The modern Mahatma – Anna Hazare
New Delhi: ‘Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth’, this was how Albert Einstein described Mahatma Gandhi. But, perhaps he didn’t imagine that Indian soil is blessed enough to produce more of Mahatma-like miracles, and the best paradigm who stands tall amidst us is Anna Hazare.
The 72 year old has turned out to be a heroic sensation, with his hunger strike against corruption exerting a strong magnetic pull, drawing in masses from every corner of the country to Jantar Mantar, where he has vowed to fast unto death demanding the implementation of Jan Lokpal Bill, an anti-corruption bill drafted by leading members of civil society that envisages speedy action against all tainted with corruption.
Anna Hazare was born as Kisan Baburao Hazare on June 15, 1938 in Ralegaon Siddhi, a village in Maharashtra`s Ahmadnagar district.
His childhood was not a bed of roses as he had to drop out in class 7 and sell flowers for making both ends meet. But how long could destiny betray him, so when in 1962 China attacked India, Anna Hazare got recruited as a soldier in Indian Army. It was in the army that he came across works of Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave, leaders who strongly influenced him.
So, after 15 years of service, he took voluntary retirement from the 9th Maratha Battalion and returned back home only to find farmers battling deadly droughts, struggling for survival in a village that lacked electricity, resources and schools.
It was 1978 and he was 39 years old then. It was at this very juncture, where he kicked off his crusade. He worked relentlessly to emancipate his distressed village. He pioneered rainwater conservation programs, motivating people to pursue new ways and finally his endeavor pulled his village out of obscurity landing it onto the international map as a model for others to follow.
Honoring his remarkable feat, India felicitated Anna Hazare with Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards. But untouched by complacency and riding high on a dogged determination to weed out corrupt elements, Hazare pressed forward.
Heralding an open war against corruption, he established Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan. With hunger strikes as impactful instrument, he went on to hit corruption where its root was, i.e, at politicians.
Sharad Pawar (who has just quit GoM due to Anna’s remarks) and Bal Thackeray have often called his methodology nothing less than ‘blackmail’.
In 1995, his fast cost the job of two Cabinet Ministers, whom he called corrupt. The Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra was forced to drop them.
Another attack on corrupt politicians surfaced in 2003, when Maharashtra had a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government. He went on to fast against four ministers, Sureshdada Jain, Nawab Malik, Vijay Kumar Gavit and Padamsinh Patiln, who he said were corrupt.
Hiding behind a diminutive façade of Anna Hazare is a magnanimous social activist made of steel concrete in his actions. He also fought for the rights of tribals, the lowliest of the lowliest.
Having confronted a sea of corrupt ministers and bureaucrats, Anna realised that nothing could be done about it until people themselves participated in combating corruption. And for this what was required was empowerment of people. So he campaigned vehemently for the implementation of right to information.
Hence, it’s nothing new that Anna Hazare has vowed a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar in his mission of enacting a stringent anti-corruption bill. Yes, this time his hunger strike is against corruption on a massive scale. It is inevitable that it will go on to acquire mammoth proportions, launching a mass movement in the country.
Anna Hazare is a member of an NGO named ‘India against corruption’ which also has other towering personalities as Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh as its members. Harbinger of an honest, corruption-proof nation, Anna Hazare is the face of India’s fight against corruption.
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