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A SEASON OF FAITHS PERFECTION

2011 will be remembered as much for the uncertainty in financial markets around the world as for the quantum changes that have taken place; that too in the first 9 months of the year. From the winter of discontent came the Arab spring. Across the Middle East and North Africa, a sea change of popular uprisings has swept away the remnants of some of the worlds most despotic and corrupt regimes. The penny dropped in Tunisia 1st. where people across ages and ethnicities joined together to end the 23 year old reign of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who quit office in January after popular protests paralysed the country for months. Public anger had been sparked by the suicide of a young, unemployed man, Mohamed Bouazizi, who immolated himself on 17 December after officials stopped him from earning his livelihood by selling vegetables. The next domino was Egypt, where 18 days of anti-government protests forced a beleaguered Hosni Mubarak and his family to flee Egypt, a country hed ruled since 1978. One of the most corrupt countries in the world, Egypts energy resources have historically always funded the lifestyles of its rulers than helped its poor and unemployed. Much of the unrest in Egypt was driven by poverty, rising prices, social exclusion and anger at corruption and personal enrichment among the political elite, as well as a demographic majority of young people unable to find work. At least 846 people were killed during the uprising that toppled Mr. Mubarak and more than 6,400 people were injured. This was also the 1st time that social networking tools were used to get messages across and co-ordinate the protests, so as to have the maximum effect. The wave of popular unrest sweeping the Arab world came late to the state run by President Bashar al-Assad, one of the region's most authoritarian rulers. But since the first protests in mid-March in the city of Deraa, rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have died. After weeks of protests that Damascus claimed were the works of foreign instigators, the Army was sent it. For the next 22 days the world watched transfixed as tanks and armoured personnel carriers were sent out against unarmed men, women and children. In the cities of Homs and Deraa the footage captured by mobile phones riveted the world and spoke of another Tiananmen Square. In Yemen, the Arab worlds most impoverished nation, a tribal conflict between the supporters of President Saleh who has been in power since the 1970s and the main opposition has turned into a political battle. After the president refused to stand down and reneged on other promised, the protests took a violent turn and Mr. Saleh had to flee the country. The unstoppable force of disenfranchised peoples protests last stop was Libya. The popular uprising, backed mainly by the rebel National Transition Council turned into a full-fledged civil war. NATO and the western world, long despising Quadaffi, saw an opportunity and stepped in to provide logistical support to the rebel militia. NATOs role, to provide training, intelligence and contribute to the downfall Col. Muammar Quadaffi is praiseworthy on two accounts. Firstly, it was rightly recognized as an internal Libyan conflict and the Libyan rebels were in charge. All decisions were taken by the NTC and no NATO commander or

liaison was involved. This will provide a great deal of legitimacy to the new government, as it would be seen to have won the country in a fair fight and not with western help. Also, the NATOs campaign to dismantle the command and control infrastructure of the Libyan Military was spectacularly successful in that it was carried out with superlative degrees of precision and civilian casualties were at a minimum. It was the 1st NATO involvement where the US took a back seat. This will also go some way in mitigating the damage the George Bush Jr did to Washingtons image with the Iraq war. Elsewhere in Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the protests, though wide spread was centered around a few key issues and the demand for a fundamental change were not voiced forcefully. This month also marked a milestone by being the 1st month without any NATO casualties in Afghanistan. If Arab world was having a bad time, Indias political system was at its nadir. The Congress political establishment suddenly found itself lost without its leader in Europe for medical treatment. The floundering Congress had no idea how to deal with Anna Hazare; a man following the footsteps of Gandhi in whose name the Congress itself demands votes from India. While Hazare himself may not be as saintly as hes made out to be; his point has touched a chord with the Indian middle-class, which came out in large numbers to show solidarity with his struggle. The jocularly titled Team Annas Jan Lokpal Bill is a huge and complex document, whose simplified version is perhaps intentionally being kept out of public circulation. While the overall thrust of the proposed legislation is to make a non-political and non-partisan entity the sole authority for the countries ant-corruption fight; it is also in danger of creating a huge KGB like organisation with sweeping powers and little accountability itself. The proposed bills implementation also includes a re-organisation of several of the countrys existing legal and executive institutions. The most important and crucial flash-point is that the proposed Jan Lokpal or Citizen Ombudsman also has the power to summarily investigate both Parliament and the Supreme Court and at a moments notice dismiss and punish anyone found guilty. Oddly enough Team Anna is silent about corruption in the private sectors and amongst NGOs. While the government should allow for healthy discussions about the possible measures to eradicate graft in public offices; it seems unthinkable that it would or should hand over its powers to the civil society. The governments inability to chalk out a clear definitive path through this issue, belies its impotence to fight some of the more entrenched and institutional forms of corruption that all political parties have now come to rely upon. While police action may have been enough to remove Ramdevs Ramila; it didnt work with the much more politically savvy Hazare. When put into Tihar Jail, Hazare simply continued to carry on the fight; much more assured of attention and support than ever before. The governments final capitulation, though by no means its last has not only set back anti-corruption endeavors by some time costing it credibility but worse, has also ushered in a time of undemocratic institutions in a still-nascent democratic system.