It is the Anna-rchy stupid!

Ends do not justify the means

Imagine this scenario. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the patriarchal Kashmiri separatist leader who offered prayers for the slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, decides to protest against Indian “occupation” of Kashmir by hoisting the Pakistani flag at the Red Fort on 15th of August at 7.30 AM. OK, let us leave the Pakistani flag bit out of this for a moment. It is too provocative.

Say, Mr Geelani wants to offer Namaaz and read verses from the Quran to 5000 people from the ramparts of the Red Fort as a means of protest against the Indian government. He says that Indian government must accept his position on Kashmir completely as he is the sole repository of knowledge and wisdom about Kashmir. Because he claims to speak for the people of Kashmir, the democractically elected government of India must either accept his demands or allow him to go ahead with his plans for protests at the Red Fort.

Meanwhile, some of Mr Geelani’s supporters gather in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York and stage a protest against the Indian government. The US State department spokesperson asks government of India “to exercise appropriate democratic restraint in the way it deals with peaceful protest”.

As we all know, the right to protest peacefully is enshrined in the democratic ideals of the Indian Constitution. While you may not agree with the demands or cause of Mr Geelani, you would of course never deny him the right to protest in the Indian Republic. Right. Yes. Agree.

Most of the readers of this blog will be aghast at this proposition. Of course not. How can Mr Geelani lay claim to any public space in Delhi for his protest? Are there no rules and laws in this country that must be followed by the likes of Mr Geelani, and enforced by the government of India?

By now you have got the drift. This is not a rhetorical argument but has direct parallels with what Mr Anna Hazare and his team of supporters are trying to say about their plans to publicly protest against corruption on 16th of August, a day after the Independence Day celebrations in Delhi.

Considering the size of his protest and the date, Delhi Police refused to grant him permission to use Jantar Mantar and have offered the Jai Prakash Narayan Park in Central Delhi instead for a duration of three days. Delhi Police requested them to go to Burari (on Delhi’s outskirts) or some other location if they wanted it for a longer period. Mr Hazare’s supporters refuse to accept this legal order. Rather than challenge it in court, Mr Hazare instead chooses to write directly to the Prime Minister of India. So much for following the constitutionally available means of challenging government orders in this country.

A couple of public-safety and public-order related issues need to be highlighted here. Mr Hazare’s planned protest is a public event and is no different from a show by Rakhi Sawant as far as public order and safety is concerned. Who is responsible for maintaining public order at the venue? If there is a violation of public safety, who is answerable for that lapse? It is duty of the statutory bodies like the Delhi Police to take that call, however disagreeable we may find those decisions.

Notwithstanding the inconvenience and the intrusion of privacy, the average bloke  gets himself frisked at checkposts of Delhi Police and takes alternative routes when some of the roads are closed for security reasons. That is the law of the land which we have chosen to follow for the sake of public order and safety. Mr Hazare and his team are not special to be treated differently.

Independence Day and the days preceding it are days of high security alert in Delhi. It has been so from the days of Punjab insurgency in the 1980s. All leaves of policemen and policewomen are cancelled, reserve police and trainee recruits are drawn in for duty to prevent a terror strike in the Indian capital. When that overextended police force would get a well-deserved break after the Independence Day, Mr Hazare and his team have burdened the same cops with more onerous duty at the end of it all.

Lest it be mistaken, Mr Hazare is fully entitled to protest. Delhi Police is fully entitled to regulate his protest in terms of venue and time. Mr Hazare is fully entitled to seek legal recourse to get the orders of the Delhi Police rescinded. What Mr Hazare is not entitled to, is to threaten to take to streets or to take his own life, if he doesn’t agree with government orders.

Oh, by the way, some of you will turn around and say: How can you compare Mr Hazare and Mr Geelani? One is fighting for a righteous cause while other is a secessionist. If Mr Hazare and his supporters think that their cause is righteous to justify the use of any means, so do Mr Geelani and his gang of supporters. Even bin Laden believed that his cause was righteous and moral and his supporters contend that it justified the use of all means.

This reminds me of the famous anecdote of GB Shaw.

Shaw was at a dinner party with some very lah-di-dah people. Somehow, the conversation turned to slack sexual morals (in the George Bernard Shaw version, this was in the 1930s).

He asked one of the ladies present:  “Madam, would you sleep with me for one million pounds?”

“Well, for a million pounds, Mr Shaw,” the lady replied, “perhaps I would.” She and the other guests laughed.

The conversation turned to other topics and, later, George Bernard Shaw whispered to the lady: “Madam, would you sleep with me tonight if I gave you £10?”

“Mr Shaw!” replied the woman, deeply offended: “What sort of woman do you think I am?”

“Madam,” Shaw said, “we have established what sort of woman you are. We are merely haggling over the price.”

In a similar vein, by supporting Mr Hazare’s tactics, we have established what the principle is. We are merely haggling over the cause and the protagonists.

Remember, it is for good reason that one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite maxims was “Ends do not justify the means.”

Additional Reading: For more substantive takes on the debate, please read Nitin Pai’s FAQ on the Anna Hazare and Jan Lok Pal issue and Mr B Raman’s views on the subject.

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41 Responses to It is the Anna-rchy stupid!

  1. It is the Anna-rchy stupid!: Ends do not justify the means
    Imagine this scenario. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the pat… http://t.co/DFQKQk5

  2. Pradeep (@InstantMusings) (@InstantMusings) August 14, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Fav this. RT @pragmatic_d: At my blog, It’s the Anna-rchy stupid. Ends do not justify the means. http://t.co/5WVaX07

  3. calamur (@calamur) (@calamur) (@calamur) August 14, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/SNFvoRx

  4. Then wonder how we bring about change! “@pragmatic_d At my blog, It’s the Anna-rchy stupid. Ends do not justify means. http://t.co/oq6SAxM”

  5. @JagPaws August 14, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Impressive argument !!! RT @calamur It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/MOSrPAc

  6. @JagPaws August 14, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    1. Agree to argument 2. Impressive style RT @pragmatic_d: At my blog, It’s the Anna-rchy stupid. http://t.co/obOpXfp

  7. @jay_ambadi August 14, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    This says it all… .http://t.co/t5sFy6U from @pragmatic_d

  8. @neutralviews August 14, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    @ShashiTharoor http://t.co/rzp7qFp #Anna

  9. @malviyamit August 14, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    Geelani has preached sedition under GoI’s nose ! Now what ? RT @pragmatic_d: At my blog, It’s the Anna-rchy stupid. http://t.co/J3dKPt3

  10. @MaverickMyk August 14, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Beautifully written, my viewpoint!RT @pragmatic_d: At my blog, It’s the Anna-rchy stupid. Ends do not justify the means. http://t.co/C5irOsS

  11. Vikram Sood (@Vikram_Sood) (@Vikram_Sood) August 14, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Democracy allows protest not chaos RT @pragmatic_d: At my blog,It’s the Anna-rchy stupid. Ends do not justify the means. http://t.co/9WxUl9D

  12. Please read – It’s the anna-rchy stupid – http://t.co/kfAtaXA by @pragmatic_d

  13. @RMnanda August 14, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/OuXi8Mx #Civil society must read this superb blog <

  14. @jayprod August 14, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/pH8dcXQ

  15. @1989sumit August 14, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/EFdHoAo

  16. @horror06 August 14, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/MC1nZ23

  17. @shazia_nusrat August 14, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    http://t.co/agBzT6w

  18. @ValuenGrowth August 14, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Read my comment on "It’s the Anna-rchy stupid" by @pragmatic_d http://t.co/hFF31tq

  19. @jay_ambadi August 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    @rajivWORLD Most welcome.. We can always agree to disagree if we cant find common grounds! I suggest .http://t.co/t5sFy6U from @pragmatic_d

  20. @dee__jay August 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Top story: Pragmatic Euphony » It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/d2MRlu0, see more http://t.co/QUUXFb7

  21. @izaki August 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    hope the Anna-disciples read this article : It is the Anna-rchy stupid! http://t.co/Vi0xakd

  22. Rahul August 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Aha! Very clever. Comparing Red Fort with Jantar Mantar or some park is absolutely ridiculous. Red Fort will be used by the PM on 15th Aug, but Jantar Mantar or JP Narayan Park is free to be used for protests. So, there are NO parallels here. If Mr. Geelani wants to read Namaz on 16th Aug in some park in Delhi, I don’t think anyone will have a problem (except the RSS people perhaps).

    The problem with public policy people is that they are very bookish in nature (the kitabi keeda metaphor fits perfectly). If something is written in a book, that is the absolute truth for you. You need to understand that everything in the constitution is not gospel truth – it needs to be modified based on modern realities.

    (Hoping that this comment will be published despite it being critical of your judgment)

  23. Manoj Tiwari August 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Gathering of people for protest is a way of showing the authority that how many people are with the cause. It was more relevant in the era when there were very few means of media…and most of them were under pressure of authority..when bringing out the will of mass was nearly impossible. Peaceful demonstration was invented, developed and implemented by Gandhi ji in that era to threaten the British Govt. After independence cunning politicians are using it to show their strength which in turn provides them with bargaining power with fellow politicians and may attract other sects of voters too.
    Gandhi ji used fast to awake mass people for the cause. I don’t find any reason why British govt was scared about his fast, if it was not shaking and attracting mass people.
    If we assume that Annas are granted with the permission to protest at the place of their choice, I am unable to understand how will it help in the formation their type of Lokpal. And if it is all to attract the mass like Gandhi ji did, it can be done anywhere. People can get news, updates and can even join them there, in this electronic era.
    Government is not interested in what type of slogan you are shouting or who is willing to die of fast… But mass people may be.. And government may consider you only then…We all want to erode corruption for better future of our children. But if you want to do it in your way, either get the whole nation standing beside you or arrange a two third majority in parliament.. Rest is useless NETAGIRI.

  24. rohit kumar August 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    this is written in a manner which will make people follow writers advice… but the analogy is absurd… it is understood that there has to be some regulation and whole of India can not be on street to protest… what will have to law and order…. but we are a mature democracy and not a police state so there is no need to worry…. and by the same logic if i draw a analogy.. people thronged to the streets when team India won cricket world cup… which was unorganized and which included many celebrities.. so how could have we stopped that… law and order was at stake at that time also… a more and deeper introspection is needed… of-course I don’t agree with either party on the Lokpal issue…

  25. Rakesh August 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Humbug article. Geelani , Arundhoti and many libtards have demanded Independence for Kashmir in many forums. India has tolerated . Thats not anarchy for you but peaceful protests by AH against corruption is anarchy for you. . Sorry mate, you are behind the curve. You will realize that on 16th.

  26. Socratus August 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    ““Madam,” Shaw said, “we have established what sort of woman you are. We are merely haggling over the price.” In a similar vein, by supporting Mr Hazare’s tactics, we have established what the principle is. We are merely haggling over the cause and the protagonists.”

    Shaw’s response was indeed witty. But I don’t think he was as principled in life as you seem to believe. I’m sure like Groucho Marx he had other principles for those who didn’t like his principles.. :D

    Would you write a pro-Anna article establishing that all types of political protests are legitimate if you were made CEO of an international think tank for promoting ‘Right to Protest’ and were paid million dollar annual salary and a host of additional perks like travelling all over the world to promote political activism through mass protests?

    If you answered YES, have I established what sort of man you are? That you are willing to prostitute yourselves if the reward is right? If you answered NO, then you are perhaps a rare man like Anna Hazare who is immune to monetary temptations. :D But then, according to you, Anna Hazare is not a principled man since he is blackmailing our govt using anarchic protests. :(

    Are there any ‘principled’ men out there who are perfectly principled? If not, whats the point of sticking steadfastly to perfectly perfect principles at the cost of being called a impractical “Kitabi Keeda public policy person”? :D

    Widen your horizons..Begin by reading Groucho Marx :)

  27. Ramesh Mahananda August 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Well,I read all the comments expressed by readers.On this context,I fully agree with blogger.Anna and team want to bring the anarchy in the country.O.K,suppose govt accepts his bill,and next govt collapsed.Who will be the responsible if there comes anarchy ?

  28. sanjay August 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    Why to imagine scenarios, last year some Kashmiri youths decided to protest about something and took to stone pelting injuring many people in the process, the police responded by firing and one Tufail Mattoo got killed, entire Mainstream media descended and called it police brutality, the stone pelting outrage spread to entire valley, MSM even sympathised with the stonepelters declaring it justified outrage and immense pressure was mounted on the police and security forces not to use any force whatsoever to control this violence.
    Anna Hazare’s movement in comparison is not only within the constitution, it is only seeking to register protest through peaceful means and doesn’t harm anyone. Our media and intelligentsia which was considerate of even stonepelter has suddenly found vices in even peaceful protest like fasting! If Anna Hazare’s movement is breaking any existing law then it is within right of the authorities to take to legal recourse and lodge an FIR by all means.
    Can protesting against corruption by peaceful means without breaking any law be compared to a commercial roadshow like that of Rakhi Sawant? One is for registering a protest against being wronged, another to titilate. Can any sane person draw a parallel between the two?
    Does even a peaceful protest like Anna Hazare’s not affect public life and traffic? Yes it does. But firstly, can we deny that they have been wronged to begin with? and secondly, haven’t we ligitimised even violent form of protest umpteen time in the past? How many Kashmiris were convicted for pelting stones? How many Meenas were convicted for stopping trains? How many rioters were convicted all over India? How many farmers were convicted for road blocking in Haryana? Why are those incidences of law breaking minor inconveniences and legitimate outrage and Anna Hazare’s peaceful protest that doesn’t break any law is unacceptable?

  29. voyager August 15, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    Shaw, Digvijay, Sibal, Geelani, Anna, Rakhi Sawant, Poonam Pandey, Pragmatic…they all have exercised their fundamental right to express opinions and do so in whatever clever disguises that best suit their objectives.

    Their ability lies in the fact that they are in a position to find an audience.

    The whole debate is actually about the millions who don’t find an audience. Its about those whose witty comments and metaphors don’t grace the media and cyberspace. Its about those millions whom even a common middle class person like me finds easy to shoo away or ignore.

    1947 was a long time ago. Patience has its limits.

  30. voyager August 15, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    If I were sick and the prescribed medicines only made me feel worser, would I not seek another Doctor?

  31. kartik August 15, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    And what if Government is it self is corrupt how to remove that corruption. your are talking all nonsense. Comparing Anna with geelani is this your logic?
    Aam janta is fed up of corruption and only way to stop it is to hang the corrupts publicly till then just support Anna blindly. At least netas and and baboos who likes to sleep on bed of currency hang them till death

  32. Jadumani Nayak August 15, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    I support the comment of Mr. Rahul. Really Mr. Geelani and Anna are noway comparable. So while writing a blog on any sensitive issue the writer should think a lot and then convey the message to the public that what is right and what is wrong !

  33. rohit August 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    I would not be aghast if anyone protests peacefully for any cause whatsoever. The writer of this article has craftily thrown in Red Fort in the plot so that the reader bristles at the suggestion, but it has turned out to be a flimsy construct. If Geelani protests in some park in Delhi and reads the Quran to even 10000 people, I don’t have any problem whatsoever. Geelani is welcome to hold fast!

    But there is a significant distinction here. Corruption is a nationwide epidemic, it affects all irrespective of caste, religion, etc. Again the situation is similar to the British Rule. The politicians, the administrators and all those involved in law-making have vested interests in the status quo. Why would they agree to make a law that checks their corrupt practices unless they are forced to by the people of the country, by the masses.

    What Anna is trying to do is to attract the masses by his peaceful protest. If the masses find an element of truth in what he is standing for, so be it.

    Corruption has become the system today. Gandhi would also have resorted to the same means if he were in a similar situation.

    • Doll May 19, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

      Thinking like that is really imsrvspiee

  34. sai August 15, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    As a long time reader of the NI blogs and admirer (make that ex-admirer), I am deeply disappointed at the complete absence of balance and perspective on the Anna issue. It starts with your desperate attempt at comparing Anna’s movement with Geelani – when you know pretty well that the latter’s cause amounts to sedition, which is punishable under law. However much you might dislike Anna’s movement and the means, the cause is not illegal and he has the constitutional right to protest.
    As a self-proclaimed democrat, constitutionlist, Ambekarite and what not, why do you keep silent about the barely disguised attempt of the central government to destroy this movement in a completely anti-democratic manner? Worse, you are actually justifying actions of the police – pathetic is the word. Your vehement opposition to Anna’s movement in the name of constitution would have had lot of credibility if you had also unequivocally supported their right to protest and condemn the govt’s actions in stifling a democratic form of protest.

  35. Adi August 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    First, kind of sad at the way you tried to use the J&K insurgency to demonise Anna Hazare’s movement.
    And that to in this country with its heritage of the Indian National Movement to demonise peaceful protest as set out by Gandhi and followed by MLK and Mandela …..just sad.

    Second, I did make sure to read through your suggested posts for a more extensive reading of your arguments. And may I suggest, with the legitimacy of twin degrees in History, that you are entirely wrong to trace the phenomenon of ‘High Command’ to Gandhi’s protest action. It was Indira Gandhi who distorted Congress politics to create a party that was a bare shadow of its former self.

    As for spectre of anarchy that you raise, I call it false and deem it the right of citizens to tell a government that status quo will not work. And yes, there are good reasons to question the role of self-appointed leaders but no more so than the right of Mr. Tata and Ambani, FICCI et al to engage with the Finance Minister in pre-Budget ‘consultations’. Or what is known as lobbying in the US. Whatever example makes your more comfortable.

    Finally, let me pick up your challenge. I will support Geelani’s right to the protest. As the son of a retired Army officer and schoolmate of officers who have lost their lives in the insanity of NE and J&K insurgency, we need more such protests. Nobody cared till Manipuri mother’s stripped to protest the interminable imposition of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Nobody will care till our chickens will come home to roost …and even then I doubt if they will see what it is. Army HQ records note that we have lost more men in these insurgencies that ’62,’65 and ’71. So my dear sir, I will support Mr. Geelani’s protest and Mr. Binayak Sen because the state is often deaf and brutal and it takes strong action to shake it.

  36. shaan August 17, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    The constitution grants freedom of speech and expression to everyone. Even Geelani has his right to free speech – Agreed. But the constitution also has checks and balances against the abuse of the freedom granted by it. It is not just the case of being moral or immoral in the perceptions of a section of people. We have specific laws against sedition and treason. Any free speech should confine itself within the limits imposed by these laws which are meant to protect the unity and integrity of the nation. If the right to free speech is absolute the courts would have held the laws against sedition and treason as unconstitutional. The courts have held these laws fit and constitutional when enforced carefully.

    Geelani is free to speak within the limits of the rights granted to him by the constitution. From your comparison of Anna’s right to protest with Geelani’s right to protest it is clear that you view both the ends as equal, that you view Geelani’s goal of Kashmir’s secession from India and Anna’s vision of a corruption free India as somehow comparable. This proves you are one of those argumentative Indians, who argue just for the sake of it.

  37. koi hai August 17, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    It was wrong to take the PBOR to the Gazetted Officers Mess.

  38. Atom August 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    I disagree with most of the points in the blog. As a speaker on a media channel said, this protest can’t be hid behind technical terms (like section 144, law, constitutional means, democratically elected body) when real emotions are in play. It’s an anger of the people against a system which is hopelessly entrenched in corruption. And when there is such collective anger, you can’t argue on technicalities but need to investigate the root cause. An old man’s fast would not have garnered such a massive support unless the root cause (corrpution) is something which affects a majority of the common man. Many people/ politicians hold fasts/ protests but none are reciprocated like this.
    Secondly, what kind of law and order in the country are you talking about? What kind of constitutional means or democratically elected people? Politicians elected with at least Rs 20-50 cr of black money spent in campaigns? And what kind of constitutional means are you talking about where there is no recourse to adequate legal/ polic protection when anyone raises any complaint against such people? If I were to give one of my analogies, would you say Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement was wrong because he asked people to disobey a law set by the British government?
    All fasts don’t garner this type of support unless the emotions and the root cause is something very genuine. Millions of people across the country won’t be supporting Geelani if he decided to hold some fast for a reason for which he majority doesnt support. Neither would they if Bin Laden tries to garner support for his ideals (they might in other places, but not here). When there has been systematic looting of the country, when all means of constitutional methods have failed, there needs to be a corrective action.

  39. Indipatriot August 19, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    Interesting article. Interesting premise.

    My observations, if the issue is relatively trivial like lets say the Baba Ramdev fast, it will die a death the same way. Which is what I would expect in the case of your Geelani example. Like the wolf in the three little pigs, these wolves huff and puff and collapse.

    Take a major issue which causes the fire in the Indian belly to rise and the dragon will roar.

    We can argue all night but I will only say this, Anna agreed to 16 conditions which made sense , the nonsensical ones like 50 cars ( when our President travels in a cavalcade of 52 cars) and 5000 people ( when a single march in Andheri had 5000+ and Pune today saw a crowd of 30,000 approx) and 3 day limit (which had no basis for any sense that i can see) were rejected by him.

    I dare and double dare any politician to show me another rally of this import which has had similar 22 conditions clamped on it by the police in the last few years.

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