Leaving aside the historical context of ‘You’re With Us, Or Against Us’ – its origin, and criticism; the logic probably proved to be untenable, and ineffective in the US–led ‘War Against Terror’, in its global context.

To nullify any doubt that readers may have, regarding Jan Lokpal asking such a question to Indian Media, the answer is loud and clear ‘no’, as the core team behind Jan Lokpal has not yet put Indian media with that choice.

As a supporter of Jan Lokpal, I personally pose that question to Indian media as they hound members in Jan Lokpal Committee, and demand ‘proprietary demands that they should step down’, ‘holier than thou attitude of civil society’, ‘same level of scrutiny’, ‘Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion’, and what not catch lines in mindless TV debates, or newspaper articles.

I sincerely hope that I am not alone, and not in the group of minorities either.

At the same time, we all must ask (to be true to our professions, and justifiably so), why should one use such a war-like hysteria (in declaring ‘You’re Either With Us, Or Against Us’). People having other views would legitimately argue that, after all, it is not a war.

The answer is, if we slightly modify that quote of Bush and replace ‘terror’ with ‘corruption’ in Indian context, and put that choice as: “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against corruption in India”, it becomes easier to justify. It actually is more than a war.

Still there exist some elements of hysteria in that polarizing statement, and people in the opposite camp would demand, legitimately so, for further justifications for offering such war-like comparisons.

Rightly so, because against whom are we at war, in our fight against corruption? Against our own politicians, surely not all whom are directly corrupt or even indirectly aiding corruption; against some big business houses without acknowledging their contributions, entrepreneurial abilities and dedications in creating a more competitive market with dynamic market forces, and thereby offering Indian consumers better products at lower prices; against our judiciary system who might have been bogged down by ‘justice delayed is justice denied syndrome’ in spite of having many a judge and judgment of which India is proud of; against our investigative agencies or anti-corruption autonomous bodies who might have failed more times than succeeded, due to their inherent characteristics and not because they lacked individual ethical standards in its employees?

No, this is not a war against any person, or democratic institution, or category of professionals. There can never be such a war.

It rather is a war against a collective system that inculcates more corruption without fixing accountabilities, or lack of having genuine mechanism of effective and speedy trials of those corruption charges, irrespective of the source of such corrupt practices. It is an attempt to reengineer the system, the processes and agencies involved, at a war footing, to counter the growing menace of corruption in India, which happens pervasively, but no one owns up.

The present and existing system, in spite of having multiple agencies and laws,  has acquired a nasty reputation to prevent or even inculcate a fear among many high-ranking officials as they routinely engage in graft charges, or even penalize corruption once it is proven beyond doubt; and thereby needs a thorough revamp.

As a citizen supporting Jan Lokpal, in spite of admitting Jan Lokpal not to be a panacea or perfect, I would hold “You’re either with us or against us in this fight against corruption” to any, who engages in any action to derail or even demoralize any of the five civilian members of present Jan Lokpal Committee. It is secondary whether the detractors indulge in such actions deliberately with evil intentions, or even genuinely to have a better system or credibility in this collective fight against corruption.

Any unnecessary questioning without offering absolute clarity is against the bigger interest of this nation and its people. Indian media simply can wait – until two deadlines set – 30th June and 15th August, one for placement of the draft bill in parliament, and the other for its passage from the parliament, are comprehensively crossed. That does not mean the institutions investigating these allegations need to wait.

Unfortunately, the accused members also can’t wait to clear their names. They are more needed in the ongoing war now.

A fight, that India has been fighting in an unorganized manner for forty-two long years, against this menace of corruption, has now escalated to a war since the outcome of the fast of Anna Hazare. And it has surely been organized now, little better – but again not perfect.

I must concede that my argument of escalating this fight against corruption to war, from an unorganized level to little better organized level, is little untenable. Because this war is definitely not a war again of the five civilian members against the five government nominated members.

At the same time, there can’t be any denying, on who would argue in the forthcoming battle of words in the drafting committee meetings, for a bill giving more teeth to fight against corruption at all levels, and who would try to dilute that for the privileged power enjoyed in pockets of governance.

Many of us have tried to use our limited resources to be heard; many of us, who believe any change in civilian members in Jan Lokpal committee would derail or significantly weaken the system, have offered many of these views against the tenability of the detractors, genuine or vested.

Based on new allegations as they surface like unending barrage of missiles from unknown sources, here are a few more justifications to allow Bhushans not only to continue, but to strengthen their spirit, and the overall Jan Lokpal spirit, in the bigger interest of the nation.

The little bit of learning many of us have, surely have informed us – provided we cared to learn, that the devil always lies in the deep. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity or resources to go through the detailed allegations. It is based on the media noise – so there may be shortcoming in my interpretation of the same.

Regarding the proprietary of land allotment, isn’t it too familiar a story that middle class Indians have faced in all urban pockets on land? Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal repeatedly stated so – questions should be asked to Noida Development Authority or the allotting agency. If the analogy isn’t grossly wrong, here’s a piece against land allotment discretionary policies, enjoyed by many such authorities, depriving Indian farmers (or original land owners). Recently Prashant Bhushan himself wrote an editorial in The Hindu, pointing his concerns (and Bhushans probably fought, or even have been fighting legally, against the procedures followed in this particular allotment also, right?).

2nd point comes, as one panelist pointed out in one of these TV shows, that there was an interview in the allotment process. None of us know what happened in the interview process that determined quality of application for land allotment. Did Bhushans offer bribe, or diluted their fight legally against such practices subsequently? We simply don’t know.

Next question comes, applying even a higher degree of moral judgment that if we feel something to be wrong, why subscribe to that land offer made by the authority here. Bhushans should have never applied to that advertisement knowing drawbacks of it. Even if they applied without knowing the drawbacks when the adevrtisement appeared – they should have rejected the allotment as there was arbitrariness in the allotment process when questions on that process subsequently surfaced, and particularly when they initiated legal proceedings against the same allotment process.

Sounds fine, but how many of us do it? Let’s take another analogy that million of Indian middle class families are familiar with.

It happened with our family, and we did not reject the allotment of admission that our son got in, in one of the respected schools in Kolkata. It went through the standard processes that all parents go through, at the beginning of admission session at junior nursery (or KG) levels. In this incident, the kid along with the parents, were called for an interview based on our application (five years ago). I am not sure whether the rules forbidding interviewing kids, and interviewing parents for school admissions did come up then (they probably exist now, right?), surely these practices were being discussed. Morally they were untenable then too. I myself had that moral view then, without exactly knowing the details of the admission criteria (and parents role in it, through an interview process).

However, irrespective of what rules state, or moral values indicate; hundreds of private schools still engage in similar practices. And irrespective of what moral values we parents have, we simply can’t refuse those coveted admissions, in the ground that they flout norms – explicit or implicit ones.

So, with my limited knowledge and understanding, Bhushans didn’t do any wrong. If their action of receiving land, based on available alleged facts if proven to be true, is wrong; we all are, in some way or other.

(One relevant point here is, because of the profession of Bhushans, and assuming this noise that they challenged the land allotment process from which they may have benefited in a court and it still is ongoing, being similar to the analogy of any parent coming from legal profession again and having high moral values suing a school following above-explained admission processes, for admission of his/her own kids, irrespective of the outcome of his/her own application. The relevance comes regarding timing and continued sincerity displayed by the lawyer in following up the legal case. At the same time, the nation must not hold Bhushans accountable, as ‘the only moral police’ for the whole nation, for cases they fight or don’t fight or even give up later, in their crusade against corruption or wrong processes that may inculcate corruption, expecting them to devote equal attention to thousands of similar wrong practices across the nation).

Coming back to the CD, the controversial comment is, Shanti Bhushan is quoted to have said he could influence a judge for four crores. Harish Salve, another eminent lawyer, in a TV panel said, many a lawyer many a time claim such things, irrespective of truthfulness of such claims, to impress their clients. The CD itself is disputed. In a corrupt system, if one falls for merely stating it (none of us again know what happened subsequently), s/he does not need to come clean without knowing the whole context and subsequent related actions.

Coming back to the school admission analogy, many of us may recall such informal discussions, that seats are being offered at such and such costs, at so and so schools. Does it mean that every one of us, who ever passed a comment on the price-tag in such physical peer-group informal discussions, or telephonic conversations, always got our ward admitted through that discussed price tag, and not through the regular process that the school follows?

I must repeat the disclaimer again – the devil lies in the deep. I am probably engaging myself in not following this adage, to my own discomfort, because the cacophony of the media did not answer the specifics and the timelines of the context (else, I might have missed them).

At the same time, isn’t it what Indian media is best at most of the time – debate without reading the details, or understanding, and thereby failing to debate the subject in its full context to the benefit of the people, where the noise is always louder than the quality of the content? So the discussion becomes ‘CD’, ‘land allotment’ rather than the content and the context of the same, and judgments are passed and hanging too takes place.

(As an academician, I blame myself for such poor quality of TV debates in India – fault of which definitely lies with the journalists, and the institutes that produce them. I wish I had the moral authority to grade them ‘F’ repeatedly, had they been my students. However education in India isn’t the same as in the best of the societies.)

Coming back to ‘You’re Either With Us, Or Against Us’; let’s take the analogy to its rightful context. God forbid, it should never happen again; but assuming a war breaks out between India and Pakistan. And at that point of time of continuance of war, if vested interests or genuine questions from Pakistan raise similar points of allegations against  Indian defense chief/s and establishments, leading to questioning their commitment to India’s causes for that war,  to demoralize Indian troops and citizens; how would we response?

By asking our key guys, from defense or democratic authorities supervising Indian defense interests, to step down and clear their names, and substitute them with other eminent leaders of having impeccable capabilities – as the war continues?

You can’t be more hilarious.

Corruption is a much bigger enemy to India than Pakistan is to India (Pakistan isn’t an enemy at all, in my personal view). And the war against corruption has indeed started, although it surely won’t be the last one. The deadlines are clear – 30th June and 15th August.

Rest all can wait. What can’t wait is the moral of these five-member armies representing India’s fight against corruption.

In one side, there’s an organized army, habituated in defending or not acting against corruption for forty-two years; in another side there’s a civilian and amateurish attempt to get organized to fight corruption. The analogy partly reminds about ongoing developments in Libya, without any possibility of al-Qaeda like elements ever being, in any way, present in Indian civilian members representing the Jan Lokpal committee.

‘You’re, Therefore, Either With Us, Or Against Us’.

I invite you to visit my blog, Wondering Man (or take a look at my book,Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d that rightly predicted many of the economic and geopolitical crises, to the gold prices and the currency disputes). You are also invited to join me on twitter

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