From Ground Zero: Are you with Anna or not?

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2011, 13:31 PM IST

Biplob Ghosal/ Kamna Arora

A day after the arrest and subsequent `release` of Anna Hazare, the overwhelming support extended by the hoi polloi to India`s biggest anti-corruption icon swelled by the minute.

Shouting anti-government slogans, carrying the tri-colours and holding placards, thousands of people in the evening gathered back at India Gate to protest after marching back from Parliament Street near Jantar Mantar.

The dedication of protesters, especially youngsters, to the anti-corruption crusade was high enough to even engage the onlookers. The slogans which were pro-Anna and pro-Jan Lokpal till yesterday changed to the ones criticizing and slamming the government.

The banners read, “We pledge not to vote for Congress”, “The government is useless”, “UPA is Corruption bin Laden”, “Kapil Sibal is Hitler”, “UPA, Congress Shame, Shame”, “What a country - Bail to Hasan Ali and Jail to Anna”.

Beating the scorching heat earlier in the day, the protesters marched to Parliament Street, where they were addressed by social activists, Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar, and a member of the Lokpal bill joint drafting committee, Prashant Bhushan. Bhushan said, "Anna ji is continuing his fast inside Tihar and he has urged his supporters to protest peacefully." While Patkar energised the crowd with halla bol slogans after the demonstrators were stopped from moving towards Parliament.

As Anna continues his fight against corruption and nepotism in public life, people from all age showed their solidarity to the movement.

A three-year-old kid participating in the candle light vigil at India Gate said, “I am here to meet Annaji”.

Deepak Gupta, who is an Life Insurance Corporation of India employee, decided to support Anna’s movement in a noble way. He and his two colleagues have decided to distribute 5,000 water glasses at Anna Hazare rallies.

“I am here for my country and will continue to distribute water glasses everyday till the protests continue,” said Deepak.

Chanting slogans at the top of their voices, the crowd’s vigour was unprecedented.

The crowd appeared to be in no mood to stop the protest, hours after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defended the Delhi Police action against Team Anna. The credibility of the government seems to be in serious doubt.

“I was saddened and disappointed by the PM’s statement. He sounded confused,” said William John, a Delhiite.

Hailing Anna Hazare’s movement, Henry Ledlie, who is a educationalist from Australia, said: “It is a good movement. More Indians should stand up for the cause. The government should step down and compromise. At the end of the day, it is a question of accountability.”

Scenario outside Tihar Jail

Protesting since Tuesday night outside Tihar Jail, 65-year-old Anil Kumar was not willing to leave. “I will continue to be here until Annaji is released and all the conditions are met. I request police to arrest me so that I can join him in jail.”

Notably, India`s well-acclaimed social activist decided to remain inside the premises of Tihar Jail despite being released on Tuesday night, demanding an unconditional release and permission to launch his fast at Jai Prakash Narain Park in Central Delhi. As Anna continued his fast-unto-death inside the jail, his supporters thronged outside. From as young as five to as old as 80, the zeal and fervor of Anna’s supporters are remarkable.

Moved by Anna Hazare`s fast and enthusiasm of his supporters, people residing in the neighbourhood of Tihar Jail could be seen arranging breakfast and tea for those who stayed outside the jail overnight.

A number of school students were seen outside Tihar Jail with extraordinary enthusiasm. The volunteers were seen distributing pamphlets describing the difference between Lokpal Bill and Jan Lokpal Bill, with an aim to educate the people more on the issue.

Determined to participate in “now-or-never fight against corruption”, Niki Rana, a second-year student of Delhi University, asked, “Where is Rahul Gandhi? Not even a single statement has been given by the so-called future prime ministerial candidate. This shows he is only interested in events, which give him photo opportunities. If he was honestly interested in the problems faced by this country, he should have come out.”

Anna has become a voice of millions of Indians who want to change the system and get rid of corruption. “This government has brought shame to the world’s largest democracy. We will continue to protest here. I request the people of this nation to come forward and extend their support to Annaji’s movement,” appealed Nisha Pachoria, a housewife.

The spirit of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement is not going to die, said Arvind Gupta, who took a leave from the office because he wanted to “do something really important today”. Meanwhile, Ajay Sharma, a software professional, slammed Delhi police for arresting Anna Hazare on Tuesday. “It’s disappointing to hear it from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Delhi police action against Anna Hazare and his supporters is justified.”

Fed up with the numerous scams tumbling out of the government’s closet, Ram Nigam, a retired military officer, said, “If the government is so worried about corruption, then why has it left out all the parliamentarians and bureaucrats out of their Lokpal draft? They should have included them and left it on other political parties to decide. This could have prevented a showdown between Annaji and government. And above all, the government’s credibility would have improved in the eyes of the angry Indians.”

“If political parties can protest in the middle of the roads and block traffic, force shutdowns, why are these politicians not allowing Annaji to protest peacefully at JP Park?,” asked Gautam Razdan, an advocate, who was at Tihar to show his support to Anna.