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Posts Tagged ‘Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’

Indian activist to launch public fast as government relents

Posted by Admin on August 18, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/india-activist-allowed-fast-15-days-000649292.html

 By Paul de Bendern | Reuters – 18 mins ago

A supporter of Anna Hazare wearing a handcuff holds a portrait of Hazare as he attends a protest against corruption in Hyderabad

A supporter of veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare wearing a handcuff holds a portrait of Hazare as he attends a protest against corruption in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad August 18, 2011. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India‘s beleaguered government caved in to popular fury over corruption on Wednesday after thousands protested across the country, granting permission for a self-styled Ghandian crusader to stage a 15-day hunger strike in public.

Anna Hazare was arrested on Tuesday, hours ahead of a planned fast to demand tougher laws against the graft that plagues Indian society from top to bottom.

But the jailing of the 74-year-old campaigner sparked nationwide protests and put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s government on a backfoot, forcing it to relent.

“Anna wishes to congratulate everyone as we have started a great momentum for this fight against corruption,” said Arvind Kejriwal, a social activist and close aid of Hazare.

“He wants all of us to continue in this peaceful and calm way of protest,” Kejriwal told reporters.

The Congress party-led government, facing one of the most serious protest movements since the 1970s, at first agreed to release Hazare, but he refused to leave the high-security Tihar jail until he won the right to lead an anti-corruption protest.

Crowds by the jail erupted in joy at news of the deal, reached early on Thursday, shouting “I am Anna” and “We are with you,” singing, playing guitars and waving the Indian flag.

Hazare is expected to postpone his public fast until Friday because the Ramlila Maidan grounds in central Delhi are not ready to host massive crowds, his advisers told reporters.

A medical team is on standby to monitor Hazare’s health as he has already begun his fast in jail and a sharp deterioration could further worsen the crisis for the government.

“It’s an indefinite fast, not a fast-unto-death. He will be there as long as he can sustain it,” said Kiran Bedi, a former senior police officer and a member of Anna’s protest team. Earlier the hunger strike had been billed as a fast-until-death.

The protests across cities in India, helped spread by social networks, have not only rocked the ruling Congress party, they have sent shockwaves through the political class.

Students, lawyers, teachers, business executives, IT workers and civil servants have taken to the streets in New Delhi and both cities and remote villages stretching down to the southern end of the country.

“The movement has meant politicians realize that they cannot fudge these issues or ignore public opinion any longer,” said Vinod Mehta, editor of the weekly Outlook magazine.

“It has succeeded in concentrating the minds of politicians across the political spectrum on one issue for the first time.”

A weak political opposition means that the government should still survive the crisis, but it could further dim the prospect for economic reforms that have already been held back by policy paralysis and a raft of corruption scandals.

SOCIAL NETWORK REVOLUTION

One Facebook page for Hazare has almost 280,000 followers, while the India Against Corruption page on Facebook has more than 312,000 followers where links and messages of support are posted. Several Twitter accounts have been set up by supporters to send out messages of where and when protest and fast.

An online page petitioning for the freedom of Hazare and India of corruption had signed up almost 170,000 people within 24 hours.

The country’s 24-7 news networks, competing to dig up the latest corruption scandal, have also played a vital role in whipping up the Hazare story.

A NATION FED UP WITH CORRUPTION

Many have criticized Hazare for taking the government hostage over his demand for a specific bill to give more teeth to investigating and punishing graft in high office. But few take issue with his crusade against the scourge of corruption.

The urban middle class, who have prospered since the economy was opened up in the early 1990s, is fed up with the rampant corruption that they encounter, whether it be getting a driving license or buying a flat. The soaring cost of living has also exacerbated the situation.

Hazare’s arrest, followed by the brief arrests of about 2,600 followers in the capital alone on Tuesday, shocked a nation with strong memories of Gandhi’s independence battles against colonial rule with fasts and non-violent protests.

INDIA’S NEW GENERATION

Thousands of mostly young people held peaceful candle-light vigils through Wednesday night, from the capital Delhi to the IT hub of Hyderabad and the financial capital, Mumbai.

Many of the crowd were young, with rucksacks on their backs, some with their faces painted. Others were older, decked out in outfits as worn by the bespectacled Hazare, with his trademark white cap and kurta, a long-time social activist who is often compared to independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Demonstrations are part of daily life in the towns and cities of India, a country of 1.2 billion people made up of a myriad of castes, religions and classes. But spontaneous and widespread protests are rare and the scale of this week’s outpouring of public fury has taken the government by surprise.

Singh, 78, who is widely criticized as out of touch, dismissed the fast by Hazare as “totally misconceived” and undermining the parliamentary democracy.

Hazare became the unlikely thorn in the side of the ruling coalition when he went on hunger strike in April. He called off that fast after the government promised to introduce a bill creating an anti-corruption ombudsman.

The so-called Lokpal legislation was presented in early August, but activists slammed the draft version as toothless because the prime minister and judges were exempt from probes.

Over the past year an increasing number of company executives, opposition politicians, judges and ministers have been brought down by corruption. Still, Transparency International rates India in 87 place on the most corruption countries according to a 2010 survey.

(Additional reporting by Annie Banerji, Arup Roychoudhury and Matthias Williams; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and John Chalmers)

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Indian anti-graft activist arrested as protests spread

Posted by Admin on August 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/veteran-indian-activist-detained-ahead-mass-fast-054711574.html

By Paul de Bendern and Alistair Scrutton | Reuters – 58 mins ago

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare waves from a car after being detained by police in New Delhi

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare waves from a car after being detained by police in New Delhi August 16, 2011. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Police arrested India‘s leading anti-corruption campaigner on Tuesday, just hours before he was due to begin a fast to the death, as the beleaguered government cracked down on a self-styled Gandhian activist agitating for a new “freedom” struggle.

At least 1,200 followers of the 74-year-old Anna Hazare were also detained, signaling a hardline stance from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against anti-government protests, a gamble that risks a wider backlash against the ruling Congress party.

Dressed in his trademark white shirt, white cap and spectacles in the style of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, Hazare was driven away in a car by plainclothes police, waving to hundreds of supporters outside his residence in New Delhi.

His followers later said he had begun his fast.

“The second freedom struggle has started … This is a fight for change,” Hazare said in a pre-recorded message broadcast on YouTube. “The protests should not stop. The time has come for no jail in the country to have a free space.”

In a country where the memory of Gandhi’s independence battles against colonial rule with fasts and non-violent protests is embedded in the national consciousness, the crackdown shocked many Indians.

It also comes as Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi is in the United States being treated for an undisclosed condition.

The question for many is whether Hazare and his movement will grow across the fast-urbanizing nation of 1.2 billion people whose middle class is fed up with constant bribes, poor services and unaccountable leaders.

In a worrying sign for a government facing crucial state elections next year, local media reported spontaneous protests against the crackdown across India. Dozens of Hazare supporters were also arrested in Mumbai, according to local media.

“If the government stops protests or not, what it can’t stop is the anger, which ultimately means bad news for Congress when people go to the polls,” said M.J. Akbar, an editor at news magazine India Today.

The country’s interior minister said Hazare and six other protest leaders had been placed under “preventative arrest” to ensure they did not carry out a threat to protest.

“Protest is welcome, but it must be carried out under reasonable conditions,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told a news conference.

“A MURDER OF DEMOCRACY”

Hazare has become a serious challenge to the authority of the government in its second term as it reels from a string of corruption scandals and a perception that it is out of touch with millions of Indians hit by near-double-digit inflation.

Both houses of parliament were adjourned for the day after the opposition protested at the arrests of Hazare and his key aides, further undermining the chances that reform bills — seen as crucial for Asia’s third-largest economy — will be passed.

Acting Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi called a top-level emergency meeting with senior cabinet ministers to discuss the escalating crisis.

“This is murder of democracy by the government within the House and outside the House,” said Arun Jaitley, a senior leader of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The scandals, including a telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the government $39 billion, has smothered Singh’s reform agenda, dented investor confidence and distracted parliament just as the $1.6 trillion economy is being hit by inflation and higher interest rates.

Those arrested included Kiran Bedi, one of India’s first female police officers and a widely respected figure for her anti-graft drive. She tweeted from detention that she had refused an offer of bail.

Police denied Hazare permission on Monday to fast near a cricket stadium because he had refused to end his fast in three days and ensure no more than 5,000 people took part.

Opposition figures likened the crackdown to the 1975 “Emergency” when then-prime minister Indira Gandhi arrested thousands of opposition members to stay in power.

A HARDENING STANCE

Singh and his Congress party have hardened their stance against Hazare in recent days, fearing that these protests could spiral.

“When you have a crowd of 10,000 people, can anyone guarantee there will be no disruption? … The police is doing its duty. We should allow them to do it,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told CNN-IBN television.

The prime minister used his Independence Day speech on Monday to criticize Hazare, and Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said Hazare was surrounded by “armchair fascists, overground Maoists, closet anarchists.”

Hazare rose to fame for lifting his village in western state of Maharashtra out of grinding poverty. His social activism has forced out senior government officials and helped create the right to information act for citizens.

It is unclear whether the tactics will backfire and spark further protests. They could also help the image of a prime minister criticized as weak and indecisive. A previous crackdown this year on a fasting yoga guru successfully broke up his anti-corruption protests.

Hazare became the unlikely thorn in the side of the Congress-led coalition when he first went on a hunger strike in April to successfully win concessions from the government.

Tapping into a groundswell of discontent over corruption scandals in Singh’s government, Hazare lobbied for a parliamentary bill creating a special ombudsman to bring crooked politicians, bureaucrats and judges to book.

Hazare called off that fast after the government promised to introduce the bill into parliament. The legislation was presented in early August, but activists slammed the draft version as toothless, prompting Hazare to renew his campaign.

Under the current bill, the prime minister and judges would be exempt from probes.

(Additional reporting by Arup Roychoudhury, Matthias Williams and Annie Banerji; Editing by John Chalmers)

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DEMOCRACY IN THE THIRD WORLD

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Can democracy survive in the Third World? Can it succeed?”

 

Table of contents:

Part I: Introduction;

Part II: Key words;

Part III: Problem aspect of this paper;

Part IV: Case study;

Part V: Conclusion.

________________________________________________________________________

Part I:

Introduction:

This paper is an attempt to understand if democracy can survive and succeed in the Third World. The methodology adopted, as well as the roadblocks attendant to this narrative are mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs. This paper takes the case of secular democracy in India as a model for Third World countries in arriving at the thesis proposition. The rationale and justification for this selection, and the pitfalls associated with it are made in Part III of this paper.

Part II:

Key words: Democracy, Third World, Secular Democracy, Christian, Protestantism, India, colonial rule, Independence, Minority, Appeasement, Muslim, Hindu Nationalism.

Part III:

Problem aspects of this paper: By far, the core problem for this paper concerns its very nature –that of having to explain the nature of democracy in Third World countries in the space given to it. The broad term ‘Third World’ encompasses several of the world’s countries, and the transition to democracy, or prospects for success or otherwise in these few dozen countries, is too generic and seamless to be described in a few hundred words. This is because if one were to bunch together all developing countries, as Third World countries are also known, the case of each is unique and is moulded by the peculiar circumstance of its history. For instance, if some South European states started having doses of democracy in stages in the 1970’s, Latin American nations saw a wave towards democratisation in the 80’s. However, there was little to suggest that there was a common, binding factor in these cases; moreover, it was a trend that was not really sustained. No clear patterns can be discerned regarding the reasons and direction towards democratisation in most Third World countries. (Haynes, 2001, pp.1- 3) Some have argued that if there is a common thread running through Third World countries, it is that of having been colonies of some or another European power, and inheriting at least some of their systems of governance. (Clapham, 1990, p. 39) [1]Yet, this position, while a truism on the surface, hides more than it reveals –the simple reason being that not all these nations were colonised by the same power, and even when some of these did come under the same colonial rule, democracy was never the necessary fruit of decolonisation in these countries. Thus, forecasting the democratic prospects of a few of these countries may not be an appropriate representation or sample of the whole. This is because of the reasons just stated, which is that there is very little in common, except of being herded into the group that is conveniently labelled a “Third World” country. [2]

These countries have been located anywhere in the globe, and their democracies, when present, either as an inheritance from their former colonial masters immediately after independence, or its adaptation at a later date have been dictated by the need of the day, and are unique. (Haynes, 2001, p. 3) Another couple of critical facts need to be underscored when talking about democracy in developing countries: first, when democracies have functioned, they have been almost certainly different from that perceived and practised in the West, and more importantly, several Third World democracies are in a process of transition, and will, in all likeliness, continue to remain so. (Forje, 1997, p. 315) Even if these and other Third World countries may have a few commonalities as regards their economies, the democratic linkage is extremely brittle. Hence, in answering the thesis question, the researcher is left with little option to go about this paper other than to take select one Third World country, and making a study of its democratic prospects. India is an obvious choice simply because of its being the world’s most populous democracy, and because this country has shown remarkable resilience in preserving its democratic system, despite the innumerable odds against it. Having said this, it needs to be reemphasised that this is not a true reflection of the state of democracy in all Third World countries, but can only be used as an exemplar. Since some benchmark has to be used in arriving at a conclusion, this example is chosen.

Part V:

Case study:

India: India is chosen because it is both a typical and untypical Third World democracy in varying degrees. It opted for democracy since independence, despite internal contradictions of the term between the main founding fathers, Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. (The Washington Times, May 31st, 2004, p. A23) [3] Nehru’s viewpoint prevailed, to the effect that in India, democracy has often meant secular democracy. This is a paradox, in that secularism implies separation of state from the Church, while in India, its sole connotation was the appeasement of the minorities, especially the Muslim community, which makes up a substantial proportion of the population. This, in the eyes of the world and to Indian politicians, was what Indian democracy was really like. Things seemed to change with the destruction of a mosque in northern India in 1992. It was perceived, at least in the West that India was on the path to abandoning its cherished secular democratic values when it was feared that this event would mark the start of aggressive Hindu nationalism, which with its supposed anti-minority ideology, would set the clock back on democracy. However, the issue needs to be seen in perspective. First, Hindu nationalism, if it did really take shape, was in retaliation to two major phenomena –the marginalisation of the majority Hindu community at the hands of successive governments led by the Congress party since independence, and two, a succession of separatist movements, led by a Muslim-majority and a Sikh-majority state,[4] that threatened to tear the very heart of India in the 1980’s. The rise of this pan-Hindu nationalism needs to be seen as a reaction to this. (Varshney, 1993) These aberrations notwithstanding, having India exist and flourish as a democracy seems to be in everyone’s interest, including America’s. Being one of the states that do not depend on the US for the sustenance of its democracy, economy or security, India is one of the Third World’s champions in advocating and practising secular democracy, a product of European enlightenment. There may have been occasional hiccups, but these are few and far between. It has moved from being a champion among anti-imperial nations at the time of its independence to being leader of the Non Aligned Movement during the Cold War to being the beacon of democracy today in a region in which this seems more an exception than a rule. It has the potential to be an economic powerhouse in the years to come, and is now in a position to seek democracy at such global institutions as the UN Security Council. (Khanna & Mohan, 2006)

Part VI: Conclusion: In drawing a conclusion, it has to be said that democracy can indeed not only survive, but also succeed in Third World countries. If a country like India, with its mind-boggling diversity and social complexities can achieve democracy, there is no reason for other countries not to follow suit. Two major points need mention, however, in assessing if other Third World countries can replicate Indian democracy. First, Third World democracies may not look like the exact twin of western democracy. This distinction needs to be both understood and conceded, for the reason that there is no one, universal type of democracy. (Forje, 1997, p. 315) Secondly, the only obstacle to democracy in Third World countries can be a lack of willingness on the part of the governments in these countries to implement the system. If India has succeeded, it has been because of its willingness more than anything else. It surmounted serious obstacles to its democratic nature on at least two major occasions since independence –the imposition of emergency under Indira Gandhi in 1975 (Carras, 1979, p. 154), and the rise of the Hindu Right some years later, again a takeoff from where the Congress had left off. (Hansen, 1999, p. 150)[5] Of these, undoubtedly, the graver threat to democracy was the earlier instance. However, these were not powerful enough to override India’s strongly rooted framework and ability to making democracy a success. If this is an example the world’s most populous democracy can set, other countries can easily take the cue. In sum, democracy can indeed survive and succeed in a Third World country, but the will and need for it has to come from within.

Written By Ravindra G Rao

 

References

 

 

Carras, M. C., 1979, Indira Gandhi: In the Crucible of Leadership, Beacon Press, Boston.

Clapham, C.,1990, Third World Politics: An Introduction, Routledge, London.

Doorenspleet, R., 2002, 3. “Development, Class and Democracy”, in Development and Democracy:  What Have We Learned and How?, Elgström, O. & Hyden, G. (Eds.) (pp. 48-61), Routledge, London.

Forje, J. W., 1997, 9. “Some Observations on Prospects of Democracy in the Contemporary World” in Prospects of Democracy: A Study of 172 Countries (pp. 315-331), Routledge, London.

Haynes, J., (Ed.), 2001, Democracy and Political Change in the “Third World”, Routledge, London.

2004. “In India, Parties Overlap; Hindu Nationalism Secularism Converge”, The Washington Times, (Washington, US), May 31, 2004, p. A23.

 

Khanna, P., & Mohan, C. R., 2006, “Getting India Right”, Policy Review, Vol.135, p. 43. Retrieved December 13, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com

 

Lakoff, S. A., 1996, History, Theory, Practice, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

Strong, J., 1885, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, The American Home Missionary Society, New York.

Varshney, A., 1993, “Contested Meanings: India’s National Identity, Hindu Nationalism, and the Politics of Anxiety”, Daedalus, Vol.122,  No.3, p.227, retrieved December 13, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com


[1] An interesting point here would be to analyse the linkage between democracy and Christianity. Some blatantly racist writers as Josiah Strong, writing in the period of American Reconstruction,  boasted that democracy found its highest actualisation in Christianity, since no other race was as superior or well-suited to respect freedom as Christianity. (Strong, 1885, pp. 171-180) While this is one extreme argument, more balanced and recent critics of democratic systems, too, nevertheless, seem to draw a relationship between the two. Some like Lakoff (1996) draw a parallel between democratisation and not Christianity per se, but more specifically, Protestantism. In particular, look at page 276 of this book, in which the main point is that “democratization of politics [came about] after bloody wars of religion led to toleration and the weakening if not the complete dissolution of ties between church and state. Political pluralism was modeled upon (and legitimated by) Protestant sectarianism.” (Lakoff, 1996, p. 276)

[2] Another link that has been made is between democracy and development. Seymour Martin Lipset, who pioneered this linkage, substantiated this position by demonstrating a trickle-down effect model of democracy and development. In this line of thinking, social conditions become the cornerstone of democracy; when social conditions of workers improved on account of democracy, there was less social conflict, since the working class had greater outlet for improvement of their creative skills, and this made extremist tendencies less enticing than development. The root of the prevention of these extreme ideologies is in the way democracy “is able to reward moderate and democratic parties and penalise extremist groups.” (Doorenspleet, 2002, p. 49)

[3] Gandhi’s idea of democracy was rooted in the Hindu ideal of Ram Rajya, or the kingdom of Lord Ram, which may be termed, in a sense, a forerunner of the Utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham, whose core ideal was the maximum happiness of maximum numbers.

Gandhi derived this ideal from a religious, spiritual perspective, by which he implied the equal respect to all religions. Nehru’s idea of democracy was secular in the real sense of the word, by which religion was to be severed totally from administration, although in practice, as mentioned elsewhere in this paper, this had a very constricted view. (The Washington Times, May 31st, 2004, p. A23)

[4] Obviously, the two states being referred to here are Kashmir and Punjab, in the heart of northern India. Kashmir, like Punjab, borders Pakistan and is claimed by the latter on the basis of its Muslim majority, because of which, so claim successive Indian governments since independence, it has been supporting separatist, Islamic terrorism to destabilise India. Although this has been the bone of contention between the two neighbours since independence, terrorism took a decisive upswing in the late 1980’s. Punjab, on the other hand, had been turned into a terrorist state since separatist Sikh militant groups made demands for a separate nation in the 1980’s.

[5] This author makes the claim that it was the Congress party Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s balancing act of appeasing both Hindus and Muslims that created the platform for the Right. On the one hand, he had the gates of the abandoned Hindu Temple at Ayodhya, which existed side by side with the mosque that was brought down in 1992, unlocked after it had remained locked since 1949. On the other, he had the legislature overturn a Supreme Court judgement in a case involving conjugal rights of a Muslim woman citing minority rights. Both these happened in the mid 1980’s, during his tenure. (Hansen, 1999, p. 150)

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