|Posted by [email protected] on June 25, 2011 at 11:27 PM|
Sudesh Kumar Verma
Former member of The Statesman bureau and ex-political analyst, British High Commission in India
SEEDS of an alternative to the oppressive system now represented by the Congress-led UPA Government (II) were laid on 25 June when various groups and individuals fighting against corruption formed a new grouping called the Save Democracy Front. More than 50 such organisations and their hundreds of supporters unanimously elected political thinker and social activist KN Govindacharya as its chairman after a marathon debate of seven hours.
Even as it proved to be one of the most democratic elections of any leader, it also represented a mosaic of Indian social life. While former Union Minister Sanjay Paswan moved the motion of chairmanship of the front; former union minister Arif Mohammad Khan, who had resigned Rajiv Gandhi government on the issue of Shah Bano case in 1986, seconded it. This was followed by an overwhelming endorsement of the motion by the audience of about 300 workers from the 50 assembled organisations.
Khan, who had become an overnight hero asking for reforms in the Muslim personal law in the 1980s, said that Govindacharya was one of the few political leaders in the country who had not lost his credibility and hence the natural choice to lead any such movement. “We can resolve ideological differences during the movement but if a person has no credibility, he would use such differences to create hatred”, he added.
Govindacharya clarified that any fight against the system must be a political one. What SDF would press for is systemic change rather than mere change of government. In the last six decades, change in the government has failed to change the mindset of those in power, he said. Corruption was eating into the vitals of democracy, he asserted.
The newly elected chairman said that soon the new front would build its base across the country by laying down people-centric programmes. He said the people had lost faith in established political parties and were looking for real alternatives. The need was not merely a change of government but a government that could bring systemic change. Since the last 60 years people were awaiting deliverance but a corrupt bureaucracy and political class and inept government machineries were not allowing benefits of governance to reach the poor, he said.
Members from India against Corruption belonging to the Anna Hazare camp and those of Baba Ramdev’s Bharat Swabhiman also attended the convention. They all expressed hope that their identified leaders would band together to expand the fight against corruption.
Today’s alliance materialised after months of struggle that saw many of these groups fight together on the streets. The latest was the silent march of citizens on 18 June to oppose the midnight police crackdown on Ramdev’s followers on the wee hours of 5 June. The silent protest that saw people tying a black band on their mouths was something unique in the form of protest. The police panicked, stopped the march and people courted arrest in protest. They were taken to the Daryaganj Police Station from where they were released later. But Govindacharya had already demonstrated that he would organise people for just cause, irrespective of the repressive government.
The police was ready with water canon and tear gas vehicles installed at vantage points and could have turned violent if marchers had refused to abide by the withdrawal of permission to the march that was earlier granted. Govindacharya, an expert in crowd management, ensured that none turned violent.
Later, on 20 June, Govindacharya approached the National Human Rights Commission to register a protest against the police on two counts: the police crackdown on 4-5 June and the refusal to allow the silent peace march. The memorandum submitted to the NHRC questioned if India had already become a police state where dissent was not being allowed for political reasons.