Assange and Anna: How two crusaders lost their sheen


Julian Assange loses the extradition bail hearing.

The famous whistleblower was back in news. Headlines were made, but they were placed differently. The prominence and vigour with which they were displayed almost a year back was missing. What accompanied were reports on how the Australian has become zero from hero.

This wasn’t something that I could have imagined in December 2010. Following Julain Asaange and reports related to him in media with great interest as a journalism student in London to me the man who came from nowhere looked all set for taking the world by storm.

He had information which no one else possessed; had five of world’s most distinguished newspapers working with him not to mention the innumerable followers and donors. Such was the craze that hackers ‘Anonymous’ took down MasterCard and Visa when they decided to block payments made for Wikileaks.

Few days back Assange announced that Wikileaks was forced to temporarily suspend publishing while it tried to secure economic survival. No big outcry, no further attacks. His bail plea was turned down, the print space shrunk and prominence diluted.

Prior to this his one time trusted lieutenants backed out, opened their own platform, the media partners broke their associations while the new ones didn’t have that impact.

Interestingly he even changed his legal team to no great results so far. Now he is trying to reach out to media more something that he completely ignored or did at will.

Still remember a mail from Sunshine press that came in my inbox on March 9 almost after a month of requests which read

Dear Avinash,

Many people are contacting Julian for interviews, so we are having to be selective as he is so busy. He would like to do one in India. Please can you put in a full bid so we have all the information and are able to make an informed decision.

Please let us know:

What your readership is

What the impact will be

What topic you wish to interview on

How long you need it to be

Would you need to take photos

Do you pay a fee for interviews – we are asking this question now as we are trying to raise revenue

Many thanks,

Sarah

The last bit was a shocker.

A freedom of information activist asking payment for interviews and that is when I started losing interest in the man I was following endlessly for four months.

Now I am abruptly jumping to a different track, but can’t help compare Assange with our home-grown hero Anna Hazare.

The Gandhian Social worker from Ralegaon Siddhhi who did his bit for the society in his own small yet meaningful ways far away from shutter bugs and hype– till he shot to national fame on April 4,2011.

He sat on an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar and rest as many say is modern-day history.

The nation was caught in Anna frenzy, out of World cup euphoria and tired of reporting on endless scams sections of print media and some 24/7 news channels found a poster boy; that was the beginning of man taking over the mission he set out for.

In the seven months that followed Anna and his team dared to challenge the parliament, followers across the world were showing support. I witnessed a bunch of enthusiastic Indians camping outside Indian High Commission in London braving rains for the entire duration of Part II of Anna saga at Ramlila.

Such was the frenzy that former IPS and staunch Anna supporter Kiran Bedi said, “Anna is India, India is Anna.” Anna followed by his league of extraordinary gentlemen and women could do no wrong.

This is when he too started going down the Assange way in my opinion. After successfully surviving the allegations on Bushans, things started to go downhill.

Their pressing the cornered government to pass their proposed bill by August 30 was something that didn’t go well with many ardent supporters. Burning the copies of bill tabled by government in Parliament and terming it Jokepal followed. This was the beginning of ‘my way or the highway’ attitude doing the movement harm, from then onwards it was always Anna and Co. first with Jan Lokpal taking a backseat; at least in the public forums and memory.

Then spate of allegations against Team Anna disturbed the equilibrium and harmony of the public crusaders; with the team appealing people don’t vote for Congress in Hissar by elections, they grew bigger then their boots and not surprisingly some core team members walked away.

There were wide chinks in the armour. Followed were allegations(that can be read in Shekar Gupta’s comment Holier than Cow) on Team Anna’s integrity and they so far could not stand the heat.

Today even his next fast call or call it threat hasn’t created the fervour it created last time, its like one other news. The man and his brigade seem to be losing the Midas touch.

With both Assange and Anna losing out on the steam shows that when you rise to unparallel heights in public life the true test of your ability is not how you drive the cause but how you manage the situation.

A champion cause will not take you long, it’s the way you conduct yourself that will.

May be its time for both these crusaders to do some serious thinking and may be mend some of their ways, before they become chapters in history instead of creating one.

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Filed under India, Wikileaks, World

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