is, until, the lashkar grew, burgeoning well beyond thousands, and then started splitting into factions. Newer heads surfaced, the ones that were not incorruptible and did not even intend to be so. The ones who had forsaken ideals for the means and were well prepared to use the movement to serve their vested interests. And possibly, even the cause of the greater good, the good of the country.

And Omar himself, played right into the hands of whom he had tried to defeat when he had started his fight – hate, greed, avarice and corruption.

What was once respected and just, has now become the very symbol of savagery and prejudice – the Taliban.


Now take a moment and switch back to the Indian news channels you have been watching for the last couple of months.

How different is the situation of this Anna Hazare & Jan LokPal Bill movement from the Afghan scenario of 1994? How different an extremist hero is Anna Hazare himself from Mullah Mohammed Omar?!

Now before you get your knickers in a bunch screaming “CONGRESS STOOGE!!” I would like to remind you that extremism does not always require a gun. In fact, extremism, as Gandhi had showed through example, could be as little as sitting on a fast and never strike back – thus weakening the authority’s position every time they tried to force you into a compromise.

And how different is a man from an extremist when he imposes his views on an entire village, and flogs drunk men after tying them to temple pillars? Mind you, these men were simply drunk, and had committed no crime before the punishment was meted out. How different is a man from an extremist when he lets schools be vacated to join him on indefinite fasts?

And Mr. Hazare has been doing it with aplomb.     

As for the minions and the comparison with the Taliban, how many of the pople who are waving the flags on the streets and the people screaming “STOP Corruption” know of the weapon called Jan LokPal Bill that they are fighting with? Heck, let alone the people on the streets. I doubt even the leaders and gurus leading the pack know of the intricacies of the Bill and the long-term impact it may have on the democratic structure of the country – the very thing they are trying to cleanse! And as they grow, they will grow factions, one more orthodox and power-hungry than the other – just like the Taliban had!

It seems the whole country has been driven by blind propaganda and a general unwillingness to dig deeper than mass Email-forwards or sending missed calls to unknown numbers – for they do not wish to uncover an ugly truth beneath the carpet, that upsets the steamroller they have in their hands now – fellow Indians seething in misplaced anger with a mass misconception of having shifted the power of balance into their hands now.

Tell me, how are these men different from the thousands of young men being taught the wrong definition of Islam and Jihad and sent to die in no man’s land?! As I had pointed out, extremism needs no gun. All it needs are docile minds and blitzkrieg-like propaganda, made populist by a TRP-hungry media.

I was watching ‘The NewsHour’ and I was shocked at the lack of knowledge and reasonable answers to valid questions on the Bill, from someone who had been leading the protests in Mumbai from the front and egging bystanders to join the ‘Revolution’. What was also a letdown was the host’s inability (intentional or not remains open to debate) to call out the volunteers digressions from the topic and his rhetorical answers to simple questions like “Do you think the Lokpal drafted by the government is a failure?” 

Compounding the whole situation is the inability of the government to put their foot down and take a stand against such undemocratic conduct. Add to this hajaar idiotic spokespersons on behalf of the Congress making facepalmistry an art through their comments - including Manish Tiwari (He is corrupt too!), Mr. Alvi (there is a foreign hand/comspiracy) and the Hon. PM himself (well, he said nothing substantial. That’s the saddest comment right there!).  

As for the Jan LokPal bill drafted by the ‘jan-daradi’ Hazare & co., here are a few details of the bill you would love to do a reality-check against –

  • It is being suggested that The Jan LokPal will have a force of 20,000 officers, who will rush to any complainants’ rescue
How are you going to keep 20,000 men incorruptible and resistant to flirtations with money, when you can’t keep a municipality of 30 officers clean?!
  • It has been suggested that the Jan LokPal will have supreme powers – ones that can dismiss a case outright to blacklisting and penalizing a firm/individual – all on its discretion.
 How will you prevent such a totalitarian institution from becoming high-handed, or in the least-damaging scenario, corrupt?
  • The force of 20,000 Jan LokPal Bill inspectors, including the Chairperson, will be deemed ‘police officers’, with due authority and powers.
Why not do away with the Judiciary and the Police too then?! And coming back to the earlier point, what if the ‘police officer/LokPal members’ not be as corruptible as the police force of now, considering that they are being selected through the same social and ideological rungs that the IPS is chosen from?!
  • The totalitarian Jan LokPal will also have sway over the Judiciary and the PM (in its proposed version of the Bill)
Again, why will we want a new and cumbersome body to preside over issues like corruption and allied issues when we already have the Parliament, the investigative agencies and the Police?! Are these to be disposed off as the ‘third freedom struggle’?

And as a final nail in the coffin, Anna Hazare is 73. While I respect his ideals, I don’t respect his way of achieving them as well as his crony followers. When he steps down, which age will force him to do in some time, I would not want insane God-men dangling from the gates of a state penitentiary to take over the reins of an authoritative body that seeks absolute power. Am not sure the flag-whirling you would like it much either.

A more detailed and obviously much better argument against such unrealistic and autocratic pointers from the Bill has been laid out by the good Nitin Pai here. He is someone I have learnt a lot from. And as he so subtly points out, it is economical and institutional reform we need to root out corruption, not blind rage against a mythical enemy that the middle class is being tutored into.


And it is imperative for us to learn and act against this swathe of emotion. You want change from corruption and similar social evils? Be the change. Stop waving the tricolor and take action. Stop bribing. Stop turning a blind eye to issues closer to you and inside your homes – such as domestic abuse or child labor. Start being the idol you are trying to find in Mr. Hazare. And start it NOW.

As for me, I have already started it. And I hope you do so too.

For in the near future, I would not want these pseudo-Talibs to walk into a pub I am chilling in, with a beer bought with my own hard-earned money, tie me to a pillar and beat me to pulp. The police and the judiciary would be inaccessible, for these people will be THE police then, right?!

As I said, extremism isn’t always bursting out from the barrel of a gun.


  1. Here for your info:

    And its always easy to talk than to do :) try getting lakhs of ppl to comment of this... ok even 100 would be enough for a start.

    And what you indirectly applying is all of us are fools? Except for a few smart guys, the whole country is a fool! Great :)

  2. @Anonymous: That's what the mass is doing....talking. Nobody even tried doing their part to eradicate the evil inside their locus of control. Let alone doing anything, none of the activists even said "I won't be involved in any corrupt practices", all they could say was "WE won't let the politicians, Govt. officials to indulge in any acts of corruption"

    And what's wrong in inherently saying a great numbers amongst us are fools?? That's the bitter truth. We have proved this fact a number of times. The mass always falls for the magical weight loss pills, and in this context a magical weapon called as JLB.

  3. @Anonymous - Please re-read the post. I did not say the people were fools. They were misinformed, and misguided. And again, saying the government is wrong (which it is on this issue), does not make Mr. Anna right.

    Also, just because an idea is popular does not make it the only choice.

    And I would like lakhs to read and think, even if they don;t comment. If you help, it would be a start! :)

    @Nihar - You have driven a good point home. The 'I' is always missing, and the unwillingness to look inside rather than at others with caustic honesty.

  4. i appreciate your view my it easy to be the change? when lots of ppl already der to change you(i mean d darker side). I am not in support of anna hazare but at the same time i believe we need a extremist to bring out such changes..
    btw i loved this post..keep posting your views :)

  5. Agreed...infact wid all this hoo-haah about the lok pal bill..most of us are illiterate about wats in it...we need to understand d pros and cons of a cause before just siding with it looking at the big picture..i am definitely posting this online fr my other friends..lets c wat they say..

  6. I may not agree with Anna's ways and his lokpal - but one outcome of all this hullabaloo is that for once, people like you, and me, have started this dialogue about the problem. Now that is a start.

  7. I didn't think in this angle before, but what you are saying here is very true. The "I" is missing in this entire campaign. The motive seems to be entirely politically motivated, as if they want the govt. to fall as soon as possible! It's all about struggle for power. There is no alternative than people changing their own behavior. Somehow I believe that this will create anti-corruption awareness among the younger generation. Still people learn from real life, not from written words. I completely agree with Nihar. The anonymous commenter doesn't seem to have read your post properly!

  8. Very well put.. There seems to be a mass vindictiveness against the government per say.. The common mass are blindly supporting Mr. Anna Hazare's demands thinking they are supporting a motion against corruption. Without having any knowledge of the full impact of such demands being met. True Dibyo, the JLB motion, or extremism as pointed by you, may well be the breeding grounds for greater proportions of corruption. Assigning 'Supreme' powers to a few is a direct hit on Democracy. If that happens, we may as well land up where we started 200 years back.

  9. Every person has agenda of his own in this fight against corruption, political ambitions, political mileage and whatsoever , But as a Democracy our justice and police system is governed by well sorted out structure, we just need to realign those rather than begin with all new system to track corruption. if we stop being corrupt the system will indeed stop being corrupt. Jai Hind