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If Anna wants to change laws, let him become an MP. No more of this street “democracy”, please.

A young person on FB is complaining that the "sacrifices" of the people of India are not being heard. 

Comment on FB on my wall

why it is being compromised after all this hartals, and a countless support from public…?? is this a kind of joke with common peoples..the working of the parliament is get stopped to support ANNA… country has faced a huge loss… workers, employers, businessmen, have taken leave to support him… and he is saying to consider the 2 main points of JUDICIARY AND P.M. ONCE AGAIN…


My response

Well, the matter is simple. Do we want a street democracy, democracy by mobs, or democracy by due process?

And why are these people who are doing "sacrifices" SO SCARED TO CONTEST ELECTIONS? Taking leave for a few days is not sacrifice. Working hard together for lifelong and long-term reform is called "sacrifice". 

Once again, I repeat: If Anna wants to change laws, let him become an MP. None of this street democracy, please.

I don't care about the actual bill. That the bill is basically pointless is irrelevant to my argument. There are many pointless Bills in lndia. This is just one more pointless bill. Even if the parliament passes "Anna's bill" it will remain a pointless bill.

But please enact your pointless bill by becoming MP.  I disagree with Anna's method and attitude. 

I care a lot about the SERIOUS subversion of India's democracy that this method represents.

Please dissociate from this STREET NAUTANKIGrow up. Become men. Become citizens. Contest elections.

Yes, that is hard. But that is the ONLY way to success. 

So what are the steps to ACTUAL change?

Step 1. Join FTI.

Step 2: Agree the policies you want to offer India

Step 3: Raise public awareness and resources

Step 4: Contest ALL seats, and win at least 300 seats

Step 5: Change the system and ensure freedom and good governance

Sorry folks, there are no shortcuts. 

It is good you are getting involved in India's policies. Now get serious about it.

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49 thoughts on “If Anna wants to change laws, let him become an MP. No more of this street “democracy”, please.
  1. Bhagwad Jal Park

    I disagree. I have the right to live in a corruption free country even if I don't get elected. So many civil rights movements all over the world have been achieved without forming a separate political party or getting elected. Whether it's gay rights or equality for women or equality for blacks, people raised their voices, took out street demonstrations and essentially FORCED their governments to do their job.
    I'm sorry, but there's no rule stating that if I want change I have to stand for elections or join a political party.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I oppose the idea – in a democracy – of people DIRECTLY taking to the streets without first having EXHAUSTED constitutional opportunities.

    I don’t think Anna has exhausted the opportunities that India’s constitution provides.

  3. ramesh

    Just I, You and others FTIs and few others do understand that we are yet to exhaust the 'election' method. But for all practical purposes pending full penetration of FTI, IAC and common man thinks that they have exhausted the 'election method' for power of money, muscle and media. Our genius lies in convincing them that it is not so. Simply targeting Anna, even though justified, is overhead of the common man which may do more harm than good. I am not asking either to support them but say that our approach need to be more tactful. That's all.

  4. Bhagwad Jal Park

    I don't think the major civil rights movements in the US for example had exhausted all the electoral possibilities before taking to the streets.
    Also, the right to protest and take to the streets is very much a constitutional right!

  5. Shreyas

    Democracy is all about people in the street, Elected ones are not the masters but are public servents ,If a majority of people don't agree with rigid and arrogant government's policy ,to raise a voice doesn't requires them to wait for the end of the 5 years term and then fight the elections to make their point , Today what we see in the street is because there is a complete disconnect between the public and the elected representatives ,Its only the people of India in the whole world who has given 64 years to this system to reach them (patiently) but this system has been failing recursively

  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I have never denied the right to protest, Bhagwad. And yes, the right to take to the streets. But be prepared to be arrested since if it is not authorised by the local magistrate.

    However, the Hazare movement seems to be different. It says I will KEEP on protesting even after I have given you my views and you, the parliamentarian, have now to make the law. It has no end game. If its end game is to have a particular form of LP bill, it must become the parliament (by Anna becoming an MP), else it will merely be a disruptive anarchist force.

    Also, I’m not aware of too many movements (perhaps none) that have nitpicked about a particular parliamentary bill. Movements are about principles (e.g. ombudsman, anti-corruption), not about making a law PRECISELY in a particular way from the street.

  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Shreyas, the system has not failed (yes, it has, but not in the sense you mean). It is the people who have failed the system.

    By REFUSING to systematically contest elections, you have handed over the government to those least fit to govern.

  8. pvn

    A badly damaged road can be repaired by allowing movement of vehicles through the same road.  However, if a temporary bye pass is made for vehicle movement,  the road can be repaired in a better manner.  Similarly, the momentum created by 'the bye pass mode' of Anna Hazare and his team will be helpful in bringing down the corruption level in India.

  9. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear PVN

    There have been many such movements in the past and a few minor changes might occur. But this is NOT the solution India is looking for. It won’t “repair the road”. LP will NOT solve the corruption problem by one bit.


  10. Bhagwad Jal Park

    There are many protests are about specific bills – like the bills approving gay marriage in several US states for example. Huge protests which are meant to pressurize the governor of a particular state to either sign or not sign a certain bill. Protesters in these rallies know the name of the bill, the date on which it's supposed to be signed etc…
    The whole idea is to pressurize the government into taking action by a massive show of force. Anarchy can only take place if there's violence and since this is not a political movement, there are no anarchic forces. If this was any other protest, there would already have been violence. But because this protest is different, there is none.
    This removes all reasons for either the government or a magistrate to deny permission for it. Any such order is itself illegal.

  11. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. Now did these protesters you cite threaten to commit mass suicide if their view was not accepted? Did they threaten to basically overtake the parliament’s functions?

  12. Bhagwad Jal Park

    If they did threaten to commit suicide, would it make a difference? The govt. could just ignore them and nothing would have happened other than being voted out of power in the next elections!
    But that's fogging the question. Suppose Hazare hadn't threatened to commit suicide but had exactly the same agitation in exactly the same way sitting in the same place and refusing to move (without inconveniencing anyone) you would still object.
    Your current post mentions nothing about suicides or fasts. You're explaining your problems with street protests in general. So the question of suicide vis a vis this post is irrelevant for this comment.

  13. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’m not against street protests. I’ve made that very clear repeatedly.

    I’m against IMMOVABLE street protests, that give ultimatums (including threats of suicide).

    I’m against undermining democratic institutions.

  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Anything that raises issues, is done non-violently and does not disrupt the economic life of society excessively, and respectfully hands over the people’s opinion (e.g. on a particular law) to the parliament for its consideration.

    Quite happy for Anna Hazare to take a HUGE procession to the parliament and hand over his bill to the speaker. Then he should go home.

  15. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Apart from the odd way in which you think street protests need to be conducted, let's look more closely at your definition and Hazare.
    1. Non violent? – check. This is the most non violent movement in Indian's modern history.
    2. Does not disrupt economic life? That's too vague. Each person has a choice to do whatever they want as long as they hurt no one. They can all take mass leave and no one as the right to stop them.
    3. Respectfully? This is irrelevant. No street protest has ever been respectful of authorities anywhere in the world. Not sure which demonstration you have in mind, but the idea of a street protest being respectful is actually quite funny and almost a contradiction in terms.
    4. Finally, if all protests were as you say, the government would just ignore every protest in history.

  16. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    That’s how I’ve seen throughout my life – in India and elsewhere (e.g. Australia).

    A typical DEMOCRATIC protest leads to a time-bound outcome, that is agreed with the local police. I’ve not heard of endless street protests – unless the government had to be overthrown (e.g. at the fall of soviet r

    Yes, you are an anarchist, so to you law and order – or the constitutional process – doesn’t count, nor matter. I understand where you are coming from.

  17. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’ve already explained. Your idea is that someone can hold up a democratically elected government. Sorry that’s not how democracies work.

    As I said India earned its democracy so cheaply that its youth (like you) have no respect for its institutions. I’m afraid I disagree with this disregard for democracy.

  18. Bhagwad Jal Park

    I think I've made it clear repeatedly that violence is always a no no. Last I checked, anarchy needs violence in order to be called anarchy. So your calling me an anarchist is little more than name calling without anything concrete to back it up.
    There are too many street protests which not time bound and are not agreed with the local police to name. So I'll just link to a list:,_D.C.
    Here was a march on DC with 75,000 protesters – what was the time frame here?
    In fact, in truly free countries, you don't involve the police at all. It's only in a semi free country like India where you need to take permission for a peaceful protest. Police only get involved once a crime is committed.
    So you see, far from being an anarchist, I have the utmost respect for law and order. And law and order includes my rights to protest peacefully for as long as I want. As long as I threaten no violence to anyone else, there is never a law and order problem.
    Stopping Hazare's protest even though there's no violence is itself illegal – as the courts will no doubt demonstrate. People in India don't know their rights.

  19. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’m just pointing you to certain formalities you need in order to protest:

    a) In USA:
    withdrawal of permit:

    here’s someone complaining against laws that require permits:

    b) UK:

    c) Australia:
    7 days notice to police:

    In brief, there is NO INNATE RIGHT to obstruct public places which are paid for by all taxpayers and are intended for use by everyone. Also, police role is to ensure safety, hence they are ALWAYS involved – which means they need to know where the protest is occurring. They ALSO NEED TO SEND MAGISTRATES so that if violence breaks out, there is a magistrate who has witnessed events and if necessary authorised police firing. Note that police are not authorised to shoot on their own except in self-defence.

    Nice to hear that you are respectful of law and order. In that case I encourage you to read laws, and understand why they exist in the form and shape they do, today – in ALL free societies

  20. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Once again, you DON’T need to take permission to protest ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY. Then the police might get involved if you create public nuisance, but your right to protest inside your own house is basically INNATE.

    Once you own Ramlila grounds, you are welcome to protest there as long as you wish.

  21. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Define "public nuisance."
    Is a road being blocked? Is someone unable to sleep at night? Unless these elements are present, there's no public nuisance.
    All sorts of repressive government make use of the convenient"public nuisance" excuse. Prove public nuisance in a court of law and we have a case.

  22. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    The law does not authorise a random citizen (like you) to define legal terms.

    The authority is given to the government under the law. In this case it is the judgement of the District Magistrate that matters. The magistrate must exercise judgement WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR. That means even a Prime Minister does not have any ability to sign the order giving (or not giving) permission.

    Should you be unhappy you can go to court.

    This is how societies function. Not by random people on the street making decisions about what is right or wrong. That approach is known as anarchy.

  23. Bhagwad Jal Park

    The legal terms are already defined. The police are required to provide justification for words like "public nuisance" if challenged.
    Hazare was released right? So it means he's no longer a public nuisance! God praise our wise and understanding government :)

  24. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Bhagwad, I’m not discussing Anna’s arrest, but general principles. I don’t have access to the documents of his case. I’m suggesting that we respect the law and if we disagree with it then we become parliamentarians (or support appropriate parliamentarians) to change the law.

    You are advised to study the law, then propose changes – if any. Anna’s specific case is irrelevant to the principles involved in maintaining order. The law applies to MILLIONS of cases. What’s your problem with India’s laws on public protest?

  25. Bhagwad Jal Park

    My problem is that it gives the police too much discretionary power. No organization should be able to have that. Even courts have to explain themselves and every judgement is scrutinized. The police also have to be able to explain themselves rationally.
    Genuinely free countries don't give the police so much power.
    Obviously becoming parlimentarians is not the only option available to people – as we are seeing all too clearly. Since the protest is not illegal, it is ipso facto legal.

  26. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Where’s your basis for claiming that discretion is excessive under Indian law? Instead, there is LOT of political interference which makes it impossible for the district administration to exercise its judgement. On most matters, the DM will consult with the Commissioner of the division and if necessary, the Chief Secretary, but the final call must be of the man on the ground.

    How do you presume to know more about the local situation than an administration which is served by tens of senior officials whose main job is to assess and review the law and order situation? Would you like to fly an airplane where the pilot is controlled by remote control? The pilot must have FULL discretion to ensure the outcome: safe flying. So also the DM must have full discretion to decide how a particular situation is to be handled – and if he fails in doing so, he can be brought to book.

  27. Bhagwad Jal Park

    The current protest proves my case. Hazare ws judged to be a public nuisance and arrested not on the basis of fact but because it was a convenient excuse.
    He didn't block any road, didn't create a ruckus, and neither did any of the other thousands of protesters. In fact, this is one of the most peaceful movements in Indian history and yet the police arrested him!
    The police regularly fail to arrest violent protesters. A few months back, the khaps threatened to block the water supply to delhi and cut off the flow of vegetables unless their demands were met. They sat on railroad tracks and genuinely inconvenienced thousands of people. The Delhi police sat on their asses and did nothing.
    But when a peaceful protest occurs and NO ONE is inconvenienced, they suddenly use their discretionary powers to show their might.
    And that is the problem. Too much discretion leads to situations where you use your power for your own purposes.

  28. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Bhagwad

    You are absolutely right. The reality is that our administrative system, the steel frame of India, has been allowed to rot.

    That, however, is not fixed by reducing discretion (which in certain cases is absolutely necessary) but by fixing the politicians so they do not interfere in the decisions of the administration on such matters, just like you are not allowed to interfere with the decisions of a pilot in an airplane.

    Or, if you really believe that changing the laws will make a difference, please propose your case for change.


  29. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Agreed – by all means separate the police from political forces.
    At the same, there is no such thing as complete discretionary powers. I write for a law firm in the US and I know that there are several cases where a court must exercise its discretionary power – for example when determining alimony or maintenance cases.
    However, while there is discretion, the court has to ALSO lay down the factual basis and the reasoning which it used to reach its conclusions. And that reasoning and those facts can be scrutinized and challenged in a higher court if necessary. No court can just say "I felt like this" without giving a step by step reasoning.
    By the same token, no police force can be given free unquestioned discretion to determine whether a particular rally is going to be a "public nuisance" without giving its reasons, and findings of fact. Simply saying "This is my opinion" is not going to cut it. When preventing Hazare's rally, there were no "findings of fact." And this is an abuse of power by the police.
    Even the Supreme court has repeatedly laid down these principles – they're common sense.

  30. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Bhagwad

    Good to hear that you write for a law firm. Then you are even more suited to study and identify which law you want changed.

    Btw, I have issued s.144 orders as a magistrate – decades ago – and these were VERY DETAILED and reasoned. In the system of laws we have in India (if it is allowed to be implemented) every officer of the law must PROVE why he or she is exercising discretion in a particular way. This is not a free for all. (these are called “speaking orders” in bureaucratic jargon.)

    So next time you respond, please show me WHICH law you want to modify, and why. Repeating your apprehensions about the system is not helpful. Time to get your hands dirty and write – with clear details – on this matter.

  31. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sanjeev – so you actually believe the police gave reasoned, detailed and rational reasons for why Hazare should not protest?
    In retrospect, weren't these reasons wrong since Hazare's protest is entirely peaceful?

  32. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Why are we discussing this case where neither you nor I have access to the detailed police reports and information that the administration makes use of?

    And yes – there MUST have been “reasoned, detailed and rational reasons for why Hazare should not protest” – BEYOND A CERTAIN LIMITED NUMBER OF DAYS.

    You are most welcome to RTI the documents and check for yourself.

    I’m looking for PRINCIPLES when I talk to you, but you can’t seem to get over the detail. Rise to the next level and discuss SYSTEMS, not specific cases. Show me the law you want changed and why.

  33. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Well, Jal, you’ve come up with the proposal – now prove your case. Provide DETAILED research on your blog that shows why this should be so. I’m afraid I can’t agree with your one line statement.

  34. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    By all means have protests, Jal. Did I say that’s not democratic?

    Where did I draw the line? Do you forget the BASICS of our discussion?

    – on ULTIMATUMS and breaking the laws.

  35. Bhagwad Jal Park

    In accordance with the title of your post Sanjeev – you're against street protests in general. You seem to draw the line whenever anyone doesn't want to get involved in elections directly.
    Finally, in a free country it's the onus of the police to prove they need to be consulted. Not for me to prove the opposite. That's what it means to be a free country.

  36. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Bhagwad, if people draw conclusions at that level (based on implications drawn from “titles”) then I’m afraid nothing can be done to save India.

    How DETAILED AND NUANCED is my writing – appears difficult for people in India to understand. In BFN itself I have argued FOR civil disobedience against corruption. Go read it – it was written years ago and published in 2008:

    “We never find any political leader protesting against our freedoms being trampled upon. No Dandi marches; no fasts to death to protest the absence of the rule of law or against corruption.”

    Thus, years ago, I called for civil disobedience AGAINST CORRUPTION where the government is totally unresponsive, and have elaborated this matter in DOF.

    However, my position is far more nuanced than Anna’s or IAC’s, and it is designed not as BLIND use of protests but effective outcomes through enhancing democratic institutions.

    I suspect you won’t be able to understand since you think superficially and read only titles, not being able to read (or understand) books. I suspect you haven’t even read BFN, leave alone the great classical liberals. Sorry, this is rough language, but nothing else can explain your comment and wild generalisaion about my views.

  37. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Let me add: that my position on fast unto death has CHANGED since I wrote BFN. So don’t jump to conclusions based on that phrase in BFN. That was then. And in 2011 I have made my position on fasts unto death far more nuanced. DOF will reflect it as it evolves.

  38. Manoj


    I’m writing, as a well-wisher and as someone who likes your analysis of events (doesn’t always agree with them) to comment on your response to Bhagwat as “…you won’t be able to understand since you think superficially and read only titles, not being able to read (or understand) books…”

    You may be frustrated for not being able to get your views accepted by him, but there is NO CALL to act in a disrespectful manner to a poster, not even on your own blog. I suggest you apologize to Bhagwat for this.

    Ability to see a point of view contrary to your own, and to either incorporate it or to convince the dissenter otherwise, instead of getting enraged is a must-have skill in the collective leadership model that India follows. Please tell me you don’t want to behave like a Chidambaram, would you?

  39. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    This is an outdated blog post. Bhagwad Jal and I are good friends and have had extensive debates and continue to do so. I often have to request people to do so before they insist on their points, since I can’t quite repeat an entire book. I have often seen a rush to judgement in his case, which is why my blunt comment. It was intended to prompt him to do some homework.

    Don’t worry, the sky doesn’t fall if on a blog – in a great hurry since this is a very small part of my work – some rather blunt comments are made. It is not disrespectful. Bhagwad knows I respect him. But that’s one more reason I challenge him to prove his point.


  40. Manoj

    Sanjeev, phew – thank god. My reason for alarm is explained in my other comment. So when does your campaign hit the streets in India? I read about your intention to start in 2013.

    Watching the sinister developments – scams, the 117th constitutional amendment, cash transfers, rapid increase in taxes and bills, Congress is pulling out all stops to entrench itself deeper and increase it’s muscle power, now under a new slogan – ‘reforms’ just as it was ‘gareebi hatao’ in 80’s while rationalists are still disorganized to make a difference. I hope it does’nt end up the C Rajagopalachari way, and countless others after.

    And while physical boundaries no longer matter, we must factor in time to accept ‘new faces’. Yes, pursuit of ‘power’ must get the preparation it deserves.


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