UPA bungled by jailing Hazare: US Congress

UPA bungled by jailing Hazare: US Congress

UPA bungled by jailing Hazare: US Congress

"By jailing Hazare, the government looked both inept and undemocratic, and united a wide range of otherwise reluctant actors in support of Hazare's movement," said Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its latest report 'India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics and US Relations,' which gives a detailed account of the anti-corruption movement in India.

An independent and bipartisan wing of the US Congress, the CRS prepares periodic reports on issues of interest to the US lawmakers.

The 94-page report was released by the CRS for US lawmakers on September 1, a copy of which made public by the Federation of American Scientists yesterday.

By the spring of 2011, negative emotions sparked by months long revelations of high-level corruption reached the point where mass public mobilisation could occur, the CRS report said, adding two figures – Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare – were notable in initiating this development.

"In early June, yoga guru Ramdev staged a major anti- corruption protest in the Indian capital and launched his own mass hunger strike to demand government action to recover black money.

"That night, after apparently inaccurate reports that the government had acceded to Ramdev's demands, hundreds of police swept through the protesters, using tear gas and batons to disperse them; at least 30 people were injured," the report said, adding critics accused the government of using unnecessary force against peaceful protesters.

Government officials said that Ramdev's permit allowed him only yoga and not a political demonstration; police said that permit was for a maximum of 5,000 attendees and some 40,000-60,000 showed up, the report said. Public officials were discomfited by the exercise of political influence through a perceived "publicity stunt"; other observers were alarmed that hardline Hindu nationalists were at times sharing the stage with Ramdev.
"There was thus relief felt across India's political spectrum when, in mid-June, Ramdev called off his fast. Yet a previously unknown figure has assumed far more influence at the national level," report said.

Two months before the Ramdev-led protest, social activist Anna Hazare, a 72-year-old from an indigent Maharashtrian family, had set himself up at a New Delhi tourist sight and vowed to "fast unto death" unless the central government moved to toughen its anti-corruption laws, in particular by establishing a new "Lokpal" (ombudsman) post to review corruption complaints reaching to the highest levels of government, CRS said.
"Less than a week later, after many thousands in cities across India had taken up his cause, Hazare ended his strike and declared victory upon the government’s announcement that it would form a committee to draft Lokpal legislation," it said.
According to CRS, opinion surveys have found huge majorities (80 - 90 per cent) of Indians favoring the civil society version.

"Top Congress Party leaders, including Prime Minister Singh, have argued that multiple tactics to combat corruption are required, and that no single group could claim to represent the whole of civil society," it said.

"Still, the government has come under fire for failing to open lines of communication with alternative civil society groups, leaving an impression that Hazare’s movement speaks for the entire nation.

Meanwhile, 'Team Anna' itself has been criticised for allegedly dividing poorer minority communities, and for signs that Hindu nationalists are providing the bulk of its organisational muscle," the report said.