New Delhi: An Open Letter from law student Shehzad Poonawalla to anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare. The 24-year-old law student has urged Hazare to appeal to his supporters to not intimidate those whose views are different from him on Lokpal bill. He also urged him to break his fast as his supporters are fast turning into violent mobs.


Dear Anna Hazareji,


First of all I hope this letter finds you in the best of health. You have fasted for more than a week for a cause with which every Indian identifies and we all are concerned about your health. I hope that you break your fast and regain your health at the earliest.


Sir, I am writing to you to complain of the brutal assault on my dear friend DP Satish, who is also a senior journalist at CNN IBN on the night of 22nd august 2011. The video link has been provided and the clip has been attached as well along with this email. My friend DP, who I met in the hospital (Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj Room no 105) describes how motorcycle borne supporters of yours dangerously overtook his vehicle last night at 10.30pm when he was returning home and thereafter stopped his vehicle at the next signal and thrashed him and his driver despite being in the wrong. While beating them these supporters used the very same national flags that they were carrying on the bikes to your rally and even chanted slogans in your support. Today, my friend, who is due to get married on 5th September 2011 is lying in the hospital with a broken leg and bruises.


Sir, you had assured us that your movement would be Gandhian in its spirit and approach but please explain to me whether you are happy with this unfortunate incident? Rajdeep Sardesai and Nikhil Wagle, both senior Editors of CNN IBN and IBN Lokmat also expressed concerns about the movement taking a violent turn. Nikhil Wagle, who has recently met you, said that these biker gangs and the like elements he encountered at your rally bore strong resemblance to the nuisance crowd seen during right winged mobilizations of Ram Janmabhoomi. He also said that he brought it to your notice that people were coming drunk to your rallies and you were disturbed by this.


Sir, I have full faith that you will not move away from Gandhian principles of non-violence but one feels that an atmosphere of intimidation and threat is prevailing over all of us especially in Delhi. If we say anything about the Jan Lokpal Bill we are branded as “corrupt” or “anti-Indian” even though we are only making points based on law and logic, whether in some public platform or in some debate or on any social networking platform. Do you or your team approve of this? There are so many instances where those who differ from your views are told unspeakable things and hurled with abuses by your supporters for merely having a different point of view on the Lokpal bill!!! Is it so wrong to have a different point of view? Is it so wrong on our part to humbly differ from the Jan Lokpal Bill and have our own suggestions? Why are we only being given a binary option namely that “you are either with Team Anna or you are corrupt”? Is this Gandhian or democratic? Is this how you intend to take the fight against corruption forward? Merely because we have some differences on some provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill so we become corrupt? Is this attitude healthy for our democracy? Should we not celebrate a divergence in views even though the objective is the same i.e. to fight corruption?


Sir, since you are a Gandhian I need not remind you that Gandhiji was not only against physical violence but also mental violence i.e. coercion and intimidation. Today, I feel I am being coerced to accept your view. Is that how you want your movement to proceed? Do you want my acceptance or merely my silence? Please take one look at my face book page and you will realize the rabidness of the comments that are made against me or anyone who has a different point of view as if we have no legal or moral right to say anything at all in the debate that has engulfed national imagination. When I just mentioned about how my friend got beaten up by some people who claim to be your supporters, I was told that I have faked this entire incident and that I am anti-Indian and hence I have done so! Some others said that people like me should be beaten up for opposing you. I have these comments saved and can show them to you at anytime. Your supporters accuse me of being a “traitor”. Do you agree with this Sir? Sir, would Gandhiji have allowed this to happen to me? He was always open to those who criticized his point of view. I am sure you remember that when the mob went berserk and set a police station to fire at Chauri Chura, he called off the Non-Co-operation movement fearing that such tendencies could not be condoned no matter how noble the cause of Independence. But today it seems that to achieve a noble end any and all means are justified. Please tell me Sir if this is Gandhian philosophy?


Sir your entire campaign is based on your moral authority. But when you see your supporters intimidating and beating up people for no rhyme or reason don’t you think the moral authority of your campaign gets diminished?


Sir I hope that you will consider my reservations. I am not the only one voicing them. I am just a 24 year old student. Several people with far greater experience in public life have raised serious questions about this atmosphere of intimidation. Therefore I request you and urge you to appeal to your supporters that they must not intimidate us. They must not use the brute force of their numbers or media backing to silence us rather they must have the patience to hear us and respect our freedom to speak just like we respect yours. Moreover, I request you to appeal to the perpetrators of the brutal attack on my friend to own up and surrender themselves before the Police. I appeal to you so that in this frenzy to fight corruption we must not lose our conscience or else we will end up becoming morally bankrupt and hence by necessary implication even more corrupt than before. I request you to appeal to those bikers to own up responsibility for their actions as running away from the same is also a form of corruption. Please make an appeal through your rallies and in the media that your supporters must not use intimidation against those who have differing views and the bikers who attacked DP Satish must surrender before the Police at the earliest.


I have full faith in your moral leadership and I know that if you appeal to your supporters they will do the right thing. I know if you ask them to show patience and restrain they will do so. I hope you will consider my request seriously even though I may represent a numerical minority. I am sure that if I were to have written the same letter to our common hero Gandhiji he would have ensured that justice would be done.


Once again I am very concerned for your health and I sincerely hope that you call off your fast before some unruly people take advantage of this emotional situation and create a law and order problem. Under no circumstances should we allow people’s lives to be played with. As a true Gandhian, only you can understand this threat of a crowd going berserk. Already the movement is beginning to show some signs of violence and if your health would deteriorate it may only add fuel to the fire. I genuinely fear the consequences of the same. Hope you share my concerns.


Look forward to your reply.


Warm Regards, Shehzad Poonawalla (Law Student, ILI, New Delhi.)

Top - Home