Since past several months the Indian media has been calling social activist Anna Hazare an incarnation of Mahatma Gandhi. Although I have been in support of Anna’s campaign against corruption in India –I never felt he should be compared with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s life, work and impact has been unparalleled so far. Anna Hazare has lived life like a Gandhiian and he has been involved with the social welfare campaigns since long –but Gandhi’s stature is just too high to be scaled by anyone so easily.
However, what happened on 16 August 2011 has made it sure that Anna enters the Gandhi league. Now even I would call him a second Gandhi of some sort. The British government arrested Gandhi numerous times and put him in jail. His arrest caused none or very little protest when he was merely a Mohandas. But as the time progressed and Mohandas turned into the Gandhi –and then Bapu –and then Mahatma Gandhi; restricting his frail body in a prison became an almost impossible task for the British empire. Whenever the government arrested Mahatma Gandhi –the swell in public protest was so spontaneous, massive and wide-spread that the British were left with no choice except releasing Gandhi –a man wearing only a loincloth in the name of dress. Either side will use no force. It was only like seeing eye-to-eye, evaluate each others’ strength and then decide to fight or flight. For the British flight remained the only option when millions of people stared at them in anger.
Mahatma Gandhi died in 1948.
Decades later a dramatic repeat of the protest-arrest-protest-release sequence took place yesterday. At the center of the play was again a frail figure who played David. The giant Goliath was played again by the government. The only difference in the setting was that this time government was our own. Our own elected government arrested Anna Hazare for no crime and shoved him into a high security prison in New Delhi. Ironically, this prison houses a number of big scamsters as well.
What happened afterwards had an unmistakable resemblance with what used to happen in the British era. The public support for Anna Hazare multiplied by seconds and it became so much that it almost turned Anna into a second Gandhi. After Independence, I don’t think any other arrested national figure was ever released just because there was national public support behind the person. Indian government was on the mat as the Indian public knocked the wind out of it. Millions of Davids once again got united to defeat one giant Goliath.
It was heartening to witness this moment. It proves that India is a true democracy for, in India, no force is stronger than the public. It also proves that Indian public understands what’s good for it and what’s bad.
Predictably, just like Gandhi, Anna Hazare was released unconditionally from the prison within a few hours of his arrest. But he refused to leave the prison unless he was given permission to stage his protest at a place of his choice.