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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Anna Hazare movement: Here are a few voices heard from an ear to the ground!

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Veeresh Malik, / August 18, 2011 12:47 PM.


It is the middle class which is the most visible in the progress of this present movement. The invisible others, who have the strings in their hands, are getting increasingly frustrated

One of the big questions doing the rounds with many of the ruling political and perception management classes in Delhi, as well as with a certain set of largely Anglophile pretenders, is—"how did we, or our in-house intelligence agencies—get it so wrong?" Certainly, there are honourable exceptions, two that I know of—Dilip Cherian, for one (who strangely enough does not seem to have been consulted by the Congress, although he handled their election campaign), and the abrasive Arnab Goswami for another. Both of them had their fingers on the pulse of the Nation, and declared it in advance, getting it right against the flow on various public forums.
But most of the rest, including limousine liberals and elite media channels, were and are still largely sneering at matters. Till Anna Hazare pulled literally out of his Gandhi topi this most amazing series of checks and counter-checks leading to the eventual checkmate so brilliantly portrayed in a series of body language changes on the part of the ruling coteries related to the Tihar Jail episode. If there was anything that said it all, it was the way Ambika Soni looked soon after she came on television, at a point when the channels knew that Anna Hazare had refused to come out of jail—but apparently she didn't. Brave lady, at least she came in front of the camera—the rest simply vanished.
However, semantics aside, the big question is—how did so many people who are supposed to be in the know of things, get this simple equation, staring everybody else in the face in the country, wrong? To try and answer that, a much longer article or maybe even a book or three on how information and intelligence is sourced might help. For now, briefly, some of the tried and tested methods do not seem to be working, in both fields—media and intelligence.

What works, then? There are different methods for different people. For me, I find that not carrying a huge camera or pad and pen, and engaging people in conversation as another fellow traveller, seems to work much better now. People talk for cameras, period, so better not to carry a big one. And marrying that to intelligence obtained from trade sources, people who would normally never interact with media, but do because of other alignments. Which is what I have been doing over the past few days in Delhi.

Some aspects, not brought out elsewhere, but relevant all the same, that emerged were:
1)    The one group of people who have come out smelling of roses in this whole episode are the rank-and-file ground-level frontline staff from Delhi Police. The same people who were used in the Baba Ramdev fiasco, have been a totally different group when dealing with Anna Hazare's people, since they have seen themselves being used in this episode also. Talking with some of them, I found out, for example, that they had put the word out to all the petty criminals—pickpockets, bag-snatchers, and similar—to stay away from the Anna Hazare crowds. One reason, as explained to me, was that "Madam Bedi kee izzat ka sawaal hai" (The honour of Ms Kiran Bedi is at stake). The other was that they, too, are simply fed up of the way the country is being looted.


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