SUPPORT SHANTI BHUSHAN AND HIS TEAM
IT IS EITHER NOW OR NEVER
85 years ago, Shanti Bhushan was born in the home of an eminent Public Prosecutor of the British Raj. Little did anyone imagine that one day this man would shake the corrupt foundations of independent India from its very roots. Shanti Bhushan became a lawyer much against the wishes of his father, and eventually went on to become the Law Minister of India.
Shanti Bhushan’s son Prashant Bhushan, who left IIT Madras and Princeton to pursue law from Allahabad University, chose the most un-travelled path for an eminent Indian lawyer. As a son of a former law minister, Prashant Bhushan could have hobnobbed with the high and mighty like most other luminaries in the legal profession. But instead of representing the Ambanis and the Tatas like his more pragmatic colleagues, Prashant Bhushan chose to represent little-known NGOs like Arvind Kejriwal’s Parivartan.
Prashant Bhushan says that he chose this thorny path because nobody else from his fraternity was willing to do it. “I didn’t want this role of a campaigner. But the legal fraternity is a peculiar set of animals with extremely low levels of interest outside themselves,” he says.
In 2007, Prashant Bhushan formed “Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Judicial Reforms” (CJAR), with himself as the convener, and Arvind Kejriwal, an ex-IITian and ex-IRS officer, as one of the working members. CJAR set out an extremely ambitious agenda for itself. It sought to make the Indian Judiciary accountable and subject to scrutiny, challenge, and disciplining, which is effectively seeking to transform the very core principles of the Indian Constitution regarding India’s judicial system.
In September 2009, Prashant Bhushan made a startling statement in an interview with Tehelka that out of the last 16 to 17 Chief Justices, half have been corrupt. A Contempt of Court case was filed in the Supreme Court against him. In his defense, Prashant placed on record facts, material and evidence to dispel any notion that he had made his statements without any regard to truth.
This was followed by Shanti Bhushan filing an application in the court for being impleaded in the same case. Shanti Bhushan stated in his application: “[O]ut of these [16 previous Chief Justices], eight were definitely corrupt, six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed.” He also placed on record before the court a list with names of corrupt judges in a sealed cover.
This was followed by 25 more people, including Arvind Kejriwal and Aruna Roy moving an application in the Supreme Court to say that they are “reiterating whatever has been said by Mr. Prashant Bhushan regarding misconduct and corruption in Judiciary in his interview given to Tehelka”. These applicants thereby sought themselves to be made party to the contempt “so that they could also be punished for the alleged contempt by the court”.
On 9th December, 2010, Shanti Bhushan spoke in favour of the Indian Judiciary being brought under ambit of the proposed draft Lokpal Bill. However, the political class did not think it worthwhile to bother for the utterances of an 85-year old civil activist. They were probably convinced that what had not happened in the last 42 years had little chance of happening even now. This state of complacency is reminiscent of the British Raj, when the British officers were convinced that “a country that has not awakened for 200 years has little chance of awakening even now”.
The truth, indeed, is that the masses of India would have never understood the logical arguments of the Bhushans and other civil society activists like Arvind Kejriwal. The complacency of the Indian political class was not without valid reason. They knew that the masses do not have the capacity to analyze complex matters.
It was then that the miracle happened. Arvind Kejriwal’s idea to rope in Anna Hazare as the public face of this movement turned out to be a masterstroke that no one had predicted. What logic had not been able to do in 42 years, emotion did in 42 hours. It swept the carpet from under the feet of the Indian political geniuses – for the first time in the history of independent India.
The Dirty Tricks department of the Indian politics still hoped against hope, and resorted to planting a ridiculous argument of nepotism, using Baba Ramdev as a pawn, targeted against the Bhushans. Arvind Kejriwal publicly protested that this was the government’s cheap trick because they knew the Bhushans are going to be tough negotiators.
The government’s current chief troubleshooter Kapil Sibal came up with another unique argument that the Lokpal Bill would not help the cause of poor’s education or medical or other basic needs. If the argument is that the Lokpal has nothing to do with the poor, whose welfare and progress largely depend on the government’s revenue, then it is either idiotic, or it is deliberately orchestrated to set a belligerent tone for the drafting negotiations on the Lokpal Bill.
The politicians still continue to believe that they can outwit Shanti Bhushan and his handful of crusaders who have become the fateful agents of change. Just a few hours before the first meeting of the drafting committee on Lokpal Bill, an anonymous CD has been released that casts a shadow of doubt on the integrity of the Bhushans. Shanti Bhushan has promptly filed an FIR stating that the CD is completely fabricated and fake. A forensic test will prove the truth, but till then the Dirty Tricks department of Indian politics is doing everything within its power to discredit the Bhushans.
Shanti Bhushan’s team is insisting that the proceedings of the drafting committee should be videotaped or audio-taped to ensure total transparency. This is the single most crucial instrument that they have right now against the opaque might of the government, and they must make it a pre-condition to all drafting negotiations.
The initial euphoria of the Anna Hazare campaign is over, and now it is time for real war. History will be witness to how the drafting committee’s negotiations proceed, and how determined the negotiators on both sides turn out to be. Whatever be the pressure, India’s soul must remain non-negotiable. Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare and Santosh Hegde need real support of the people of India now. It is now or never.
Without total support of the people behind them, these representatives of the civil society are bound to lose their courage and determination sooner than later. The enemy is extremely clever and extremely powerful. The enemy understands the complex art of politics. It knows that the attention span and the memory of the impoverished masses cannot be long-lasting. It knows that Delay, Doubt and Diversion are the three best friends that will disintegrate even the most spirited campaign in the world.
Gandhi had called the struggle for independence as the fight between “might and right”. The fight remains the same. Only the characters have changed. The real challenge is that the enthusiasm of the masses must not evaporate. It is only their enthusiasm that will force any real change. Anna Hazare and Shanti Bhushan are merely the instruments of this change. Such golden opportunities in history do not knock at the door every day. It is either now or never.
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