Last week India read something that many people could not believe to be true. Anna Hazare told how he thought alcoholics should be treated and how he had treated them before in his village. To everyone’s surprise he appreciated the cruel method of beating alcohol addicts in public.
He, the anti-corruption fighter who was seen like a second Gandhi for some time, told that the common treatment for alcoholics in his village was to warn them three times that it was not good to drink. If he still got drunk, the villagers would take him to a temple and make him swear to God that he would not touch alcohol anymore. If he nevertheless was caught drinking or drunk, he would be tied against a pole in a public place of the village and be flogged.
You can imagine that this statement created quite an uproar in India. He, the man who was even worshipped just a few weeks or months ago, for his Gandhian way of fighting corruption, talks about violence against alcoholics! Of course the political parties, the Congress and the BJP, who were previously trying to convince the public that they are not against Anna Hazare, immediately gave their statement that they do not support this way of treating people at all. Those who have previously felt threatened by Anna Hazare’s campaign now have a good point to use against him. A spokesman of the Congress said these were Taliban method and you would need to beat up ‘half of Kerala, three-fourth of Andhra Pradesh and about four-fifth of Punjab’ if you followed his advice. I guess it is safe to say that his image of the Gandhian non-violent fighter is gone forever!
I was supporting the cause of fighting corruption by my writing. I wrote a letter to Anna Hazare, one letter to Manmohan Singh and appealed to people not to oppose him because we needed to come together as one in the efforts to stop corruption. From the beginning however I also told that it was wrong to worship the person, to get fixed on the idea that this man will end corruption. When listening to news and interviews with him and his team, I felt that the worship of the individual had already started. The issue of corruption had become less important than the person Anna Hazare. I felt ego in him, too, to be in this role and the media was supporting this ego by focusing on his person instead of the issue. To me, it was clear from the beginning that I support a cause, the fight against corruption, and not one individual person. I supported him because an opposition would have weakened the cause but I cannot agree with such statements in any way.
He has disappointed those who saw him as a kind of holy individual. There are no holy people who don’t have faults and if you expect a person to act as holy, you will be disappointed. He showed what he really thinks and obviously it has nothing to do with the loving, non-violent approach that he displayed earlier. He is frequently shown sitting at the Raj Ghat memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, meditating there. Do you think Mahatma Gandhi would be in favour of this method? Now everything he did in this way simply looks like a big drama.
Alcoholics are actually poor people. They have an addiction. By beating them or making them afraid of public humiliation, you cannot cure their underlying problem. You have to understand how they got stuck in this addiction so badly. If you know that problem, you can do something against it. Violence and cruelty will not help you in this task though! It could have been nice if he had suggested a meditation for those who really have the wish to leave their addiction but no, he suggested violence.
It is of course ridiculous to even discuss this kind of idea and a man speaking about national problems and solutions for them should know this. It is the way how villages have always treated problems – they set up a village court and a bunch of people who were thought to be the most important ones passed a sentence which often included beating or another physical punishment. It is an old-fashioned way that does not fit with modern civilization. With this statement Anna Hazare managed to ruin his reputation.
This does not mean however that now all hope for an end to corruption is gone. No, it was never about Anna Hazare, no matter how much the media and people tried to worship him as the savior. People have power when they get together and I want to tell everyone to please unite against corruption to finally erase it from our country.
More blog entries about Anna Hazare:
Anna Hazare arrested – Game of Politics and Corruption – 16 Aug 11
Anna Hazare fights Corruption like Gandhi fought the British – 8 Apr 11
Privilege Notices to Kiran Bedi and Om Puri – India losing Freedom of Speech – 2 Sep 11