by Sumaa Tekur
When 74-year-old Indian social activist Kisan Baburao “Anna” Hazare broke his 13-day fast on Sunday, there were cheers of victory across the country. The people were celebrating not only Anna’s success, but the power of collective will. Anna led an anti-corruption movement demanding that Parliament pass the Jan Lokpal Bill (citizens’ ombudsman bill). The government conceded to Anna’s demands after 12 days of flip-flops. What made this movement a runaway success was people power: In recent days, the previously passive middle classes had poured out to the streets to back Anna.
India had waited 42 long years for a strong anti-corruption law. What didn’t happen in all those decades finally did happen in a mere seven hours on Saturday, when both houses debated the bill and passed a resolution. A collective effort from its citizens clinched it for India.
Nearly a week earlier, on Sunday, 21 August, a sea of humanity converged on Mumbai’s streets for the “One Lakh March” — a movement along the lines of the million-man march of Tahrir Square in Cairo. Thousands of supporters waved Indian flags at Ramlila Ground in Delhi, the epicenter of the anti-corruption movement. In Bangalore on Wednesday, 7,000 techies logged off and left their desks to form a 17-km (10-mi.) human chain along the city’s ring road. Similar protests picked up in other mini-metros and small towns.
That this movement was not backed by any political party with clout spoke volumes. The intelligentsia was at its wits’ end analyzing just what woke up the sleeping middle class. R Jagannathan, editor of FirstPost.com, writes that the new middle classes have a consumerist view of democracy. They will participate if democracy is made easier … like a tweet or Facebook status update. And that behavior can then sometimes grow into something bigger. E-democracy, anyone? They’re no longer willing to wait weeks — forget 42 years — for action.