Kisan Baburao Hazare ( pronunciation (help·info); born 15 June 1937), popularly known as Anna Hazare ( pronunciation (help·info)), is an Indian social activist who led movements to promote rural development, increase government transparency, and investigate and punish corruption in public life. In addition to organising and encouraging grassroots movements, Hazare frequently conducted hunger strikes to further his causes—a tactic reminiscent, to many, of the work of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Hazare also contributed to the development and structuring of Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, India. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan—the third-highest civilian award—by the Government of India in 1992 for his efforts in establishing this village as a model for others.
Hazare started a hunger strike on 5 April 2011 to exert pressure on the Indian government to enact a stringent anti-corruption law, The Lokpal Bill, 2011 as envisaged in the Jan Lokpal Bill, for the institution of an ombudsman with the power to deal with corruption in public places. The fast led to nationwide protests in support. The fast ended on 9 April 2011, a day after the government accepted Hazare's demands. The government issued a gazette notification on the formation of a joint committee, consisting of government and civil society representatives, to draft the legislation.
Foreign Policy magazine named him among top 100 global thinkers in 2011. Also in 2011, Hazare was ranked as the most influential person in Mumbai by a national daily newspaper. He has faced criticism for his authoritarian views on justice, including death as punishment for corrupt public officials and his alleged support for forced vasectomies as a method of family planning.
Kisan Baburao Hazare was born on 15 June 1937 (some sources say 15 January 1940) in Bhingar, near Ahmednagar. He was the eldest son of Baburao Hazare and Laxmi Bai. He has two sisters and four brothers. He later adopted the name Anna, which in Marathi means "elder person" or "father".
His father worked as an unskilled labourer in Ayurveda Ashram Pharmacy and struggled to support the family financially. In time, the family moved to their ancestral village of Ralegan Siddhi, where they owned a small amount of agricultural land. A relative took on the burden of providing Kisan with an education, taking him to Mumbai because the village had no primary school. The relative became unable financially to continue the support and Kisan's schooling ended in the Standard Seventh grade; his siblings never attended school. He started selling flowers at the Dadar railway station in Mumbai and eventually managed to own two flower shops in the city. He also became involved in vigilantism, joining groups who acted to prevent landlords' thugs from intimidating the poor out of their shelter.
Hazare was drafted in the Indian Army in April 1960, where he initially worked as an army truck driver and was later attested as a soldier. He undertook army training at Aurangabad.
During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Hazare was posted at the border in the Khem Karan sector. He was the sole survivor of an enemy attack—variously claimed to have been a bomb, an aerial assault and an exchange of fire at the border—while he was driving a truck. The experiences of wartime, coupled with the poverty from which he had come, affected him. He considered suicide at one point but turned instead to pondering the meaning of life and death. He said of the truck attack, "[It] sent me thinking. I felt that God wanted me to stay alive for some reason. I was reborn in the battlefield of Khem Karan. And I decided to dedicate my new life to serving people." At a book stand in New Delhi railway station, he came across Swami Vivekananda's booklet "Call to the youth for nation building" which inspired him to think deeper. He spent his spare time reading the works of Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi, and Vinoba Bhave. In a blog post, Hazare expressed his views on Kashmir by saying that it was his "active conviction that Kashmir is an integral part of India" and that if required once again for service, he would remain "ready to take part in war against Pakistan."
During his fifteen-year career in the army (1960–75), Anna Hazare was posted at several locations, including Punjab (Indo Pak war 1965), Nagaland, Bombay (1971) and Jammu (1974)
During the Indo pak war, Hazare survived a road crash while driving for the army. He interpreted his survival as a further sign that his life was intended to be dedicated to service. He had another escape in Nagaland, where one night, underground Naga rebels attacked his post and killed all the inmates. He had a miraculous escape as he had gone out to return nature's call and hence turned out to be the lone survivor.
Official records show that he was honourably discharged in 1975 after completing 12 years of service.
Transformation of Ralegan Siddhi
Hazare returned to Ralegan Siddhi, a village then described by Satpathy and Mehta as "one of the many villages of India plagued by acute poverty, deprivation, a fragile ecosystem, neglect and hopelessness."
Although most of the villagers owned some land, cultivation was extremely difficult due to the rocky ground preventing retention of the monsoon rains, this situation was worsened by gradual environmental deterioration as trees were cut down, erosion spread and droughts were also experienced. The shortage of water also led to disease from unsanitary conditions and water reuse for multiple purposes. The economy of the village had become reliant on the illegal manufacture and sale of alcohol, a product on which many of the villagers had become dependent. Many inhabitants borrowed from moneylenders to survive, paying monthly interest rates of as much as 10%. Crime and violence (including domestic violence) had become commonplace, while education and employment opportunities were poor.
Hazare was relatively wealthy because of the gratuity from his army service. He set about using that money to restore a run-down, vandalised village temple as a focal point for the community. Some were able to respond with small financial donations but many other villagers, particularly among the elderly, donated their labour in a process that became known as shramdaan. Some youths also became involved in the work and these he organised into a Tarun Mandal (Youth Association). One of the works of Vivekananda which he had read was Call to the youth for nation building.
Prohibition of alcohol
Hazare and the youth group decided to take up the issue of alcoholism to drive a process of reform. At a meeting conducted in the temple, the villagers resolved to close down liquor dens and ban alcohol in the village. Since these resolutions were made in the temple, they became, in a sense, religious commitments. Over thirty liquor brewing units voluntarily closed their establishments. Those who did not succumb to social pressure were forced to close their businesses when the youth group smashed their premises. The owners could not complain as their businesses were illegal.
Once 3 drunken villagers were tied to pillars and then flogged, personally by Hazare with his army belt. He justified this punishment by stating that "rural India was a harsh society", and that
Doesn't a mother administer bitter medicines to a sick child when she knows that the medicine can cure her child? The child may not like the medicine, but the mother does it only because she cares for the child. The alcoholics were punished so that their families would not be destroyed.
Hazare appealed to the government of Maharashtra to pass a law whereby prohibition would come into force in a village if 25% of the women in the village demanded it. In 2009 the state government amended the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 to reflect this.
It was decided to ban the sale of tobacco, cigarettes, and beedies (an unfiltered cigarette where the tobacco is rolled in tendu also known as Diospyros melanoxylon leaves instead of paper) in the village. To implement this resolution, the youth group performed a unique "Holi" ceremony twenty two years ago.[when?] The festival of Holi is celebrated as a symbolic burning of evil. The youth group brought all the tobacco, cigarettes, and beedies from the shops in the village and burnt them in a Holi fire. Tobacco, cigarettes, or beedies are no longer sold.
In 1980, Hazare started the Grain Bank at the temple, with the objective of providing food security to needy farmers during times of drought or crop failure. Rich farmers, or those with surplus grain production, could donate a quintal to the bank. In times of need, farmers could borrow the grain, but they had to return the amount of grain they borrowed, plus an additional quintal as an interest. This ensured that nobody in the village ever went hungry or had to borrow money to buy grain. This also prevented distress sales of grain at lower prices at harvest time.
Watershed development programme
Ralegan Siddhi is located in the foothills, so Hazare persuaded villagers to construct a watershed embankment and associated works to stop water and allow it to percolate and increase the ground water level and improve irrigation in the area. These efforts solved the problem of water scarcity in the village and made irrigation possible.
Cultivation of water-intensive crops like sugarcane was banned. Crops such as pulses, oilseeds, and certain cash crops with low water requirements replaced them. The farmers started growing high-yield varieties and changed cropping pattern. Hazare has helped farmers of more than 70 villages in drought-prone regions in the state of Maharashtra since 1975. When Hazare came to Ralegan Siddhi in 1975 only 70 acres (28 ha) of land was irrigated, Hazare converted it into about 2,500 acres (1,000 ha).
In 1932, Ralegan Siddhi got its first formal school, a single classroom primary school.[clarification needed] In 1962, the villagers added more classrooms through community volunteer efforts. By 1971, out of an estimated population of 1,209, only 30.43% were literate (72 women and 290 men). Boys moved to the nearby towns of Shirur and Parner to pursue higher education, but girls were limited to primary education. Hazare, along with the youth of Ralegan Siddhi, worked to increase literacy rates and education levels. In 1976 they started a pre-school and a high school in 1979. The villagers formed a charitable trust, the Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, which was registered in 1979.
Removal of untouchability
The social barriers and discrimination that existed due to the caste system in India have been largely eliminated by Ralegan Siddhi villagers. It was Hazare's moral leadership that motivated and inspired the villagers to shun untouchability and caste discrimination. Marriages of Dalits are held as part of community marriage program together with those of other castes. The Dalits have become integrated into the social and economic life of the village. The upper caste villagers built houses for the lower caste Dalits by shramdaan and helped to repay their loans.
The Gandhian philosophy on rural development considers the Gram Sabha as an important democratic institution for collective decision-making in the villages of India. Hazare campaigned between 1998 and 2006 for amending the Gram Sabha Act, so that villagers have a say in the village's development. The state government initially refused, but eventually gave in to public pressure. It became mandatory to seek the sanction of the Gram Sabha (an assembly of all village adults, and not just the few elected representatives in the gram panchayat) for expenditures on development works in the village.
Anti-corruption protests in Maharashtra
In 1991 Hazare launched the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan (BVJA, People's Movement against Corruption), a popular movement to fight against corruption in Ralegaon Siddhi. In the same year he protested against the collusion between 40 forest officials and timber merchants. This protest resulted in the transfer and suspension of these officials.
In May 1997 Hazare protested alleged malpractice in the purchase of powerlooms by the Vasantrao Naik Bhathya Vimukt Jhtra Governor P. C. Alexander. On 4 November 1997 Gholap filed a defamation suit against Hazare for accusing him of corruption. He was arrested in April 1998 and was released on a personal bond of ₹5,000 (US$80). On 9 September 1998 Hazare was imprisoned in the Yerawada Jail to serve a three-month sentence mandated by the Mumbai Metropolitan Court. The sentencing caused leaders of all political parties except the BJP and the Shiv Sena to support him. Later, due to public protests, the Government of Maharashtra ordered his release. Hazare wrote a letter to then chief minister Manohar Joshi demanding Gholap's removal for his role in alleged malpractices in the Awami Merchant Bank. Gholap resigned from the cabinet on 27 April 1999.
In 2003 corruption charges were raised by Hazare against four NCP ministers of the Congress-NCP government. He started his fast unto death on 9 August 2003. He ended his fast on 17 August 2003 after then chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde formed a one-man commission headed by the retired justice P. B. Sawant to probe his charges. The P. B. Sawant commission report, submitted on 23 February 2005, indicted Sureshdada Jain, Nawab Malik, and Padmasinh Patil. The report exonerated Vijaykumar Gavit. Jain and Malik resigned from the cabinet in March 2005.
Three trusts headed by Anna Hazare were also indicted in the P. B. Sawant commission report. ₹220,000 (US$3,370) spent by the Hind Swaraj Trust for Anna Hazare's birthday celebrations was concluded by the commission as illegal and amounting to a corrupt practice, though Abhay Firodia, an industrialist subsequently donated ₹248,000 (US$3,800) to the trust for that purpose. The setting apart of 11 acres of its land by the trust in favour of the Zilla Parishad without obtaining permission from the charity commissioner was concluded as a case of maladministration. The commission also concluded that the maintenance of accounts of the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Janandolan Trust after 10 November 2001 had not been according to the rules and ₹46,374 (US$710) spent by the Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal Trust for renovating a temple thwarted its object of imparting secular education.
Right to Information movement
In the early 2000s Hazare led a movement in Maharashtra state which forced the state government to enact a revised Maharashtra Right to Information Act. This Act was later considered as the base document for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Union Government. It also ensured that the President of India assented to this new Act.
On 20 July 2006 the Union Cabinet amended the Right to Information Act 2005 to exclude the file noting by the government officials from its purview. Hazare began his fast unto death on 9 August 2006 in Alandi against the proposed amendment. He ended his fast on 19 August 2006, after the government agreed to change its earlier decision.
Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act
Before 2006 in the state of Maharashtra, honest government officers were transferred to other places according to ministerial wish, while some corrupt and favoured officials stayed put for decades. Anna fought hard for a law whereby a government servant must clear a file within a specified time and that transfers must take place only after three years. After many years of Anna's relentless efforts, on 25 May 2006 Maharashtra issued a notification announcing the Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act 2006. This act provided for disciplinary action against officials who move files slowly and enabled monitoring of officials who overstay a post, and for involvement in a corrupt nexus.
This act mandated the government to effect transfers of all government officers and employees, except Class IV workers, no sooner and no later than three years, except in emergency or exceptional circumstances. Maharashtra was the first state to have introduced such an act. However, like others, this law was not fully followed.
Campaign against liquor from food grains
Article 47 of India's Constitution commits the State to raise the standard of living, improve public health and prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs injurious to health.
In 2007 Maharashtra rolled out a grain-based liquor policy aimed to encourage production of liquor from food grain in light of the rising demand for spirits—used for industrial purposes and liquor. It issued 36 licenses for distilleries for making alcohol from food grains.
Anna Hazare opposed the government's policy to promote making liquor from food grains. He argued that Maharashtra had to import food and referring to food grains observed that promoting producing liquor from food grains was nappropriate. One of the State ministers Laxman Dhoble said in his speech that those opposing the decision to allow use of food grains for the production of liquor were anti-farmers and that opponents should be beaten with sugarcane sticks. Hazare began fasting at Shirdi, but on 21 March 2010 the government promised to review the policy and Anna ended his 5-day fast. But the government later granted 36 licences and grants of ₹10 (15¢ US) (per litre of alcohol) to politicians or their sons who were engaged in making alcohol from foodgrains. Recipients included Amit and Dheeraj Deshmukh, sons of Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Gopinath Munde's daughter Pankaja Palwe and her husband Charudatta Palwe, sons-in-law of P.V. Narasimha Rao and Rajya Sabha MP Govindrao Adik. The government approved the licenses despite stiff opposition from the planning and finance departments, saying there was a huge demand in other countries for distilled spirits compared to that of molasses. Anna sued Maharashtra over the policy in the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. On 20 August 2009 Maharashtra stopped the policy. However, distilleries sanctioned before that date and those who started production within two years of sanction were entitled for subsidies.
On 5 May 2011 court refused to hear the suit, saying, "not before me, this is a court of law, not a court of justice" as a reason for not hearing the plea. A Maharashtra Principal Secretary, C.S. Sangeet Rao, stated that no law existed to scrap these licences.
Lokpal Bill movement
Main article: 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement
In 2011, Hazare participated in the satyagraha movement campaigning for the passing a stronger anti-corruption Lokpal (ombudsman) bill in the Indian parliament. Known as the Jan Lokpal Bill (People's Ombudsman Bill), this had been drafted by N. Santosh Hegde, a former justice of the Supreme Court of India and Lokayukta of Karnataka, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal a social activist. The draft incorporated more stringent provisions and gave wider power to the Lokpal than the government's 2010 draft. These included placing "the Prime Minister within the ambit of the proposed lokpal's powers".
Hazare began an "indefinite fast" on 5 April 2011 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi as part of the campaign to form a joint committee comprising government and civil society representatives. He wanted this committee to draft a bill that had more stringent penal provisions and gave more independence to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas (ombudsmen in the states). The fast came after his demand was rejected by the prime minister, Manmohan Singh. Hazare said, "I will fast until Jan Lokpal Bill is passed".
The movement attracted attention in the media, and thousands of supporters. Almost 150 people reportedly joined Hazare in his fast. Social activists, including Medha Patkar, Arvind Kejriwal, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, and Jayaprakash Narayan lent their support. People showed support in social media. In addition to spiritual leaders Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh, the former Indian cricketer Kapil Dev and many other celebrities supported him. Hazare decided that he would not allow any politician to sit with him. The protesters rejected Uma Bharti, Om Prakash Chautala and others when they visited the protest. On 6 April 2011 Sharad Pawar resigned from the group of ministers formed for reviewing the 2010 draft.
Protests spread to Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Shillong, Aizawl and other cities.
On 8 April 2011 the Government accepted the movement's demands. On 9 April it issued a notification in the Gazette of India on formation of a joint committee. It accepted the formula that it should be co-chaired by a politician and social activist. The notification stated, "The Joint Drafting Committee shall consist of five nominee ministers of the Government of India and five nominees of the civil society. The five nominee Ministers of the Government of India are Pranab Mukherjee, Union Minister of Finance, P. Chidambaram, Union Minister of Home Affairs, M. Veerappa Moily, Union Minister of Law and Justice, Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of Human Resource and Development and Minister of Communication and Information Technology and Salman Khursheed, Union Minister of Water Resources and Minister of Minority Affairs. The five non-politician nominees were Anna Hazare, N. Santosh Hegde, Shanti Bhushan Senior Advocate, Prashant Bhushan, Advocate and Arvind Kejriwal.
On the morning of 9 April 2011 Hazare ended his 98-hour hunger strike. He addressed the people and set a deadline of 15 August 2011 to pass the bill. He said that
Real fight begins now. We have a lot of struggle ahead of us in drafting the new legislation, We have shown the world in just five days that we are united for the cause of the nation. The youth power in this movement is a sign of hope.
Hazare said that if the bill did not pass he would call for a mass nation-wide agitation. He called his movement as "second struggle for independence" and he will continue the fight.
Hazare threatened on 28 July 2012 to proceed with his fast-unto-death from the next day on the Jan Lokpal Bill issue. He also stated that country's future is not safe in the hands of Congress and BJP and he would campaign in the coming elections for those with clean background. On the third day of his indefinite fast, Anna stated that he will not talk even to the Prime Minister till his demands are met. On 2 August 2012 Hazare said that there was nothing wrong with forming a new political party but, he would neither join the party nor contest elections. Team and Anna have decided to end their indefinite fast on 3 August 2012 at 5PM after which the team will announce their decision to enter politics.
During the meeting of the joint drafting committee on 30 May 2011, the Union government members opposed the inclusion of the prime minister, higher judiciary and the acts of the MPs under the purview of the JanLokpal in the draft bill. On 31 May, Mukherjee sent a letter to the chief ministers of all states and party leaders seeking their opinion on six contentious issues, including whether to bring the prime minister and judges of India's Supreme Court and High Courts under the law's purview. But the civil society members of the drafting committee considered that keeping them out would be a violation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Hazare and other civil society members decided to boycott 6 June 2011 drafting committee meeting to protest the forcible eviction of Swami Ramdev and his followers by the Delhi Police from Ramlila Maidan on 5 June 2011, while they were on a hunger strike against black money and corruption and doubting the government's seriousness.
On 6 June 2011, the civil society members wrote to Mukherjee, explaining reasons for their absence and also asking government to go public on the major issues. They also decided to attend only future meetings that were telecast live. On 8 June at Rajghat, describing his movement as the second freedom struggle, Hazare criticised the Government for trying to discredit the drafting committee and threatened to go on indefinite fast again from 16 August 2011 if the Lokpal Bill had not passed. He also criticised the Government for putting hurdles in front of the Bill and for maligning the civil society members.
On 28 July 2011 the union cabinet approved a draft of the Lokpal Bill, which kept the Prime Minister, judiciary and lower bureaucracy out of the ombudsman's ambit. Hazare rejected the government version by describing it as "cruel joke" and wrote a letter to Singh announcing his decision to begin an indefinite fast from 16 August 2011 at Jantar Mantar, if the government introduced its own version of the bill without taking suggestions from civil society members. Hazare wrote:-
Why are you (government) sending the wrong draft? We have faith in Parliament. But first send the right draft, our agitation is against government, not Parliament. The government has overlooked many points. How will it fight corruption by excluding government employees, CBI and prime minister from the Lokpal's purview? We were told that both the drafts would be sent to the Cabinet. But only the government's draft was sent. This is a deceitful government. They are lying. How will they run the country? Now I have no trust in this government. If it is really serious about fighting corruption, why is it not bringing government employees and CBI under Lokpal?
Within twenty four hours of cabinet's endorsement of a weak Lokpal Bill, over ten thousand people from across the country sent faxes directly to the government demanding a stronger bill. The Mumbai Taxi Men's Union, comprising over 30,000 taxi drivers supported Hazare's fast by keeping all taxis off the roads on 16 August. Lawyers of Allahabad High Court described the government proposal as against the national interest and pledged their support to Hazare by hunger striking at Allahabad on 16 August. On 30 July Vishwa Hindu Parishad supported his fast by saying movement for an effective anti-corruption ombudsman needed the people's backing.
On 1 August 2011, Public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court of India by Hemant Patil, a Maharashtra-based social worker and businessman, to restrain Hazare, alleging that Hazare's demands were unconstitutional and amounted to interference in the legislative process.
Arrest and aftermath
On 16 August 2011, Hazare was arrested, four hours before the planned indefinite hunger strike. Rajan Bhagat, spokesman for Delhi Police, said police arrested Hazare for illegally gathering in a Delhi park to begin his hunger strike, claiming that Hazare refused to meet police conditions for allowing the protest. The conditions included restricting the fast to three days and the number of protesters to 5,000. Later in the afternoon, Hazare refused bail. The magistrate dispatched him to Tihar jail for seven days. After announcements by Prashant Bhushan, local television, and social media sites (including Facebook), thousands marched in support from the India Gate to Jantar Mantar.
Media reported that about 1,300 supporters were detained in Delhi, including Arvind Kejriwal, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia. Other reports other protests with people courting arrests in different parts of the country. Opposition parties came out against the arrest, likening the government action to the emergency imposed in the country in 1975. Both houses of Parliament adjourned over the issue.
After four hours in detention he was released unconditionally on a request by the police, but refused to leave Tihar Jail. He demanded unconditional permission to fast at Ramlila Maidan (Ground) and refused to leave. Hazare continued his fast inside the jail.
After his arrest, Hazare received support from people across the country. There were reports of "nearly 570 demonstrations and protests by Anna supporters across the country". Due to the millions of protesters nationwide, the government allowed him to begin a public hunger strike of fifteen days. After talks with public authorities, Hazare decided to hold his protest at Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi. On 20 August Hazare "left the Tihar Jail for the Ramlila Grounds". Hazare promised reporters "he would fight to the 'last breath' until the government gets his team's Jan Lokpal Bill passed in this session of Parliament, which ends on 8 September."
Fast at Ramlila Maidan
On 20 August 2011 thousands came to show their support for Hazare, while "his advisers made television appearances to rally public support and defend themselves against criticism that their protest campaign and refusal to compromise is undermining India's parliamentary process." The National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) condemned Hazare's deadline for passing the bill as undermining democracy, which operates by
"holding wide-ranging consultations and discussions, allowing for dissent and evolving a consensus. ...He [Hazare] has the right to protest and dissent. But nobody can claim it as an absolute right and deny the right of dissent to others."
The Congress party confirmed that Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Umesh Chandra Sarangi (who has a history of mediating between Hazare and officials) was meeting with him again "to find points of consensus and defuse the situation". On 21 August "tens of thousands" watched Hazare as he sat on an elevated platform. It was reported that Hazare at that point had "lost more than seven pounds since beginning his fast". Despite this he stated, "I will not withdraw my hunger strike until the Jan Lokpal bill is passed in the Parliament. I can die but I will not bend." Hazare ended his fast on 28 August, after the Lokpal Bill passed unanimously.
He was admitted to Medanta Medicity, Gurgaon for post-fast care. He had lost 7.5 kilograms (17 lb) and was very dehydrated after the 288-hour fast.
I Am Anna Chant
Within a few days of Anna Hazare's first fast demanding a strong Lokpal (on 5 April 2011), supporters started a campaign known as "I Am Anna Hazare", which was similar to the "We Are All Khaled Said" campaign from the Egyptian uprising. During Anna Hazare's second fast, his topi, the cap which became synonymous with Anna Hazare, became almost a fashion statement. Sales of the topis hit an all-time high.Kiran Bedi recommended that the "I am Anna" topi be displayed whenever someone asked for a bribe.
Fast on MMRDA ground
On 27 December 2011, Hazare began a 3-day hunger strike at MMRDA grounds, Bandra Kurla Complex, to demand a stronger Lokpal bill than was in debate. Hazare ended the fast on 28 December, after his doctors said that his kidneys might fail if he continued.
Before reaching the venue, Anna paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Juhu Beach. On his way to a rally with several thousand people, he took two-and-half hours to reach the ground, passing through Santacruz, Tulip Star Hotel, Mithibai College, SV Road, Vile Parle, Khar and Bandra Highway.
A PIL petition filed against the fast was turned down by the Karnataka High Court. A judge noted that there was no public interest in the petition.
Electoral reform movement
In 2011, Hazare demanded an amendment to the electoral law to incorporate the option of None of the above in the electronic voting machines during the Indian elections. The "None of the above (NOTA)" is a ballot option that allows an electorate to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in an electoral system, in case of non-availability of any candidate of his choice, as his Right to Reject. Soon, the Chief Election Commissioner of India Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi supported Hazare's demand for the electoral reforms.
On 31 March 2013 Hazare started Jantantra Yatra from the city of Amritsar. He is expecting to address various issues, including electoral reforms such as the right to reject a candidate.
Protest against atrocities against Swami Ramdev and his supporters
On 8 June 2011 Anna Hazare and thousands of his supporters fasted from 10 am to 6 pm at Rajghat to protest against the midnight crackdown of 5 June by the Delhi Police on Swami Ramdev's fast at Ramlila ground protests. Anna Hazare held the Prime Minister of India responsible for the atrocities and termed the police action as an attempt to stifle democracy. According to one of Hazare's young supporters, the large presence of youths at the protest was due to his use of nonviolent protest, similar to Gandhi.
On 9 August 2013, Anna's office announced his anti-corruption organisation Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan (BVJA) is no longer tackling corruption issues at a personal or social level. In an email circulated to India Against Corruption's membership, the veteran Gandhian's office has clarified that Anna "is now focused on Janlokpal, Right to Reject, Right to Recall, Farmers problems, Change in Education in System".
2015 Land acquisition ordinance protest
In February 2015, he protested for two days at Jantar Mantar in Delhi against ordinance on the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Controversies and criticism
Alleged link with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Hazare has been criticised for being an agent of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) a right-wing Hindu body. According to Digvijay Singh a senior leader of the Indian National Congress, the entire crusade of 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement was planned by RSS in which Plan-A was Baba Ramdev while Plan-B was Anna Hazare. Their basic job was to disturb national security. Further Singh had charged Hazare for having links with late RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh with whom he worked as a secretary. *Hazare denied any such associations.
Acting as proxy for political parties
India's OPEN Magazine editorialized that it was "Nonsense" to say Hazare's anti-corruption movement of 2011-12 was apolitical. The op-ed went on to say that the purpose of the movement was that so long as the Congress Party was kept out of power corrupt politicians of any other party could be elected to Parliament. The example of Ajay Chautala (now convicted for corruption) was cited as "In effect, Anna and his team are campaigning for Ajay Chautala effectively the first candidate put up for election by the India Against Corruption movement".
Views on Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar
In a press conference in April 2011, Hazare praised Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat and Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar for their efforts on rural development, saying that other chief ministers should emulate them. Subsequently, Modi wrote an open letter to him, hailing him as a Gandhian anti-corruption activist while Digvijay Singh criticised him for his comment. In May 2011, during his visit to Gujarat, Hazare changed his view and criticised Modi for rampant corruption. He urged Modi to appoint a Lokayukta. He also commented that the media had projected an incorrect image of Vibrant Gujarat. Subsequently, Hazare declared that Modi is not a suitable candidate for the position of Prime Minister for not doing enough to curb corruption and his unwillingness to set up a Lokayukta in Gujarat. He has even questioned his secular credentials.
Accusations of corruption
The government of the state of Maharashtra instituted a Commission of Inquiry under Justice PB Sawant in September 2003 to enquire into allegations of corruption against several people, including four ministers in the state as well as the "Hind Swaraj Trust" headed by Hazare. The Commission submitted its report on 22 February 2005, indicting the Trust for corruptly spending Rs. 220,000 on Hazare's birthday celebrations.
Two days ahead of Hazare's Lokpal fast, the Indian National Congress, attacked him, alleging that "the moral core of Hazare has been ripped apart" by the Justice P B Sawant Commission.
Hazare's lawyer Milind Pawar responded that the commission had remarked about "irregularities" in the accounts, but had not held him guilty of any "corrupt" practices. Pawar said that on 16 June 1998, a celebration was organised to congratulate Hazare on winning an award from a US–based NGO and it coincided with his 61st birthday. The trust spent Rs 218,000 for the function. Abhay Phirodia, a Pune-based industrialist, who took the initiative to organise this function donated an amount of Rs 248,950 to the trust by cheque soon afterwards. Hazare dared the government to file a First Information Report (FIR) against him to prove the charges.
Accusation of being anti-democratic and anti-Dalit
An article written in Kolkata Telegraph by Ramchandra Guha stated that environmental journalist Mukul Sharma claimed that Hazare forced the Dalit families in Ralegan Siddhi to adopt a vegetarian diet, and that those who violated the decree were tied to a post and flogged. Mukul Sharma also found that no panchayat elections have been held in the village for the past two decades, and that no campaigning was allowed during state and national elections, upon Hazare's instructions.
Dalit columnist Chandrabhan Prasad opined that Hazare's anti-corruption movement rejected representative democracy and alleged that it was an upper-caste uprising. He also claimed that centralising powers in Lokapal, which was a non-elected entity, was anti-democratic.
Dalit activist Kancha Ilaiah commented in a similar fashion, that "The Anna movement is an anti-social justice, manuvadi movement. The Dalits, tribals, OBCs and minorities have nothing to do with it. We oppose it." Activist Anoop Kheri claimed that "The language, symbols used by the movement clearly reflects its upper caste Hindu nature, a very rightwing Hindu patriotism is being used to get the entire country against corruption. And as a dalit, I have a problem with it."
There was also an allegation that an RTI activist was denied permission to protest by having a fast-unto-death at Ralegan Siddhi, the grama sabha stating that the reason was that only Hazare can hold such fasts in his village.
Activist Udit Raj was denied permission to protest against Hazare, whom he claimed was against parliamentary processes. Raj warned that succumbing to Hazare's demands would set a dangerous trend rendering the "backward" classes more vulnerable. He claimed that mass mobilisations coerced the government into a "set of solutions" against constitutional processes could be used against affirmative action and threatened democracy.
Later, it came to light that poor dalits had been paid up to ₹200 each to shout slogans against Hazare, although the organizers denied it. Some protesters said that they had been told that it was a pro-Anna protest, but felt cheated after realising that it was against Hazare.
Accusation of being anti-Muslim
In 2011, Indian social activist Anna Hazare hit the headlines when he went on a fast demanding a comprehensive and effective Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill, popularly known as the Jan Lokpal Bill. The 74-year-old Gandhian, who began his journey in 1975 promoting rural development, is now seen as a crusader against corruption. Hazare believes that the Jan Lokpal Bill will ensure that the money meant for development would reach the common man and not get diverted.
In a conversation with Knowledge@Whartonand Devesh Kapur, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Advanced Study of India, Hazare talks about the inspiration behind his social activism, his philosophy and his vision for India. “If we manage to create social pressure, then we can agitate on any issue in the country,” he says.
An edited transcript of the conversation follows. (Video in Hindi available below.)
Knowedge@Wharton: What inspired you to become a crusader against corruption?
Anna Hazare: Very early in life, I was inspired by [Swami] Vivekananda [a 19th century Indian monk]. I used to wonder about the meaning of human life all the time. Everyone begins life empty handed and ends it empty handed. But throughout life, people keep running, hankering after things, desperately trying to have everything. That puzzled me. What is the meaning of this race? What is the purpose of all this? Why did God create this world at all? ….
One day, at the New Delhi railway station, I chanced upon a book by Vivekananda. It was a revelation. It shed light on my dilemma. It told me about the purpose of my life. Human life has been created for service. To serve others should be the aim of life. We call four walls a mandir (temple), a mosque or a gurudwara. So also, our nation is a temple. To serve this nation, to serve the people, is to serve God. This is what I understood after reading Vivekananda. And then, at the age of 26, I made a decision. I decided that my life [would] be dedicated to the service of the people [and] the nation.
In the beginning, [inspired by Mahatma Gandhi] I took up the work of development of villages. I created a model village. And then I discovered that this development work suffers from leaks caused by corruption. Unless these leaks are plugged, no development is possible. That is how I took up the issue of corruption and started a movement against it. Remember, my work on rural development started in 1975 and in 1990 I started the movement against corruption. Wherever I found instances of corruption, I agitated against them.
Knowledge@Wharton: You have been in public life since you were 26. What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you deal with it?
Hazare: When we start working at the grassroots, there is usually someone whose fortunes are bound to suffer due to our work. He feels threatened. He will oppose you. There [are] black-marketers, there are Patels or village chieftains, who control everything in the villages. They feel that if this movement succeeds and things start working according to rules they would become insignificant. There are opponents of this type we have to face. But since I had decided to dedicate my life to the service of the people, I was very sure about the correctness of my path. Nothing could deter me. I did not stop.
I have five principles that rule my life: Shuddh achar [clean conduct]; shuddh vichar [clean thoughts]; nishkalank jeevan [life without blemishes]; jeevan mein tyag [a life of sacrifice]; and strength to face insults without flinching. These five principles have helped me remain steadfast in the face of all adversities.
Knowledge@Wharton: What were your hopes or dreams when you started your movement? And how have your ideas and strategies changed as a result of your experience?
“When we start working at the grassroots, there is usually someone whose fortunes are bound to suffer due to our work.” –Anna Hazare
Hazare: As I told you, I decided very early in life that I have to serve the people. And that is why I decided that marriage and family was not for me. If I was a married man, my life would have been consumed earning bread and butter to sustain my [family]. I kept working without aspiring for any returns. Karmanye vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshu kada chana [Your duty is to act but be detached from the fruits of your actions.] With this in mind, I went on working. How does one get frustrated? Only when one has some expectations.
As I gained new experiences in my movement, I made changes, adopted new strategies. Initially, I was working at the level of the state (province). Then I felt that corruption [has] pervaded our entire nation. And the idea of Jan Lokpal (Citizen’s Ombudsman) emerged. We thought that we should put pressure on the government to enact a law for Jan Lokpal. This is how we brought a change in our movement. In the beginning, we got the Right to Information Act. Then the issue of Gram Sabha (local self- government) drew my attention. After that I saw that people have to run from one table to another to get their work done. So, I thought about a law to ensure that public services are delivered in time. Since I did not have any selfish interest to serve, all this could be done …. I got ideas from my lived experiences.
Devesh Kapur: In your opinion, what is the root cause of corruption?
Hazare: The root cause of corruption is selfishness; the selfish nature of human beings. They go to any lengths to pursue their self-interest …. Second, there is no deep thinking about the purpose of life. And since there is no purpose to life, we want to fill that void with commodities, things. You become an MLA (member of legislative assembly) and an MP (member of Parliament) and in a short period of two or three years, you become a billionaire. How? Do you really need so much? Since you keep increasing your needs, corruption increases.
“The root cause of corruption is selfishness; the selfish nature of human beings. They go to any lengths to pursue their self-interest ….” –Anna Hazare
Kapur: If self-interest is the root of corruption, then how do you think the new Jan Lokpal legislation is going to make a difference? Do we expect the Lokpal to control selfishness?
Hazare: Today, the common masses find it impossible to make both ends meet. Poor people cannot get their work done without dishing out money as bribes. How can they live then? Corruption leads to inflation in the prices of things. Due to corruption only 10% of the money raised for development reaches its target. I have given my life to serve the people. Their misery led me to think that Jan Lokpal could be a way of ensuring a just life for the masses. If the law for Jan Lokpal were enacted, the money meant for development would at least be used for it and would not be plundered. We would be able to develop our country. The poor would get justice. This thinking led me to fight for Jan Lokpal.
Kapur: Forty years ago, [political leader] Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) had launched a mass movement. But that achieved little as regards corruption. In your view, what was his mistake?
Hazare: The JP Movement in itself was excellent, very powerful. For the first time in independent India we saw a real mass movement. The flip side was his decision to include political parties. He had no idea that these parties would use this movement to achieve their own partisan ends.
Knowledge@Wharton: JP had called for ‘Total Revolution.’ What should be the slogan for the youth of our times?
Hazare: I say that we need total transformation of the system. Total transformation of the system would require a lot more than the Jan Lokpal. If you want to eradicate corruption, you would need the Right to Reject [elected representatives] and the Right to Recall. Only a combination of these measures can put a brake on corruption. And after this we‘ll need to turn to the farmers. In India, farming is still the main occupation of the masses. What is the condition of the farmers? While talking about total systemic transformation, we have to keep the farmer in mind. He should get a real return for his investment in farming, he should be able to realize the real value of his work. Then there are the working masses. [The ruling elite] are sucking the blood of these laborers.
Nature and humanity are being plundered. This is not true development. So, the problems of farmers and labor have to be kept in mind when we speak about transforming the system. Then comes education, which is a very important area. We find that educational shops are mushrooming. It has been commercialized in a crass manner. We have to change that through a total transformation of the system.
Knowledge@Wharton: How would you bring about this total transformation? What is your strategy?
Hazare: First, we have to ensure that laws like Jan Lokpal are adopted. These laws would guarantee that the money which gets squandered or diverted due to corruption reaches its target. If it gets fully used for development, we’ll see its fruits. So, the first task is to remove corruption. Then comes the right to reject and recall. We have to see to it that the right kinds of people are sent to legislative bodies, the Parliament ….
Knowledge@Wharton: Thirty or forty years ago, people believed that the license-permit regime in India was the source of corruption. But 1991 saw the advent of liberalization. Liberal reforms meant deregulating the economy. How did things change after liberalization? Did corruption increase or decrease after liberalization?
Hazare: What we have seen is a phenomenal growth in corruption. It has not decreased at all. There could be many reasons for that. But the main reason, according to me, is increasing criminalization of politics. Political parties give tickets to criminal elements, rapists, corrupt people, and ensure that they are elected as people’s representatives. When such people reach Parliament what occupies their minds is not development. They are busy cornering money for themselves. And this leads to an increase in corruption.
Kapur: You are right about political parties giving tickets to criminals. But why do people elect them?
Hazare: I agree with you. People are at fault here. But this is because people do not know what our Constitution says. Nowhere in the Constitution do we find the political party system mentioned. What does it say? People should have independent candidates in place of candidates of political parties, and to elect persons with impeccable credentials. Deviation from this started in the first Parliamentary elections in 1952. In that general election political parties contested against one another. Contrary to constitutional provisions, they got elected and sat in power and destroyed our Constitution. Our democracy was destroyed by these political parties ….
“We keep beating the drum of democracy. Where is it, I ask? Democracy as we know it, for the people, by the people, of the people, where is it? What we have today is ‘party’cracy, ‘government’cracy. There is no democracy ….” –Anna Hazare
We keep beating the drum of democracy. Where is it, I ask? Democracy as we know it, for the people, by the people, of the people, where is it? What we have today is ‘party’cracy, ‘government’cracy. There is no democracy …. Today you see corruption everywhere. The party system is to blame for this. Money fetches power, power brings money. Read our Constitution, you will not find the party system there.
Kapur: You and (social activist) Arvind Kejriwal were together in the anti-corruption movement. Later, Kejriwal decided to start his political party. You did not agree with him. Why?
Hazare: I believe in my Constitution. India has to abide by it. Laws are made in accordance with the constitutional values and provisions. I still have faith in it. And therefore I cannot agree with the party system. I am busy in my awareness drive, trying to awaken people. If the voter is convinced that the political party system has to be done away with for real democracy, he can do it.
Knowledge@Wharton: What are your most significant achievements? What would you like to achieve in the future?
Hazare: The most significant achievement in my view is rural development. Mahatma Gandhi had said that we will have to transform our villages if we wanted to transform our nation. And we did it in practice …. First, we adopted some villages. Around 80% people living there were going hungry. They had nothing to eat, not a drop to drink. It was a drought-prone area.
We promoted rain harvesting and encouraged people to recharge the ground water. In a village where it was impossible to irrigate 350 acres of land to get a single crop, now we have enough water to ensure two crops for an area of 1,500 acres of land. The village economy there has been totally transformed. A village that could barely produce 400 liters of milk is now selling 5,500 liters. This was Mahatma Gandhi’s dream. We have to change our villages to change the country.
Secondly, if we want to change the nature of the economy of our country, we’ll have to change the economy of our villages. Unless we do it, the national economy would remain where it is now. What is important is to understand that a development based on the destruction of nature cannot sustain itself. It is not viable. We have adopted 50 villages, a very small number if you look at the size of our nation.
Knowledge@Wharton: What do you want to do next?
Hazare: First, to speed up rural development. Second, to get the laws on Jan Lokpal, Right to Reject, Right to Recall, enacted. I want to organize at least five crore (50 million) people, if not 120 crore. I am traveling extensively, trying to persuade people to join this movement. If we manage to create this social pressure, then we can agitate on any issue in the country. But that is in the future.