Tuesday, May 01, 2012


(From GlobalPost -- May 2, 2012) Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and the coterie of supporters now known as “Team Anna” are striving to keep their budding mass movement alive, a year after Hazare's first hunger strike against graft brought tens of thousands of usually apathetic middle class Indians to the streets.

The problem? Anna fatigue, mostly. One guy with a little white cap can only keep television viewers interested for so long, and hunger strikes are notoriously low on vigorous action.

But Team Anna seems to have missed a trick from Eric Hoffer's seminal primer on mass movements: If your movement has a concrete goal, you can be derailed either by achieving it or by failing to make any progress, and it's all too easy to get bogged down in technicalities.

In targeting corruption, Team Anna had a sufficiently amorphous and abstract enemy. But as soon as they outlined their solution — a new law known as the Jan Lokpal Bill, designed to set up a national ombudsman's office — they pretty much sealed the movement's fate.

Before long, Manmohan Singh's Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was pushing a Lokpal Bill of its own. Shouts and slogans gave way to nitpicking comparisons of different pieces of legislation. The halo over Hazare was tarnished by his association with the far Hindu right, and Team Anna itself fractured over whether or not the movement should campaign against the Congress in the recent state elections.

In the latest spat, Hazare has had to drop plans to tour the country with the hugely popular but controversial right-wing yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, and Team Anna is busily denying that the expulsion of a Muslim leader from the core group signals that it's falling apart.

This all begs the question: If nobody turns up for a protest rally, does it actually make a sound? — By Jason Overdorf in New Delhi, India

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