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of Sathya Sai Baba And his worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization

Anna Hazare’s Arrest. Dark Days For Indian Democracy

Posted by Barry Pittard on August 16, 2011

Indian democracy? It would be a good idea!

A longtime Indian acquaintance has just emailed, recording his deep concern at the arrest by the Manmohan Singh government of Anna Hazare, an immensely courageous and peaceful activist calling for an end to rampant government corruption.

India’s gerontocratic leaders have learnt little about genuine processes of democracy. They learn nothing from the ‘Arab spring’. Nor even for her own reasons, last century, for risking all in opposing British Rule. Nor do they learn from the 1848 revolutions in Europe, and what, for the lack of learning lessons, was to culminate in two mammoth conflagrations in the twentieth century. Their dangerous power game is like dice thrown in hell, where everyone loses.

Like Sathya Sai Baba, his follower Manmohan Singh, and many other Indian leaders across the political spectrum, are yesteryear’s men – autocratic, and pretendedly democratic. Indian parliaments are, now and then, in terrible uproar that shocks a more urbane world. Some Indian government security forces make large departures from the conduct of an army which was, in many ways, loved and trusted by the Indian people – unlike many of her cruel police, who have for so long been despised. Manmohan Singh will need to go. But to what purpose if those who replace him are, also, yesteryear’s men (and occasional women)?

This  correspondent writes:

“Blackest day in India for democracy and civil rights. Gandhian
activist Anna Hazare leading a peaceful “India against corruption”
movement, has been arrested along with hundreds of anti corruption
activists. On its 64th anniversary of Independence. With millions of
Indians expressing support for Anna Hazare’s proposed fast unto death
movement against corruption, a panicked Manmohan Singh/Sonia Gandhi
govt, enforced prohibitory orders against all Indian laws and
constitution, and arrested Hazare at 7AM this morning.

This is a shameful and disgraceful day for democracy and honesty, in
India. Most Indians cringed in shame and shock when Sai Baba was given
a state funeral , complete with a gun salute by buglers, and the
NATIONAL flag draped around his body….can there be a greater shame,
disgrace and insult to freedom fighters, soldiers who had sacrificed
their lives and to the Indian flag ??? NO. But India watched
helplessly as a corrupt PM Manmohan Singh ordered it…..and today the
same corrupt govt that was supporting Sai baba, and was supported by
him for years…..and having looted , raped, and plundered the nation
to the tune of more than $ 60 billions in just 4 years, has brutally
clamped down on a peaceful anti corruption movement.

India is taking to the streets….as I type this….tens of thousands
of common folks across 25 cities are out on the streets , marching and
courting arrest, in support of Anna Hazare….the whole nation is
galvanized …..and the Govt under seize….lets hope Indian people
take back their country from this corrupt dacoit group who is running
the country now…”

Although criticized for thinking it possible that the protests led by a number of Indian leaders – somewhat cast in the Gandhian mode – opened the possibility, sooner or later, for Watergate-style revelations of high level government corruption – in the article, Could Sathya Sai Treasury Scandals Lead to India’s Watergate? Posted by Barry Pittard on June 23, 2011, I earlier wrote:

“Frighteningly, what Manmohan Singh so gravely risks is that, because he has shown his teeth to peaceful anti-corruption protesters – or to be more accurate – got his security forces and police to do the tooth-showing and bovvyer boy musclework, his piddling weakness in the face of immense corruption could plunge the Indian nation into the most terrible bloodshed. By which I mean – he should fix cankerous corruption in his own house, and not ‘fix’ honest and decent protesters.

However, I am encouraged by a number of tidal changes that I now see.

Quite apart from his deep prostrating, longtime association with Sathya Sai Baba, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh now looks to be a spent force. His government is mired in many scandals. Given the evidence so long in front of international former devotee coordinators like Robert Priddy and myself, one can really raise a question:  Will the revelations now exploding in the Indian media about Sai Baba and key players on his Sai Central Trust broaden out to include some of the figures in local, state and central government spheres?

India’s PM Manmohan Singh. At the Feet of the Late Sathya Sai Baba

Might Manmohan Singh and others be about to face their Watergate? 

It will be a test of what the producer of the BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami”, Eamon Hardy, threw into question, to use his words, of “India’s maturity as a democracy”.

Manmohan Singh and other members of his government, and a succession of past Prime Ministers and Presidents, and countless other high-ranking individuals in Indian politics, the armed services, police, government, and so on, have protected Sathya Sai Baba. Will, now, the wealth, the family connections, the underhand political wheeler-dealing and other antidemocratic tendencies in India thwart attempts at genuine reform? Will the big Sai Baba-prostrating money-bags like the Tatas, the Rais (the scion of the latter family threatened to sue us and got told firmly where to go!) at last, after too many decades, find that there is something in India that money won’t buy?

Or will the legions of corrupt misleaders continue to overpower democracy? Here is our chance to see.

Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi by Sathya Sai Baba’s golden casket

Large numbers of Indian citizens are rising up. Are they rent-a-crowds fomented by his immediate political rivals to power? Or by the Pakistan government’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)? It would not surprise if any or all of these should want to have a hand. But good Indian citizens inform me that many of these marches against government corruption are deeply genuine, no matter under whose banner the crowds protest.

Some masses rally to the call of solid, old-fashioned anti-corruption crusaders such as Anna Hazare. Others to Swami Ram Dev, whom a range of serious commentators depict as somewhat a religious fundamentalist, politically naive, and a bit of a hot-head, but well-meaning and brave nonetheless. Certainly, both have daily put their lives on the line. Both have also embarked on fasts-unto-death, in the way the better-informed still remember of Mahatma Gandhi”.

————————————

New Delhi, August 16, 2011

Anna Hazare’s arrest sparks off angry protests, both Houses adjourned

Gargi Parsai

Anna Hazare's supporters block traffic after the social activist was detained in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: S. Subramanium

The Hindu Anna Hazare’s supporters block traffic after the social activist was detained in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: S. Subramanium

In an early morning swoop, the Delhi Police picked up social activist Anna Hazare from his residence here just as he was preparing to leave for Gandhi Samadhi at Rajghat ahead of his fast at JP park to press for a strong anti-corruption Lokpal Bill.

“Second freedom struggle”

“This is the second fight for freedom and this movement will not halt now,’’ said Mr. Hazare as he was whisked away with several supporters trying to stop the vehicle that carried him to the officers’ mess at civil lines. He was later sent to Tihar jail after he reportedly refused to offer surety for his bail before a magistrate.

“We have orders from higher up,” said the detaining officer when Mr. Hazare asked him what his crime was. Team Hazare was denied permission to stage his indefinite fast and prohibitory orders were imposed at the venue after they refused to comply with all the riders imposed by the police.

The arrest sparked off angry, widespread protests with reports of people courting arrests from different parts of the country and opposition parties slamming the move as an attack on democratic and civil rights of citizens.

Both the houses of Parliament were adjourned over the issue.

Along with Mr. Hazare, other key members of the India Against Corruption movement including Arvind Kejriwal, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia were also detained from different venues. About 1,300 supporters were detained in Delhi alone.

In a terse statement made to the press, Home Secretary R.K. Singh said Mr. Hazare was detained because he said he was going to defy prohibitory orders.

With opposition parties and activists likening the government action to the emergency imposed in the country in 1975, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee came before the media to say that while everyone had the right to protest, were the police to perceive a law and order situation, it could impose conditions. Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Ambika Soni also addressed the media to express similar views.

Attack on democratic rights: Brinda

Blasting the government, CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat said the detentions were an attack on democratic rights of the people which the government should re-consider. “We totally reject the argument that because the Lokpal Bill was in Parliament, there can be no protests on it. If it is so, then even the Women’s Reservation Bill is before Parliament and there are so many protests over it. Did the government accuse them even once as it has Anna Hazare?”

Terming it as a “sad day” for Indian democracy, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the move shows that the UPA is a government in panic and has over-reacted. “Do a group of citizens who disagree with the government have the right to protest and dissent or not or have we abandoned civil rights and the right to protest in this country?’’

“Rehearsal of emergency”

In Patna, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar described Mr. Hazare’s detention as “murder of democracy’’ and said it was a “rehearsal of emergency” which the people will never tolerate.

Addressing a joint press conference, lawyer Prashant Bhushan said he was going to move the Supreme Court against the action, while Swami Agnivesh called upon the government to withdraw the “repressive measures’’ and hold a dialogue with the civil society group.

Activist Medha Patkar said while there were several movements as theirs under the banner of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, but Anna Hazare had come to be a representative of all anti-corruption struggles. She said to say that the Bill was before Parliament and therefore there should be no protests on this was wrong. “After all, it was Parliament that passed the Bill on setting up Special Economic Zones.’’

Baba Ramdev, whose demonstration against corruption was lathi-charged by the Delhi Police in June, said this government was “dictatorial, cruel and manipulative’’.

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