Mallika SarabhaiMallika Sarabhai is a noted Indian dancer and choreographer, turned political activist. She first came to international notice when she played a lead role in Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata, first in French and then English. A long time advocate and social activist for women, in 2009, she ran as an independent candidate for parliament from her home state of Gujarat. Although she lost to the ruling party candidate, her intention was to encourage others to challenge India’s two main parties. During the recent hunger strike by Anna Hazare that captured world attention, she joined his campaign to pass laws to rein in corruption.


As a political activist in India, can you explain why it took a dramatic spark like Hazare’s hunger strike to rally ordinary Indians to the problem of corruption, which has been a problem in India for as long as anyone can remember?

Symbols are very important in India. To a large extent we remain a people in search of charismatic leaders. Anna Hazare had the right look and profi le: old, male, unattractive, looks ascetic, no family and simple living. An attractive man or woman would never have been able to do the same. Corruption, especially in government, has been angering people for generations. It has just been getting more and more blatant, and a coterie of MPs, bureaucrats and corporate heads have formed a club to loot the country and cock a snook at those outside the club. That is why the movement caught the public imagination. Annaji was the right person, for the right cause, at the right time.

Now that Hazare has ended his hunger strike, how do you think he will continue his protest? And why a hunger strike as a form of protest?

Fasts unto death, in these circumstances, show a selfless commitment to the cause, which fuelled the fire. How can one mistrust someone who is willing to die? I must add that the media was crucial in making the phenomenon happen. Irom Sharmila has been fasting for eleven years in Manipur, but the media has not turned her into a phenomenon. She is largely unknown. Here, the media focus on the movement created the force of the movement...

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by Pamela Taylor