Monday, August 15, 2011

Anna's Brahmaastra

On that fateful night in the first week of June, the late Smt. Indira Gandhi confronted the sum of all her fears. If she gave Gen. Brar and Col. Israr's men their marching orders, she would be committing to a level of coercion that had never been attempted in the history of the Republic. If she told Gen. Brar and Col. Israr's men to stay their hand, she would be effecting a moral surrender by the Government of India.

Sadly, given the intensity of emotions that this event brings up in India, we seldom discuss the calculus that went through the late Madam Prime Minister's head. And most of us do not know how she passed through that long dark and stormy night.

Today - we are faced with a similar choice.

A weapon designed for the defence of the defenceless is being pointed at the Government of India.

No form of government is perfect - democracy is not without its flaws. Protest is always welcome, but Sri. Anna Hazare has flashed the brahmastra - his willingness to carry out a fast unto death - in the Government's face.

This singular act conveys a degree of moral supremacy and commitment that is unquestioned in modern India. In the US - if someone like Rosa Parks or Rev. Martin Luther King had indicated such a desire - the President would simply have sent in a bunch of DevGru or SFOD-D people to stick a saline drip into their arm. In the UK they would simply have sent some SBS/SAS types to deal with the person.

You can't do that in India. It will be an assault on the moral foundation of the nation. India earned its freedom through precisely such fasts and such sacrifices. The GoI cannot turn on its own roots.

It is unlikely that Annasaheb will be deterred from his quest. Anna knows this is a suicide mission and he has accepted it. Anna walks the same path that countless martyrs of India's security forces have marched. Like them, Anna took an oath - and now the oath binds him to the path of no return.

Yet the Government of India can no more agree to Annasaheb's demands than it could agree to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's demands.

The threat of moral force does not intimidate the Government of India. The Government of India is duty bound to protect the life of a person - however disinclined the person may be to save their own life. And as long as a suicidal person does not threaten the life of another person, the Government has no cause to use coercive force.