'Media backed Anna movement for it helped their TRPs'

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On Oct 2, social activist Arvind Kejriwal announced the formation of a new political party although Anna Hazare did not support his way. Has the civil rights movement, which started with lots of hope, lost its steam through this division? Why Hazare is not able to gain momentum for his movement post-hunger strike? Is there some problem with the civil rights movement in India? Here is the view of scholar-activist Dr Anand Teltumbde on this and other socio-economic issues.

[See Part I and Part II of the interview]

Here is the third and the final part of the detailed interview that Dr Teltumbde gave to OneIndia News.

Dr Teltumbde is a scholar-activist associated with various peoples’ movements for over last three decades. He is also associated with the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR). He has written extensively and lectured widely in India and abroad. He is an alumni of IIM, Ahmedabad.


OneIndia: What is your view on the civil rights movements in India today? Is the civil society doing enough to act as a reliable buffer between the confronting individual and the state? We take for example, the Anna Hazare movement. The movement has added to the political discourse of India in the 21st century. But do we have to wait for a long time for the results to show? Did Hazare lack a Plan B to take his movement to the next level while the state, a political manoeuvrability to settle the issue, without stirring up much controversy.

Dr Teltumbde: As I said before, the civil rights movement was premised on a couple of things, all of which have turned antithetical. When we take up an issue, we collect the facts of the case and point out the truth to the public through media with a hope that pressure will be built up on the state to heed our demands.

Now what we experience, unlike the previous decades, the media hardly respond to our invitations.
The behaviour of the media at the press conferences is that they are in search of some sensational stuff
that they can pick up. If we speak about a caste atrocity or an encounter killing, they linger around
for any sensational details in our narrative.

If we speak about the Right To Education Act or any such policy matters that violate of people's civil rights, they will simply leave the room. Even if they sit there through the press meet, there is no guarantee that anything will appear in the Press. How do we then carry on? Mind you, most civil rights organisations do not accept funds and carry on with their own resources, that is, hard earned money of their members. How can they reach the broader public if the media is not receptive? It is not the media to be blamed moreover.

The basic change in the media attitude is driven by the change in public itself. If the people (middle classes, who consume media products) had been wanting that, media would have been receptive. But these people themselves have been transformed into self seeking individuals and do not want any such stuff.

Civil Rights movement basically comprising committed individuals have not lost their zeal and spirit to fight the injustice by the state but they find them perilously handicapped in these ways. We have obviously not stopped our work; even knowing these things we carry on with our struggle to the best of our capabilities. But these are the changes in our environment that even the civil rights movement also need to be aware of. Just with inertia if they carry on, that will bring no good.

Oh, Anna Hazare! The fact why this movement got highlighted in media was its appeal to the middle classes, the neo-liberal classes, that came to believe that India is great, and it is the political class which they identify as pampering the lower classes for votes, that has been its bane. It is they who are corrupt. It is the bureaucracy that is in hand and glove with them is corrupt.

If a Lokpal of their design is installed, the corruption in the system can be abated. It also appeals to them that if the money they have stashed abroad is brought, India could be a 'superpower'. There is no trace of understanding how corruption is born and how it is sustained. And therefore it is a movement that I have called dealing with symptoms and not the disease.

They will not even insinuate in their voluminous discourse that the basic source of corruption is the infinite accumulation drive of the private capital, which has been freed by the neo-liberal policy framework. They do not touch such basics. Yes, it has started a political discourse of a kind, which might hopefully impel people to think through these issues leading to some positive results.

To me, it has provided a glaring lesson to people at large about the insensitivity of the system to the demands even of the middle classes when they do not fit in its scheme. I did not have any doubt
in my mind that it will end up the way it has. It showed to us that there really are no options within the
system. This system demands thorough overhaul, a kind of revolution. And yes, that has to take long to

It is not a question of the lack of a Plan B or strategic vision to carry forward the movement in Anna Hazare or his team. The question is - Can there be any viable strategy or plan in such an environment than a radical change? Even if one does not sublimate to a violent change in the system, one could honestly try speaking about the kind of changes that are required. But Hazare and company have acute limitation.

They cannot transcend their class boundaries and talk about such changes. Can they really speak about truly carrying out what the preamble of the Constitution envisaged or what the Directive Principles of the State Policy of the Constitution promised the people. No, they will never speak about the woes of common people, the injustice the system is unleashing on them, the manner of their
marginalisation and deprivation.

So long as they speak the idiom within the repertoire of the system, they can be tolerated and ignored too by the state. The State has precisely done that ignoring them, wearing them out. The moment they change their tone and touch the basics, you will find they would be ruthlessly repressed. The crowds flaunting Anna caps will then evaporate like mercury.

OneIndia: It seems Hazare is too much dependent on the media to back his movement. Shouldn't he build a mass base and institutionalise his movement more? Do you feel that the media desert civil rights movement after a given point of time?

Dr Teltumbde: Hazare enjoyed huge media support as I explained above. It was largely a media-sponsored movement. It was good to hype such a thing for media because it had potential to boost up its TRP. It was mutually reinforcing: Its potential appeal to the middle classes enthused media to hype it, which in turn excited middle classes. But after the first round the issue was diffused by the intrigues of the government.

The initial euphoria of the media as well as middle classes receded. It is either way difficult to sustain the interest of middle classes for a long time and so of the media. Both are fickle. Both showed calibrated interest. People pontificate that Hazare should build a mass base and institutionalise the movement. I am not sure what they mean by it. To build a mass base, one has to work silently; take up the basic issues of masses and work towards resolving them and work perseveringly to expand

Hazare has acquired moral authority which can help him do it but having tasted the blood at the
national level will he really be content to do all that? None in his team also is capable of doing so.
Foremost, they need to rethink the issue of corruption and its proposed solution. They must understand
that such patch up solutions within the prevailing system is just not possible.

Corruption is a correlate of human greed and the system that structurally promotes greed cannot be rid of corruption with superficial processes. The structure under reference is neo-liberal version of capitalism that not only legitimises greed but promotes it. It swears by free market paradigm which does not regard any kind of limitation to pursuit of greed by the one who pays the price. That is why the neo-liberals like Manmohan Singh are never bothered about corruption.

For them corruption is the stimulant to transactions that contributes to the growth of economy. If this is the character of the system how could some tinker in the system help eradicate corruption?

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