Amidst the ongoing battle for a strong Lokpal Bill, Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi caught up with Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan on Kahiye Janab.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Swati: Congress has directly accused you of being a Maoist and they even called you an over-ground guerrilla, indicting you for dividing this nation and causing rift. They consider you as a threat to the world’s largest democracy. What’s your take on it?
Prashant : Basically I am involved in dealing with cases that concern human rights and are of public interest. Those who talk of human rights are often dragged into and presented as brutal and fascist and are indicted as Maoists and seditionist. Hence, they are treated the same way.
Swati: Till the time you were involved as a lawyer in dealing with cases the situation was different. Now, more than a million people know you because you have been a member of the historic drafting committee and a supporting member with Anna Hazare. Now that you are accused of being a Maoist, people want to know what’s the significance of all this. Take for example Arundhati Roy; she is known to be a lightning rod. Why do you support her stance and tag the democracy to be a participative one rather than being representative?
Prashant : See, we both have repeatedly said and agreed on one thing that the kind of system that is in place in this country, especially for the tribals, is totally unacceptable. These tribes in the name of possession have only three basic things - water, forest and land and even these are taken away from them and are given to big industries to garner profits. Those industries that already have large figures on their profit-sheets merely need these lands for setting up mines, factories and even for SEZ. Whenever these tribal people come forward to demand their right, either they are compelled to leave because of lathi-charge or they are killed in police firing. In such predicament, these people are left with only two options - either they wait and die of hunger or they take up guns and join Maoists for their fight.
Swati: After all that you said, I and even people would agree that from any angle you don’t seem to be speaking like a Maoist. Conversely, the government during this whole fight for Jan Lokpal Bill accused you of being a Maoist. They even called you the biggest anarchist of all time, accusing you of trying to overthrow the whole Indian democracy. They call you unelected and unelectable, what do you have to say?
Prashant : See, all these individuals think that they are the ones who got elected and hence, they are the supposed kings of this democratic nation. And they feel free to do anything under the name of law and so-called strategies: passing laws that suit their style, even if the people are entirely against their so-called methods. They think democracy is all about winning election every five years on the basis of financial influence and ruling the nation like kings.
And what we have been saying is that a good democracy should implement laws, formulate policies and take decisions keeping in mind the public opinion. Like the US-India nuclear pact could have had a referendum.
Swati: Referendum finds no mention in the Constitution. Does it mean they you are trying to overthrow the Indian democracy. Exactly what do you want?
Prashant : See, what we are saying is that there is no hurdle to hold a referendum.
Swati: But still it isn’t there in the Indian Constitution.
Prashant : There is no mention that on the basis of referendum one can make law or a policy. But what we are saying is that it should be there. Now many countries are using it.
What is exactly true democracy? It is all about the nation or the elected government to work as per the citizens’ wish. The laws must be the ones that benefit the individual of a country. It is difficult to trust the elected representative on his promise that he would represent the constituents and their issues for the next five years? Every issue must have a representative like Anna ji. Likewise the people would expect others to represent a particular issue. It entirely depends on the nation’s citizens. Now the kind of system that is there in the name of representative democracy is a totally defective and corrupted one. Every day, we see people who choose and elect politicians consider them corrupt by the end of the day. Hence, the citizens are forced to elect people that belong to a big party.
Swati: Now it’s a closed shop and only those people get tickets who either belong to these shops or who have big bucks. Let’s talk about Anna Hazare ji. He is fasting and protesting; he even forced the government to bend. He is a very simple man with pure values and strong approach. Now people accuse you, your father (Shanti Bhusan), Arvind Kejriwal and even Kiran Bedi of using Anna Hazare as a puppet for your personal gains. Is that true?
Prashant : What do you think we will gain out of all this? We have no personal gains or means of benefit to achieve anything through Hazare ji. We have no gain even if the law is passed. All we have been saying is that this Lokpal Bill is a weapon to stop corruption and hence, we support this fight. Anna Hazare has been fighting against corruption for the last 30 years; he had been protesting and fasting for a very long time. We only supported him by coming together and drafting a bill called Jan Lokpal Bill in public interest.
Swati: You know what kind of human being Hazare ji is. Even after being jailed he has been standing like a rock opposing the entire government; he never went down. Do you think a person so strong can ever be anyone’s puppet?
Prashant : The one who truly claims of knowing Anna ji won’t ever speak such a thing about him. He has been tackling issues for the last 40 years. In fact, RTI has been there because of him; now calling a man of his stature a puppet is something not acceptable.
Swati: He is so innocent; I don’t think that you or even anybody can use him for something so big and strong.
Prashant : Calling him a puppet would be wrong. There is nothing to say on it, he is very matured and experienced and today if the nation trusts him it’s because of his true honesty that has been reflected time and again.
Swati: Won’t you agree that people only trust him because they have lost faith in politicians. Whenever people think of a politician they can only remember and recognize Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja, Kanizomohi and even Ashok Chavan. There is a popular saying doing rounds these days that ‘Mera Neta Chor Hai’ (my leader is a thief). Don’t you think it is dangerous?
Prashant : To some extent you are right. It is true that people have now started believing that all politicians are corrupt.
Swati: And is that false?
Prashant : Yes indeed it is. Some of them are still honest and represent certain political parties. Unfortunately, the prominent political culture is corrupt.
Swati: CBI works great under the instructive orders of the Supreme Court and when it comes to reporting to the PMO, suddenly the whole situation changes. Don’t you think that instead of focussing on this matter, all you are concerned is about the inclusion of PM within the Lokpal frame? Isn’t that an egoistic issue?
Prashant : No we haven’t done that; rather the media blew up this issue as an egoistic one. We have a simple tact that a common man must get rid of corruption.
Swati: When will Anna Hazare stop fasting and what does he want?
Prashant: He wants the bill we drafted to be presented in the Parliament by the government. After that, it would be for the Parliament to decide what kind of bill shall be passed. We are just appealing the government to present the exact and original version of Jan Lokpal Bill rather than a version of it, which not only degrades the entire meaning but instead promotes corruption. And if they do not agree on this than they can even take a referendum and have a look on, what the entire country wants.
Swati: Is your appeal justified?
Prashant : We believe that our bill is in the public interest; we are even ready to talk about it in Parliament but only if the government-in-force introduces the original version of Jan Lokpal Bill.
Adapted by: Shruti Srivastava