Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gandhiji's courage of conviction

In 1938, a group of well-meaning people felt that against the best equipped British army, Gandhi's way of non-violence was doomed to fail.

They gathered in front of Gandhi and advised him to seek a compromise, a reconciliation on issues rather than waste his life fighting a hopeless battle.

Gandhi very calmly replied to them, "My life gets meaning only in seeking complete freedom of the country from the Britishers, so that we can have self-rule. I do not stand for reconciliations, settlements or compromise with violence, subjugation or enslavement. Give your advice to the weak who doubt my way."

On another occasion, some other people asked Gandhi, "What are the chances of your non-violent struggles to succeed?"

Gandhi smiled and said, "Honestly, I don't know. No one has ever experimented with non-violence as a tool for a national movement in human history."

"So, why do you pursue such a struggle that you are not sure of succeeding?"

"I do not work so that I succeed. I work because it is the correct thing to do, because it gives meaning to my life. It gives me the dignity to my existence even in its failure. A life without a cause has no purpose." Gandhi responded.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

AAP & Down - The Arvind I knew

Chapter 1 (excerpt)

While I had met Arvind only a few times, I had heard many inspiring stories about him. For instance, during his avatar as an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, he’d regularly expose fellow of officers who’d ask for bribes. While working with the Income Tax (IT) department, he was also operating as one of the founders of a grass-roots activism organisation called Parivartan. He’d visit the Sundar Nagari slums of Delhi, attend to the grievances of citizens, and resolve their concerns, whether this had to do with getting a ration card or common income tax and electricity complaints. Arvind used RTI to help people get their work done in government offices without paying bribes, and he organised public hearings to hold government officials accountable.

There are two stories involving Arvind and Parivartan that are particularly motivating. 

As all of us know, IT refunds can get held up for a variety of reasons, and the citizen gets severely inconvenienced. To resolve this, each time there was an impasse, a team of Parivartan volunteers would meet the concerned officer along with the assessee and ask for the date of refund. On the said date, they would reach the IT office with musical instruments. If the refund was refused, they’d sit on the floor of the office, sing songs, beat drums and clang cymbals, till the refunds were made.

Another story involved an individual who was asked for a bribe of Rs 25,000 by an IT officer to pass his refund order. Parivartan volunteers, along with select media entities, took a procession led by drums and cymbals, carrying a cheque of Rs 25,000 to pay the bribe. The officer, as expected, ran away from the back door.

I was bowled over by Arvind’s approach and audacity. I became his admirer. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

AAP & Down - prologue

I was sitting under a tree and talking to some of the farmers of Parchundi—one of the fifteen villages we have adopted in Marathwada, Maharashtra for rural development. 

We were having an intense discussion about some impending post-monsoon work. From the corner of my eye, I could see Govind, one of the smartest boys of the village, fidgeting. He appeared uninterested in the goings- on. Each time the conversation paused, Govind seemed to want to say something, but the words would stall.
When the meeting ended, I asked, ‘Govind, what is it?’ Sheepishly, he looked at me and whispered, ‘Sir, tell me please, exactly kay zhala?’ (‘What exactly happened?’) 

All interest in our earlier discussion vanished as every face in the gathering lit up with expectation.

It was a question I had got used to hearing wherever I went:
Kay zhala?
Kya hua?
Shu thayu?
What happened?

Yes, what happened to you and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)?

In other words: How did the party splinter? Where did it lose its way? And what exactly compelled you—one of its founding leaders—to quit?

Thousands of books have been written, lms made and historical volumes published with the details of India’s independence struggle. But very little has been written about what has been called India’s ‘second independence struggle’—a struggle almost synonymous with the creation of AAP and its promise to rescue a nation plagued by corruption. Equally little has been written about the party’s sudden implosion—and with it, the caving in of the dreams of a billion Indians for a new India.

Someone had to attend to this gap. Someone had to write about one of the most important phases in post- independent Indian history with knowledge, objectivity and insider information. Someone had to trace AAP’s meteoric rise and fall.

This book attempts to do that. It offers, not just bare- boned history, but a personal account and analysis of the events of the recent past, the minds of its protagonists—be it Arvind Kejriwal or Anna Hazare—and the ups and downs of one of India’s most controversial parties.

This is my truth and what I know of AAP.