In New Delhi, 74-year-old Anna Hazare began a fast on April 5, launching a nationwide anti-corruption movement in the tradition of Gandhi’s satyagraha (soul force) nonviolent resistance. In August for almost two weeks, Hazare went on another hunger strike, creating massive public pressure for the immediate enactment of a Lokpal bill, which would create a powerful independent body (a lokpal) to investigate corrupt officials. As Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption agitation in India continues to gather momentum, many have asked, “How Gandhian is this movement?”
Hazare’s methods may match Gandhi’s, but to really answer the question one needs to look behind the actions associated with the historical Gandhi. The most fundamental creative idea with which Gandhi experimented was self-critical introspection—the faculty for constantly re-examining one’s own motives and methods. Then the opponent need not be encountered or experienced as an offensive “other” but as someone who, just like oneself, has the potential for critical self-reflection and thus can evolve to higher levels of consciousness and action. Hazare’s movement has not met this Gandhian standard yet.