Remove Not the Cap but Corruption

The Aam Aadmi Party legislators entered the Delhi Assembly donning their skull cap inscribed with the words “Mein Aam Aadmi Hoon or I am an ordinary person”. These words are the credo of the new political party that has ushered in the transparency revolution successfully in the country in a commendable manner. The party claims to be of the, for the and by the aam aadmi. They have donned these caps (Topi in Hindi) since the birth of the party. However the rules of procedure and conduct of business prohibits members displaying any slogan, poster etc in the House. Hence objections were raised on the uninitiated members displaying their trade mark headgear in the House. They have complied with the rules and removed the caps from their heads. During the confidence vote they were seen without their caps. That is not a good sign: I mean a head without a cap at least to cover it.

What is a cap? Is it a symbol? Is it a necessity? The answer lies in history of India, the movement for freedom, the political sartorial value, the symbol of the economic condition of the aam aadmi recognized by Mahatma Gandhi and highlighted by him, the defiance of the mighty state power of the British Empire and its representative government in India, the statement of national pride, economic message of Swadeshi or indigenous products from local manufacturers of cotton cloth as against the mill made British cotton cloth, the statement of the pride that anything indigenously made was better than the products of the foreign ruler’s mills, the necessity in India to wear a headgear to escape the hot sun rays or other vagaries of weather, the vow of purity symbolized by white colour of the cap, national integration in a country endowed with huge diversity of caste, creed, religion, region and cultures. It needs to be reiterated that all Congress men were generally seen in white caps, made of khadi cloth, called the Gandhi cap. As these caps were popularized by Mahatma Gandhi as a symbol of open defiance of the British government, whose authorities donned hats on their fair head but unfair minds, they acquired the place of pride in the official attire of all congress men. They were in use till the Black Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975 made them mark of identification of congress men by the angry masses, who removed them for their own safety. Thereafter it is only few old congress men who are seen in this headgear. Anna Hazare is one such Gandhian, who wears spotless white khadi Kurta, Dhoti & skull cap. His campaign for the Jan Lok Pal Bill in Delhi in 2011 charged the atmosphere in the country and ignited the simmering anger in the hearts of the masses, who were fulminating against huge scams, financial irregularities, bunglings, ubiquitous corruption in the country, non-functioning of the UPA-II government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the contempt for public opinion shown by the body language and acerbic rhetoric of the ministers and congress men/women. When Anna Hazare observed the fast unto death, the public support for his campaign shook the congress party and its government violently. The government had to assure in writing Anna Hazare that it shall bring the desired legislation early and passed a Resolution in the parliament to convey their decision. It was a rare success for an ordinary Gandhian like Anna Hazare and the million other such aam aadmi in India and abroad to make the government accept the demand and promise to pass the necessary law within a set time frame. The aam aadmi was woken by this campaign. Mahatma Gandhi, who was almost archived by the congress party for the chain of other in-house Gandhis, resurrected. The masses saw in him our savior out of the mess that had been created by the corrupt Manmohan Singh led congress government.  A people who had almost lost all hope of a clean government, suddenly found someone challenge the might of the corrupt Indian politicians in the Gandhian way, exactly as the Mahatma did during the Freedom Movement. The intimidating ministers of the most despicable kind held out threats on a daily basis, arrested Anna and other agitators and threw them in the jail. But the followers of the Mahatma can never be frightened by lathi, danda, goli or jail (Long staff, bullet, jail).The net result was the birth of the second movement- the movement to free India of corruption, to establish a new order of probity, transparency and clean government. The Transparency Revolution was set in motion.

The AAP owes its origin, credibility and significance in that transparency revolution, in that second freedom movement. It is a different formation as Anna did not associate himself with the political party in true Gandhian way. Mahatma Gandhi never wanted the Congress to continue after the Independence. But times change, new ideas flow, new generation takes the risk to try their ideas. Arvind Kejriwal took the risk and formed the party. He was taken very lightly initially and right through the election campaign. The choice of his election symbol, a broom, drew more derisive laughter from the ministers and other power centres oblivious of the influence that Mahatma Gandhi still wielded on the Indian psyche. They notoriously ignored even contemporary revolutions in Asia and elsewhere on the lines of the non violent Gandhian principles.  The Congress ministers suffered from delusions of power in perpetuity. They were waiting to suffer terrible calamity. The AAP had trounced them at the elections and also formed a government without winning the majority of seats in the Assembly. They have forced the party of the corrupt to extend support to the candidate of their choice for the House Speaker. What more drubbing the forces of evil desire at the hands of power of transparency? Many people, including from the media, mistake it the success of Arvind Kejriwal and his team. This troop is entitled to the credit for organizing, managing and strategizing the party work, elections and government formation, but who knew them before Anna Hazare brought them to the lime light? What was their credibility as a political party or leader? Is their agenda different from the Jan Lok Pal movement? Can they survive without an association in public mind with Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare & the white Gandhian skull cap? Are they a different set of the aam aadmi from the aam aadmi associated with the Jan Lok Pal Bill? Can the other political parties not lay similar claims to the aam aadmi among their followers? Is the tag of the aam aadmi some kind of a chip on the shoulder to distinguish one from the other? Is it the same tag of a VIP/VVIP under a different nomenclature? Only the cap without any inscriptions on it will keep them in constant touch with the aam aadmi and the moral ethos of Mahatma Gandhi. The inscription on the cap is suggestive of attitude, arrogance and aloofness. Without inscription the cap conveys the appropriate message and keeps the government on the track of service to the people. Without the cap, one simply turns in to an aam congressi. The mandate of the people in the assembly elections was anybody other than the Congress. It was so because the Congress is now a synonym of corruption. The Anna led Lok Pal movement and his disciple Arvind Kejriwal led AAP have won the people’s trust on the basis of their anti-corruption credentials. They can remain honest if they do not remove the cap without the inscription on it.

M.K.Gandhi  did not earn the reverential title of a “Mahatma” for nothing. He was a leader and a statesman, a visionary and a great human being. Such leaders are born in centuries to serve a nation. When Gandhi started his political mission, one of his problems was the dress. How should he dress? He was an educated person who was used to wearing European clothes. He must have weighed the options before going to the people. His colleagues were proud to wear London or Paris tailored suits. But the aam aadmi in India was half naked. He could barely cover his body. A suited-booted Gandhi would have simply put off the people he was seeking to enlist. The matter must have become more complicated with the confounding diversity of the option for dressing appropriately. Gandhi sought the referendum from the aam aadmi, rather than his colleagues. He decided on his sartorial choice, picking up pieces from various regions to stitch a sartorial wonder reflecting the integrity of India which instantly appealed to the masses as a person very much like them- half clad, emaciated and affectionate. If the dhoti represented the North of India, the cap represented the Deccan peninsula, where the masses, especially the toiling farmers wore the dhoti and the cap respectively. The cap protects the farmer from the scorching sun. The landowners wore safa or pagadi (Indian headgear of different kind associated with the place or position of the wearer). The English officers wore their trendy hats. Gandhi’s cap mocked at them. The handful of the British uniformed troops compared poorly with thousands of peaceful Gandhi followers in white dhoti and cap. The message was clear. The challenge was powerful. The show was impressive. Like the crowds at the site of the Anna agitation in Delhi kept on swelling by the hour, the crowds at Gandhi public meetings went on increasing in spite of the atrocious crowd control mechanisms of the British police. The sea of white caps must have turned them white inside. They could see the gathering darkness over the British Empire in that whiteness. White is a very powerful symbol in Christianity and other world religions and literature too. Gandhi’s message must not have been lost on Her Majesty’s government. Gandhi went on adding to his address book of admirers and supporters in the western world. Those who had not seen Gandhi, had the opportunity to see the symbol of Gandhism- the white cap. It was the same cap that has been discarded by the neo-congress persons, who have brought disrepute to their party and gloom to the country. Is the AAP going to follow in the footsteps of these neo-congress people or make them follow the AAP in so far as living by the Gandhian ideals of public service by good mean for achieving the good goals is concerned?

The cap is also a symbol of revival of the indigenous manufacturing capacities, which were deliberately destroyed by the British government so that a huge captive market like India could be provided to their own national industries in the UK. Gandhi ‘s choice of the largest employment providing textile industry was an intelligent one. Millions of fine artisans were capable of producing millions of metres of cotton, silk and woolen cloth in the country to meet the entire indigenous requirement and export some surplus too. Taking the poverty level in the country in to account if the cap was chosen as a cheap but affordable piece of attire, it was a choice wisely made. The cap was selling for around 0.15 paise apiece till 1975. Gandhi advised all his colleagues to spin their own yarn and make cloth to promote khadi. It was quite rough to wear for the beginners, some of whom developed blisters on their hips. The skill, perseverance and tolerance that they developed in the course of this phase of khadi  gave them such strength that they grew determined by the day to carry on the fight for independence with greater vigour every time the British dealt with them cruelly. Such was the magic of the cap and khadi. It produced men and women of such sterling character of honesty, selfless service to the people and simplicity that it inspires the youth of even the contemporary global village community. The public response to Anna Hazare’s call for transparency emanated from such inspiring people epitomized by Mahatma Gandhi. As indeed was the case behind the emergence of the AAP. The only justification for change of government is fair laws and fair implementation so that the aam aadmi gets a share in the means of livelihood. Every hand needs work and every head a roof. A clean government is of no use if it fails on this count. The cap, which has not been born for long by the people living in luxury by the name of the Mahatma, has fortuitously landed on the head of the AAP. It is not by chance but a providential purpose. Someone has to shoulder the responsibility to serve the people genuinely honestly. In the present knowledge society it has fallen on the head of Arvind Kejriwal and other members of his team. They have been chosen to undertake the service. There is enough for everybody in India, only if the government chooses to act fair. Since the previous government has completely forgotten its duty, a new inexperienced set has been chosen in the solemn trust that they shall not betray the nation. The cap shall constantly remind the AAP of its charter to create more and more opportunities of employment.

White being the symbol of purity, the cap shall always remind the AAP of the need for honesty at all the time. It is said to be easy to say but difficult to practice. With the cap on the skull, it is easy to practice also. Without the cap, one becomes vulnerable. A recount of all the heads which launched in to radical change without a cap on their head reveals that they were soon seen wearing priceless crowns  made of gold & silver studded with precious stones. If corruption is driven away, it needs some place to reside. It finds an unprotected head the best place to set up shop. Once it succeeds in establishing its control on the mind of a ruler, it becomes the proxy ruler. It is easier in democracies where right to rule has to be secured every 5 years by making substantial investments. In a country of 1.3 billion people, not more than 70 ministers function as the government of India. Isn’t it remarkable that someone can claim to be honest in such a situation? It is nothing short of a Sadhana, a Tapasya or Yoga for such an individual. It is a simple vow to do so. A vow is a very light weight thing, lighter indeed than the white skull cap! If a Gandhian takes a vow to lead a life of selfless service to the people, he/she should wear the weight of that vow by wearing the white cap to constantly remind him of his/her duties. This is the symbolic significance of the Gandhi cap in this 21st Century A.D.

Anybody desirous of dedicated public service should wear the Gandhi skull cap. It should inspire piety in others. A society comprising people of clean thoughts achieves tremendous success. Such a country becomes a super power. Gandhi is there to make India the fabled Golden Bird (Sone Ki Chidiya).Public servants are not expected to be recluse or other-worldly people. They are entitled to normal happy life. They are expected to earn fair and live happily by their fair earnings. To provide a level playing field to everybody, this doctrine of fair earning and fair living extends to all manner of people without exception. Corruption so far has created uneven field. Transparency is for all and all are for transparency. Prosperity and power of a nation depends on its levels of probity and transparency in governance. We can do it.

The AAP needs to review its decision to remove its cap in the Assembly. Let the white Gandhian cap be visible in the House. It will serve the same objective that it served during the first Freedom Struggle – that of promoting a culture of “sacrifice” in national interest in striking opposition to the current  greed for acquisition by fair or foul means, peace & fraternity as against the violence signified by elected members in the House necessitating the interventions of the House Marshals to control the situation, fraternal feelings for building a strong unified nation as against the hate mongering by the political parties and ministers. There is no other panacea for the country.



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