Q&A Aruna Roy, 66, Organiser, Jan Parishad
Aruna Roy tells Revati Laul about the rising from the ground — both in the Jan Parishad and the AAP and what this could mean for 2014.
EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
What’s the need for a Jan Parishad and why now?
My villager friends have taught me that when they vote, they look at three things. When they pick a sarpanch, they look only at local issues. When they elect an MLA, they may vote completely differently. But when it comes to selecting an MP, they are clueless about what that person can actually deliver. Because they have no idea how manipulation takes place in Parliament either to make a legislation or to restrict powers or to do anything. Now they are evincing a great deal of interest in understanding how their vote actually works. Someone else told me recently that one section of the middle class constantly harps that “we have had too much democracy”. They say there are too many dharnas, etc. They don’t even bother to unravel the threads of this discussion and see if it is democracy or a denial of democracy. Slowly, it gels into a formation where you say democracy is bad. It’s a trajectory that is based on quicksand. So, for them too, it’s important to disaggregate this entire notion of a democracy and see what it really is. And recently, there have been so many questions. What is civil society? What is a government? What is a political party’s primary mandate?
Why 2014 as the objective and what are your aims?
2014 is election year. So, we want to start telling all political parties that if you don’t start addressing these issues, you won’t get our votes. We are not fighting to get a particular party into power. We are saying no matter who comes, you will have to deliver on these counts.
How do you place this group amid the many grassroots collectives, some of whom are now supporting Arvind’s party, while some remain with Anna?
Arvind’s is not a movement anymore. He has become a party. The demand for a political party to be formed didn’t arise from the movements. It created itself. So we would talk with that group like we would with any party. How can a movement be a party? It’s like saying I want to be both inside the House and outside. You can have sympathies in both places, but will be present in only one space.
Has the metamorphosis of Arvind’s movement into a party upset you or provoked you in any way into underlining your kind of work with grassroots movements?
Our campaign is not a reaction against anybody. Let me underline that. It’s not because of this campaign or what the middle class is discussing that we are doing this, because the middle class has been discussing corruption in their drawing rooms forever. We didn’t lose anything that we have to reassert it.
Is there a perception that this government has lost its mandate and sunk to a low that hasn’t been seen in a while?
Well, no government has brought in a spate of legislations in which they have handed over the running of the government and principal sovereignty in management of fiscal policy to external investment in the country. Our problem lies there. It’s a fairly deliberate opening up of an economy for very specific ends. We are here to say to Parliament that we have sent you there to do business. That’s why we are fighting for a pre-legislative process. The government’s basic economic paradigm is affecting our sovereignty and that is the real issue. Not corruption. Corruption is a fallout of that arrangement. India is now running behind red herrings. And everyone is happy. Because no action is being questioned and when someone dares to ask a question, they are put in jail. Whether it is (Jharkhand land rights activist) Dayamani Barla or Medha Patkar.
Revati Laul is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.