Mass movement helps clean society’s conscience. It fuels the nation’s energy afresh. For it brings great transformation in both, the participant and the non-participant observer. Anna’s movement meant the same to a bye-stander like me, I mean to Pappu symbolising middle class.
In my life I had the privilege to witness four mass movements as non-participant observer. One, the Naxalite movement of seventies in Calcutta, as it was known then, where while going to school daily I read writings on revolution juxtaposed with Mao’s face as graffiti painted all along the wall – ‘if you kill one of us, we will kill ten of you. Charu Mazumdar Zindabad, Kanu Sanyal Zindabad.’ I had no inkling of what was going on – surrounded that I was in the comfort of the upper middle class hypocritical prosperity of South Calcutta. Subliminally however it was affecting me I felt – I was not able to completely mingle with my Southern Avenue snooty Parha mates. Uneasy relationship with my rich Marwari school mates I could never understand then. I started understanding all that much later.
Two, again when I was caught in the whirlpool of intense political activities while in high school when our ancestral Kadam Kuan house in Patna became the shelter home for many students who came from different parts of Bihar to participate in Jai Prakash Narain’s rally. Some of those characters, I vividly remember, wore a mysterious glow on their face and I felt they have descended from heaven to salvage us out of hopelessness. I remember having visited JP’s house out of curiosity all alone a number of times and wondered about everything around. JP, as he was fondly called, had an infectious simplicity and it was impossible to remain unmoved meeting him. I do not know how and when all that got sunk in me in my subconscious depth. It subconsciously, but profoundly, affected my personality as an adult.
Three, when I got a chance to encounter Mandal Commission agitation – launched by the upper caste Hindus against reservation in government jobs given to other backward classes – as a probationer in uniform during my IPS training attachment to South District of Delhi. Divisive as the agitation was by its very nature, and compounded by the fact that you ought to become value neutral in uniform on the altar of duty – so is expected out of you – I got a muddled feeling in the midst of the agitation and I did not really know which side of the fence I actually was then.
Four, it was Anna’s call. Out of the gang of four, one I knew as a senior colleague – whose high energy I watched evoking both jealousy and hostility amongst senior brass in Police and contempt among top brass in civil bureaucracy. I always found her inspiring – in a lot which had officers all right, but few leaders. She certainly had that in her. Outside Police, across the country I saw how young girls adored her I Dare stuff you see in the books stalls of the railway platforms and airports. Besides her, some others in Anna’s team I knew distantly. But what really pulled me was Anna’s simplicity when I heard him in Constitutional club for the first time about a year back. There was a ring of truth and sincerity in him when I saw how even his mind spoke through his heart. I was certainly impressed by Anna’s communication style and connect – it was emotionally powerful, ethically much above what we get to see around, and logically penetrating. I visited the democracy street – Janpath – in the round one and Ramlila ground in round two – anonymously. Watching and feeling the mass of humanity’s urge and itch to change had a huge transformative effect on me. In organization, I always felt I belong to that top twenty group who took lead, but in the larger canvas of life I felt I am Pappu – ironically that’s how I am nicknamed – and I am in that sixty percent category who take plunge only on pull. Some do jump outwardly – into the street theatre, but some do take plunge inwardly and here I was.
To the rational cynics, I want to reason out that genuine mass movements certainly help cleanse the conscience of the nation. Besides roti, kapada , and makaan, all of us need some dreams and rays of hopes to live meaningfully and exposure to such a mass movement does have the potential to fulfill these higher order needs. I was sharing my images of mass movements and lending glimpses to the changes they brought for me. But for the third one above – because of its inherently divisive nature – all the remaining three movements had profound affect on my thought process. In the same manner, an entire generation of youth in India today – thanks to a timely idea, and a surrealistic dream – got hooked on to an image of idealism, hope and change through Anna. Anna seized an idea whose time had come and gave the new generation a new expression – of seeing their country clean, to match their thoughts with action, to seek blemish free conduct, to sacrifice and to learn to convert insult into a fuel for struggle. I remember till recently how even the highest in bureaucracy had begun arguing that ‘corruption is not an issue any more, let’s talk of anything else’. There was a feeling of hopelessness and those whose heart was in the right place felt all the more frustrated. I recall how helpless some of us felt while working with Suresh Kalmadi in the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi. Most officers were bought over with petty conveniences and compromises – thanks to the excellent lust and greed managers employed in the Kalmadi & Company. I remember how out of so many civil servants, only two IAS officers were restless to speak out. Anna gave such habitual dreamers a hope all over again. Whatever course his movement may take now on, he certainly has brought the lost agenda firmly and squarely on the national consciousness. His simplicity, his truthful words, and his resolve to fight for right – all have provided fresh oxygen for the young generation to see beyond their nose, to aspire for truth, and be ready to sacrifice for cause beyond self. At least for some years.