11th April 2011
Let’s make sure we don’t subvert India’s democracy
While noting that the middle classes of India are entitled to some jubilation at the outcome achieved from Anna Hazare's fast (this also being one of the first times since independence when our dormant middle class has actually done something collectively), two fundamental issues need to be kept in mind:
1) Legal status of fast unto death
In my draft manuscript, The Discovery of Freedom I've been grappling with the issue of fast to death. What is the legitimacy of such a thing in a free society. Is self-harm permitted? Up to what stage? And why?
I can well understand Gandhi's fast unto death in order to calm down tempers and bring an end to communal violence. But I'm not able to understand the legitimacy of a fast unto death to bring about a Bill. Despite my sympathies with Anna, I'm unable to endorse his approach, else he or others could hold the entire country's policies to ransom and totally subvert the democratic process.
In particular, why is Anna not force-fed when he fasts, but others are (http://www.wahsarkar.com/2011/04/the-art-of-hunger-strikes/)? The law on this matter should be clear and apply uniformly to everyone. No one should be permitted to fast unto death. Period. Indeed, all hunger strikes must be prohibited, being a kind of self-harm – particularly as they seek to change others' behaviour.
The Gandhian times are over. Let us follow some discipline and use the electoral process which is available to EVERYONE. Why create extra-constitutional mechanisms and dilute the discipline of the rule of law?
2) Role of un-elected citizens vs role of elected representatives
It is crucial that no unelected citizen be permitted to subvert the democracy that we have established – at great cost and effort – in India. I therefore encourage Anna and his supporters to form a political party and contest elections and then, once they have a formal mandate for change, bring about the reforms they have obtained people's authorisation for (subject to preserving the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution).
I would much rather have the most corrupt elected Parliament make laws for India than unelected people who threaten suicide and bring the entire Parliament to its knees. As I have often said, I believe that even our most corrupt elected representative (e.g. Sonia/Rahu Gandhi) do greater service to India than those who berate them from outside but refuse to challenge them at the hustings. Use the hustings, please, not the streets.
To everyone who wishes to see change in India , let me make this appeal:If you have true COURAGE and INTEGRITY, please fight elections. Don't just start mass movements to destroy democracy and create a rule by mobs.
I'm afraid I don't agree to this proposal, being anti-democratic. Let no one sit in judgement as GOD over those who contest elections. If you find no one who good from those who are contesting an election, then contest elections YOURSELF. Please don't damage democracy by refusing to send a representative to Parliament.
Further it would be obnoxious in the extreme for Hazare to impose his personal views on the country through another round of fasting. This destruction of democracy must come to an end.