Sorry, Anna Hazare, That It Wasn't A Picnicby T. SHER SINGH
I just don’t understand it.
An unelected individual undertakes a fast to put pressure on the government to do his bidding. He won’t eat anything, he threatens, in order to put ‘moral’ pressure on the politicians.
Of course, the foreseeable happens! Because he hasn’t been eating, his health is affected. The doctors tell him so.
So, he promptly ends the fast!
That’s the strategy? To wipe out corruption in the most corrupt country in the world?
Really, I really don’t understand the stratagem - or what they term in desi lingo as daav-pench or yuddh chaal.
Please bear with me as I try and figure this one out, step by step.
The idea of fasting as a political tool is a uniquely Indian phenomenon. Bestowed with an air of dubious legitimacy by Mohandas Gandhi, it has another unique aspect to it … it doesn’t work. It has never worked. It never will. Period.
The old man Gandhi tried it from time to time for decades. As his method of achieving independence, it produced no results.
Other things did.
Such as: Non-cooperation and non-violence. And violence, a la Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh, the Indian National Army (INA), etc. The Second World War’s decimation of the British economy ... etc.
As a method of preventing Partition, Gandhi's fasting sulks produced no results either.
Sheer greed and short-sightedness on the part of political leaders; negligence and a total lack of moral compunction, responsibility and conscience on the part of the fleeing foreigners; and the worst in human nature across the board - all of these trumped, contributing to the tragic and asinine Partition of Punjab and of what was left behind of the Raj.
Gandhi’s fasts had NO impact either on averting the tragedy, or helping to demarcate sensible boundaries, or to prevent mass genocide and the resulting exodus which made Moses’ trek across the Sinai look like a mere Sunday outing!
So what did Indians learn from Gandhi's fumbling and stumbling?
Typically, they embraced fasting as their primary tool henceforth, something to be resorted to when the well of common sense goes dry!
Here’s how this extraordinary measure is supposed to work:
Once you have a mass of people who are willing to follow you blindly, you announce - amidst much publicity and fanfare - that you will starve yourself indefinitely.
The logic behind this is that it will:
a) Embarrass the people you want to oppose, into submission.
b) Because maybe, just maybe, your opponents have some moral fibre which will help you stoke their conscience through your suffering.
c) And if that doesn‘t work … well, your suffering will make your supporters suffer too, through sympathy and empathy, which in turn will create a ground-swell of blind outrage.
d) Furthermore, there is always an underlying danger and implicit threat that if you die as a result of the fast, then the outrage will turn the supporters into wild and uncontrollable mobs, and who knows where that will end up?
Thus, the personal and voluntary suffering - and the potential of the supreme sacrifice - turns the fasting leader into an instant hero, a living martyr, and potentially, an icon … if he dies.
Thus, suffering - even though of a single human being - is central to this strategy.
Now, theoretically, it is entirely possible that this could work in a society where civilized norms do not apply, especially where the fact that this tactic is nothing but blackmail has no impact on public opinion because the overall governing principle is: “Anything goes!”
However, the whole thing gets self-sabotaged when the Fearless Leader turns out to be not so ’fearless’ after all.
When you undertake a fast - that is, when you refuse to take food, and ingest nothing but water and medication - you know that certain events will follow: aches and pains, weakness and dizziness, sleeplessness and restlessness, the levels of certain things in your body will go up, other levels will go down, some things will stop working as good as they normally do, other things that shouldn’t happen will start to happen …
To put it succinctly, your health with steadily deteriorate, day after each difficult day, and then, after a few days, the slide will accelerate …
And that is exactly when the impact of this great sacrifice - this fast, this journey into the great unknown - will potentially become the most powerful of weapons!
As your condition deteriorates, you have your team release hourly medical reports to the press, strategically worded and placed so as to, a) alarm your supporters into a mounting frenzy over your well-being, and b) create a corresponding increase in foreboding on the part of your targeted opposition, which knows that things will get out of hand as you worsen …
It is exactly at this stage that your personal sacrifice indeed begins to take on a dimension of a superhuman one … a supreme sacrifice.
No greater love hath a man, to borrow a phrase, for a cause or its supporters, than to starve himself, careening towards impending death!
But guess what dear Anna does each time he reaches this juncture - and what he actually did again last week!
Things are going along as foreseen, and predicted, and anticipated … yes, a few days have gone by and it is affecting his health. The doctors, as expected, confirm that this is so … no one ever expected otherwise!
So, dear Anna - the Fearless Leader who has promised to make the supreme sacrifice - terminates the fast! Packs it all up! Goes home.
“Anna ji’s health is of prime importance to us!” explains an Anna spokesperson.
If that’s true, buddy, then for heaven’s sake, don’t let him fast! Stay at home and play carrom board or something.
Haven’t the doctors told you?
If not, let me spell it out in simple English:
Fasting for no reason but to give your enemy some grief is bad for your own health!
You don’t have to listen to me … here’s his own doctor, Dr. Sancheti, who has a bunch of medical degrees to his credit. He is quoted as saying that “the fast was having a ’bad impact’ on the crusader’s health.”
So, once the aches and pains begin, it is time to go home, O Fearless Leader?
So much for sacrifice and fearlessness and all that!
I’m sorry, fellas, but martyrs - true martyrs! - are made of sterner stuff.
They don’t fast willy nilly as a pastime, and then go off to do other things after a few days, while traipsing around the country with self-righteousness foaming from their mouths.
It’s back to the drawing board for all of you, if you ask me.
If you want to battle the bad guys, here’s the first rule: you’ve got be better than the bad guys.
In medical terms, you need a spine.
You can’t have ‘Baba’ Ramdev as your John The Baptist, not if he is himself wallowing in billions in ill-gotten wealth.
You can’t be in bed with the kooky RSS and its “world’s-biggest-civilian-army” (albeit an inept and useless one), or with the goons that call themselves the Shiv Sena.
You can’t be lovey-dovey with a mass-murderer like Narendra Modi.
You can’t have your chief lieutenant, even if it’s Kiran Bedi, a former police officer, misappropriating public funds for personal use!
And ah yes, Anna, you can’t be spending lakhs from public funds to celebrate your own birthday … as a judicial commission declared quite unequivocally the other day.
Simply put, you can’t fool your way through this sort of thing.
There are no ifs and buts. No shortcuts.
And yes, if you really, really want to know about sacrifice, real sacrifice, learn it from Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadar, from Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Taru Singh and Bhai Jeevan Singh Rangretta, from Guru Gobind Singh and Mata Gujri, Mai Bhago and Banda Singh Bahadar, from Bhagat Singh and the Saragarhi Sardars.
And from Jaswant Singh Khalra.
Talk to some living martyrs! Try Jarnail “The-Lion-of-Delhi” Singh. Or Nirpreet Kaur. Or Manvinder Singh …
This “game of love” isn't meant for any lallu-panju!
January 3, 2011
Conversation about this article
1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 03, 2012, 7:37 AM.
What a no-nonsense, hard-hitting lesson on the sham of fasting. This art is even known to kids. When they get angry, the weapon is: "I don't want to eat." Mothers and sisters would gently persuade the little brat that staying hungry was bad for health. The real game is: "Jau tau prem khelan ka chao/ sir dhar gulli mere aao" - and we have an endless list of such participation. I remember during World War II, recruitment was in full swing. A 'marassi' was playfully approached: "Meerzaday, offer your son for the army." "Yes, hazoor, I would, but I have a couple of minor conditions: 1. My son cannot stand the heat during summer so he should be issued with a uniform made of muslin. 2. During active fighting, please grant him leave so that he can come home and till the small patch we have." Do you see the parallel in today's gandhi-topi marassis?
2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 03, 2012, 8:45 AM.
Sometimes the truth, when written or spoken by someone else, makes you choke!
3: Jeetesh Trivedi (Ambala, Haryana, India), January 03, 2012, 9:15 AM.
The blind ("anna") leading the blind thousands ("hazare")! God definitely has a sense of humour!
4: Harman Singh (California, U.S.A.), January 03, 2012, 12:36 PM.
Ha..ha..ha! What a farce. I was thinking the same thing when I saw this on the news the other day while I was in India. If the opposition knows that you are going to end your fast as soon as the going gets tough, how is that supposed to bring them to their knees? Both Indian politics and activism have become a joke.
5: Dev Srinivasan (New Delhi, India), January 03, 2012, 3:54 PM.
This fellow had actually made it all the more easier for himself, thus reducing the impact of whatever he wanted to achieve, to zero! The last fast he was on was pre-announced to be a 3-day fast, that's it. He ran out of steam on the second day. Now, wouldn't that really scare the corrupt politicians who were in power! Reminds me of my son who, when he was a child, would hold his breath until he was blue in the face, in an attempt to get me to give him more mitthaa-ee. Well, I would simply walk out of the room, and he would go back to breathing normally ... and snivelling for a while. Not unlike dear Anna, I must say.
6: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), January 03, 2012, 8:55 PM.
Thank you for writing the truth about the fasting tactics by Gandhi during the Partition of Punjab and India. But unfortunately, much of recorded history and the world consider him as a hero of peace and freedom. On the other hand, the real heroes of the subcontinent remain unsung.
7: Raj (Canada), January 03, 2012, 10:56 PM.
You don't understand it, Mr. Singh. Anna had a real good time eating sweets and ladoos for Diwali. He's just trying to lose a few pounds, just like me who is trying after the ton of chocolate I ate over the holidays. It's his new year resolution. Let him do it, please. Every one has the right to lose weight and to look better. Even a bunch of bandars ...
8: Karam Lamba (Ahmedabad, India), January 04, 2012, 1:15 AM.
Wah Wah Wah ...
9: Gagan Kaur (Nagpur, India), January 04, 2012, 5:14 AM.
I think it's time for our Hazara Singh Ramta - "Thousanda Singh" - to bring forth a new song. Something like - "Anna gaya bhukh hartal ..."
10: Keith White (London, England), January 04, 2012, 5:17 AM.
Any reason why this article isn't posted in your HUMOUR Section?
11: Tajinder Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), January 04, 2012, 7:01 AM.
Superb article. True to its bone. One name, Sardar Darshan Singh Pheruman, deserves mention. During Indira Gandhi's early years, a village preacher and self-styled sant, Fateh Singh, went on a fast, and even threatened to self-immolate, but quickly ran for cover, Anna-Hazare-like, when things got a bit hot. It became the joke of the era. Alarmed at the stigma this bufoon of a 'sant' had given to the community, Darshan Singh did an ardaas and undertook a fast unto death, for the sake of "the quom's integrity". He stuck to his resolve for 74 days ... and died making his point. You are absolutely correct: 'It's nor for any lallu-panju!'
12: Bharati Sinha (Agra, India), January 04, 2012, 10:54 AM.
Inspired by Anna Hazare, I have decided to go on a fast unto death. I hereby undertake to fast for a minimum of 3 hours between meals ... as long as corruption reigns in India, or I succumb to this extreme and humble sacrifice of mine, whichever comes first. (For donations to my cause, please send money to ...)
13: G.C. Singh (U.S.A.), January 04, 2012, 11:01 AM.
Anna Hazare has been put forth as a hero by the Indian media, which has hysterically promoted him as the living embodiment of "saint" Gandhi - their so-called father of the nation. It is the same Indian media which regularly defames Sikhs and spreads verbatim the propaganda of the Indian intelligence agencies about the arrest of Sikhs in cooked up stories about imaginary 'Babbar Khalsa terrorists', who are purportedly poised to wipe out India from the map of this earth with the help of one country-made pistol, 5 kgs of RDX and two dozen cartridges!
14: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, Washington, U.S.A.), January 05, 2012, 4:24 PM.
G.C. Singh ji: Cooked up stories about imaginary 'Babbar Khalsa terrorists', who are purportedly poised to wipe out India from the map of this earth with the help of one country-made pistol, 5 kgs of RDX and two dozen cartridges! Loved your comments.
15: Dr..Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 06, 2012, 7:58 AM.
From what I have heard and read, it is apparent to me that Mr. Hazare's antics (of whichever kind) did bring the issue of extreme and pervasive corruption in India to the forefront - both nationally and internationally. I credit him for that. Whether his antics will work or not is another story ... it is up to the people of India to eradicate this cancer from their society.
16: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), January 06, 2012, 12:13 PM.
The very foundation of Indian society is based on corruption and a pervasive degradation of humanity and its exploitation in the form of the Hindu caste system. Has Anna ever spoken a word against caste?
17: R. Singh (Canada), January 09, 2012, 12:43 PM.
This article will irk the 'bharat-mata-for-sale' pseudo-patriots who are vying for political power using these sham fasts.