Ralegan Siddhi, Nov 22: Anna Hazare came under fire from political parties for his controversial comments that alcoholics should be flogged and shamed in public, a prescription dubbed by Congress as a Taliban-type action.
The 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader's approach to combat alcoholism also kicked up a debate today in the cyberspace with some bloggers saying the Gandhian is exceeding his “mandate” and that he should not go “overboard” and remain focussed on his campaign to fight graft.
Hazare's way of going after drunkards came to the fore when he spoke of how he got people in his native village here in Maharashtra to give up drinking. He however advocated giving prior warnings before taking any such steps.
The social activist said that if anyone after drinking creates trouble he would be simply warned thrice because he is “our man(belonging to our village.” The person will also be made to understand that it is not good to drink.
“But even after warning him thrice if he again drinks then we will take him to temple and he has to swear by God that he won't drink in future.
And even after all this he drinks then we will tie him up to the electric pole in front of the temple and then beat him up so that he gets scared,” he said.
Hazare justified this type of approach saying it is for the benefit of alcoholics since it will force them to get rid of their habit of drinking out of shame after getting beaten in public.
According to Hazare, alcoholics who have been reformed have told him that but for the action of public flogging they would have lost everything.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari when asked for his reaction equated Hazare's suggestion to the way Taliban used to punish those who did not comply with the Sharia law.
“I think the Taliban used to say the same thing. By that analogy, you will possibly have to flog half of Kerala, three-fourth of Andhra Pradesh and about four-fifth of Punjab. Therefore that's quite a tall order.”
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman also ridiculed Hazare's suggestion and said that her party does not support such radical methods and his approach was no way to deal with alcoholism.
“It is not something which you can implement, not because you can't but these(steps) are not the ways today,” she said.
Hazare's comments set the cyberspace abuzz with some sarcastic comments. One blogpost said this was “anna's ‘shariah' punishment for drunkards.”
“Dear Anna Hazare, please accept: People won't stop drinking. Nor smoking, infidelity, violence, prostitution etc. Just focus on corruption,” said one blogger.
“Hazare is exceeding his mandate,” said another.
One blogpost said, “Its Anna's ‘Anna'rchy time. please don't try to be a #Hitler or #Stalin on national stage. India is not Ralegaon. We won't accept it”.
There was also some support from Hazare.
“The politicians have mastered the art of dragging people away from the main issues. What Annaji did in his home village was an Act, which was supported by overwhelming number of people in the village,” one blogger said.
“Anna Hazare is an honest person with a simple view of the world which is either black or white. He cannot understand there is an interminable grey which requires the application of reason to comprehend,” said another.
Writing in his new blog, Hazare himself noted that in his Ralegan Siddhi village with a population of 2,000 people there were “regular fights” due to alcohol.