In India and in Cambodia – disagreements about social activism

In the following notes, I had written about a growing anti-corruption movement in India:

Now, on 8 June 2011, The Cambodia Daily had a related picture with the following caption:

Yoga guru Swami Ramdev, left, and two followers perform yoga during his fast against corruption in the northern Indian town of Haridwar yesterday. On Sunday, police used batons and tear gas to forcibly end a peaceful anti-graft protest by Ramdev and thousands of his followers in New Delhi.

I had promised to continue following these events which seemed to start something extraordinary in this country, often called the largest democracy in the world. – There are almost daily reports in major newspapers in India. A non-political movement led by several well knows social activists to get anti-corruption legislation finalized – pending since 1968, and whichever party was in the majority found some reasons and some pretexts to delay – was started and got increasingly broad popular support. While not cooperating with any political party – neither opposition nor government related – the institutions of government finally had to agree, because of popular pressure – to enter into cooperation by forming a joint drafting committee, with half the members from civil society, and half the members government ministers or government appointed persons. The draft was to be finalized by the end of June.

As could be expected, some criticized the government to make too many concessions by accepting these procedures, and also outside of the government controversial discussions started, questioning the legitimacy of those civil society activists who had taken the lead and achieved new, dynamic developments which had never occurred during past decades.

But more recently, there appeared major problems: while it had been hailed as a success that highest level cooperation with government had been achieved for drafting legislation, some civil society activists have now declared not to attend the next joint drafting session, because the government component in the joint drafting committee want to exclude the prime minister from being investigated by the new structure to be set up.

Their argument is that the government in power might be paralyzed and the state might be in danger, if the head of government would be under investigation by the new anti-corruption body.

This seems to be similar to the situation in many countries that the head of state or the head of government cannot be indicted while in office, and any criminal investigation would have to wait until the suspect resigns of is voted out of office.

More recently, the well known yoga master Swami Ramdev joined the anti-corruption movement. Though he also holds the position that the head of government should not be under the purview of the new anti-corruption laws and is at odds with other civil society activists, a massive violent police action ended a peaceful yoga meditation session of thousands of followers of Swami Ramdev. Some of his opponents say “he should just teach religion and not take a stand for social justice.”

This is similar to censoring a Buddhist monk recently in Cambodia by authorities in the Buddhist orders in Cambodia. The Phnom Penh Post had reported under the headline Pagoda Ban for Activist Monk that the monk and social activist Venerable Loun Savath Loun Savath that Buddish Supreme Patriarch Non Nget of Wat Ounalom had ordered pagodas in Phnom Penh not to let him stay – though such facility is normally offered to monks. The reason: he had frequently joined land dispute protests and advocated on behalf of displaced villagers, and had also participated in meetings with people threatened by eviction at the Boeung Kak Lake area. The Supreme Patriarch is quoted to think that the actions of the censored monk “caused villagers to think badly about Buddhism. – What he did is not related to the monks’ point of view and has broken the Buddha’s rules.”

There are Hindu swamis and Buddhist monks who are censored by some persons with authority in their religious communities and traditions. Obviously the thousands hit by police in India did not agree. There seems to be also not much proof that the villagers listening to the monk in Cambodia thought bad about Buddhism – why would they have confidence in this monk, while they feel to be victims of the rules in power over their houses and lands?

Flattr this!

Comments are closed.