Reflections on RJA’s Hunger Strike

Those of you familiar with our blog must be aware that for the past few weeks we covered Raja Jahangir Akhtar’s (RJA) fast against corruption. The news of his intended fast had come to me during Ramadan, through a dear friend in Pakistan, and we immediately posted his first press release on the blog. In fact, and I am proud to say this, The Pakistan Forum was the first major blog to post information about RJA’s intended initiative.

Since then we covered the story both in its early as well as culminating phase. As you know, RJA has ended his strike today after the politicians promised to seriously consider and legislate an anti-corruption bill. I do hope they live up to their promise; If not, we will be there to hold them accountable on the pages of this blog.

Personally, RJA’s actions have given me a new kind of hope: I mean here is a 68-year-old  citizen of Pakistan who has forced, through personal will and lateral solidarities, the Pakistani politicians to listen. And he accomplished this when one of the major TV networks (Geo TV) was shamelessly avoiding any mention of him in their so-called news.

A hunger strike is a performative act: it presupposes an audience of like-minded people and a means of communication to spread the message. In a way it is an act that introduces an anomaly within the discursive space of power, a sort of breakage: the kind that forces power to stop in the tracks of its normative drive. A hunger strike cannot be an end in itself but is always caught up with the future that it may unleash: Gandhi’s Satyagraha relied quite heavily on such public performances, but succeeded only because the press covered it.

What we saw in the last few weeks is unprecedented. Young people joined the movement and brought the tools of their time to fray: a Facebook page, a live stream, a blog. Countless webs of transnational solidarity woven together through techne but made possible because one man stood up and said: “enough!” This is the greatest lesson that I have learned: that one person can unleash so much power of good.

There were quite a few detractors: some venal members of a forum called The Defense Forum, some tired youth on Facebook asking silly questions without offering to do anything themselves, but then that is the nature of such actions: the nay-sayers, the fatalists, and the minions of power, when threatened, always resort to cowardly, malicious tactics or, like Geo TV, pretend to not notice at all.

But this has been an enlightening experience for all of us who were involved and I am specially grateful to my friend from Pakistan (whose name I cannot mention) for providing us all the information that we needed.

My thanks to Raja Jahangir Akhtar for putting his life on the line for a just cause: Thank you from our heart and may you live long and continue working for Pakistan.

To our politicians: beware, we are watching what you do to OUR country and our patience is not endless!

 

  3 comments for “Reflections on RJA’s Hunger Strike

Leave a Reply