From Ground Zero: Team Anna fasts at Jantar Mantar; supporters hopeful

After a poor show in Mumbai, Team Anna under the guidance of Anna Hazare is back at Jantar Mantar to fight against corruption.

Biplob Ghosal/ Sushmita Dutta

New Delhi: After a poor show in Mumbai, Team Anna under the guidance of Anna Hazare is back at Jantar Mantar to fight against corruption.

The national capital last year witnessed one of the biggest movements after Independence when thousands took to the streets to support the Lokpal movement. But this time around the situation seems to be different.

Though the number of people is quite less as compared to 2011, people were seen coming in as the day progressed at Jantar Mantar where members of Team Anna sat on an indefinite fast on Wednesday.

The hot and humid conditions apparently played spoilsport and Team Anna’s protest here against a “weak” Lokpal Bill elicited lukewarm response. But, the highlight was the undying spirit of an awakened Indian fighting for his rights.

Support poured in from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana to the protest venue. A seventy-year-old man, who had come all the way from Etawah in UP, said that he will continue to sit-in at Jantar Mantar as long as Anna Hazare is there.
Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai under the leadership of Anna Hazare today started their indefinite hunger strike. The Gandhian, who has been advised by doctors not to go ahead with fast, had yesterday announced that he will join his teammates on fast from July 29 if the government fails to take a decision on their demands.

The place was abuzz with slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Inquilaab Zindaabad’ and some patriotic songs sung by members of India Against Corruption (IAC).

During the day, an untoward incident also happened when some men, allegedly belonging to the Congress-affiliated National Student`s Union of India (NSUI), tried to disrupt the protest as Anna and his team came on the stage. But, NSUI leader Rohit Chowdhary later denied any hand in the ruckus.

While on one hand unscrupulous elements were trying to derail the peaceful agitation, 17 school children along with 5 staff members of a public school had come to Jantar Mantar to support the anti-graft movement. What was more astonishing is the fact that all 25 of them made their way to the protest venue by walking 23 kms all the way from Ghaziabad.

Not only this, parents of two school girls had told them that if any untoward incident happens at the protest venue and god forbid something happens to them, they would feel proud of them as they were fighting for a cause.

IAC volunteer Ashish said, “People should come forward because everyone starting from Team Anna to the common public here is fighting for a common cause, i.e. to eradicate the menace of corruption.” Commenting on the low turnout, he expressed hope and said as the time passes people will come to lend their support.

When asked about the ruckus, Ashish said that they will not resort to violence in any circumstance.

Delhi University student Abhay Dwivedi, who is doing his research on the unrest and revolutionary movements across the world, said, “The movements across the world, for example in Syria, Tunisia or Libya, were marred by violence but in India, it has been quite significant as Anna and Baba Ramdev’s movements have been non-violent.”

This is the time when we cannot let such movement fizzle out; otherwise it would take another generation to start such a movement.

One hawker Anil, who resides in Delhi, said the turnout is very low and he has only been able to sell 25 Anna caps in 3 hours, whereas he sold 1200 in one single day in August last year at Ramlila Maidan. However, another hawker who was selling national flags said that though the sale is minimal he was hopeful of people coming forward to support the movement. Interestingly, he said that he is not worried about his profits but this good cause should be supported.

Some interesting cartoons made on chart papers were also displayed at the venue. While one cartoon described Parliamentarians as ‘Gangs of Sadanpur’, another was seen criticising Manmohan Singh for being a silent spectator and depending too much on ‘madam’ Sonia Gandhi. The catchiest one was which said that while cartoons are now being deleted from textbooks, new chapters will be added by our political masters who will teach students how to indulge in corruption. Even former president Pratibha Patil wasn’t spared and was criticised for her infamous foreign tours.

This time, Team Anna has put everything at stake. If people do not come forward to lend their support as happened in Mumbai last December, the question that will arise is - what would be Anna’s future strategy?

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