Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, historian K.N. Panikkar and activist Shabnam Hashmi Friday strongly objected to the ‘authoritarian’ attitude adopted by social reformer Anna Hazare in his fight against corruption and accused him of being affiliated to right-wing Hindu groups.
The trio expressed their reservations over the formation of the joint committee for drafting the anti-graft Lokpal Bill and the way Hazare ‘dictated’ his conditions to formulate the panel’s terms and references.
They claimed the Lokpal Bill was inherently flawed because the ombudsman that the proposed legislation seeks to create was like creating ‘a permanent state of emergency in the country’.
‘It (the bill) goes… militates against democracy. A legislation may be necessary to prevent corruption in the country but the Lokpal Bill cannot do that,’ Panikkar, a renowned historian, told reporters.
‘The Lokpal is likely to function in a social vacuum as a super judicial authority, undermining and subversive of the judicial system. It is an escapist institute. It also provides the state a safety wall to get out of the crisis,’ he said.
He said the anti-corruption campaign launched by Hazare has been hijacked by right-wing Hindu activists.
‘RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) activists have been participating in the movement. And the attitude of Anna has been one of justifying the past history of Hindu communal forces,’ Panikkar said, referring to Hazare lauding of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s developmental efforts.
He alleged that Modi has in the past targetted the Muslim minority of Gujarat. ‘Development is comprehensive and you cannot have a section kept away from the process.’
Mahesh Bhatt too objected to some people comparing Hazare with Mahatma Gandhi and Jaya Prakash Narayan. ‘You cannot claim to be fighting against corruption but neglect communalism. Being apolitical, Anna could praise Modi for development, but ignored his moral problem.’
He likened the whole drama of Hazare’s fast-unto-death anti-graft protest and the government capitulating so swiftly, to the climax of a Hindi movie or an Indian television soap.
‘This will raise TV TRPs but won’t solve the problem.’
Shabnam Hashmi, who had earlier also objected to Hazare’s praise for Modi, alleged that the literature distributed near Jantar Mantar where the social reformer was on fast was anti-minority.
‘One wonders if this (campaign) has been launched with an ulterior motive. Suddenly the talk of the Sangh terror network has disappeared.’
In a joint press statement issued later, they noted that there was nothing that the Lokpal would bring to bear in the form of greater sense of transparency and accountability in the system ‘than what the existing institutions have achieved or not achieved’.
‘For that, a necessary condition is the creation of a social consciousness which would decisively disapprove and reject the culture of favouritism and nepotism.’