Does fasting unto death amount to Coercion, or blackmail?
This question has arisen in the recent ‘fast-unto-death’ undertaken by Anna Hazare. The discussion has been taken onto the level of ‘in-principle’. Many well-known opinion-makers and self-proclaimed societies conscience-keepers have said that ‘in-principle’ such acts are not correct. In a democracy this could be a deadly ‘weapon’ that could be misused and the government could be regularly blackmailed to give in to the civil societies demands.
What seems to have been overlooked is that this act is a non-violent weapon, if a weapon at all. Also, does the government not exist for the civil society or is it the other way round?
The issue of blackmail or coercion is a secondary issue. In my opinion the issue is at a different level. If we sideline the blackmail idea for a moment – then this is nothing but the classical issue of means and ends. To achieve a definite objective, we resort to certain means – the end justifies the means, in this case. The right methods need to be taken, whatever it results in being immaterial, is means dictating the end.
In the epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna tells the Pandavas prior to the war of Kurukshetra that their focus should be on the end, which is the establishment of the rule of dharma. The war is just the means to achieve the objective. To achieve the ultimate end, which is so noble, if the means are not-so-noble, then so be it. Breaking or rather bending a few rules is not quite sacrilegious, as long as the end goal of establishing the law of dharma and establishing the rule of right over wrong is achieved.
The inevitable bloodbath during the war of Kurukshetra has to be seen in this regard. Enough crimes were committed – attempts to kill the Pandavas, depriving them of their right, dignity and livelihood, disrobing of Draupadi in public and many more such acts are to be seen as the overflowing of the cup of woes. Conciliatory efforts were made prior to the war and the option of peace was exhausted. War and the annihilation of the perpetrators of evil was inevitable and the need of the hour. Was there any other option?
Anna Hazare’s act of ‘blackmail’ needs to be seen in this light. Was there an option? Hadn’t we had enough? Has democracy not been taken for a royal ride? Can voting once in five years undo the wrongs of the last five years? For certain issues, is it worth the wait? Do the likes of Ms. Tagore and Mr. Bhatt, who have no meaningful claim to fame, have any better suggestion, besides telling us about the harmful effects of such acts on democracy? Even if Anna Hazare was wrong ‘in-principle’, was it not for the larger good of the society and a noble one at that? The nation rallied behind one man, as that seemed to be the only ray of hope in the grim horizon. If this man is guilty of blackmail and coercion, what would you term similar acts by the Father of the Nation about half a century back?
To borrow from a recent product commercial, I can only say, that if this act of blackmailing is a blot on the fabric of democracy, then yeh daag achha hai!