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Anna Hazare's satyagraha is gradually building up into a mass movement as thousands of youth and civil society activists around the country came out in support of the campaign against corruption, reports Viresh Verma.


It's just been three days of Gandhian Anna Hazare's fast-unto-death and his fight against corruption is already turning into a mass movement demanding accountability from the power elite. Three days of protest has made the country realise the people power. And the people's power has tasted success too. Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had to quit a Group of Ministers entrusted with the task of drafting the proposed Lokpal Bill following objections raised by Hazare on Pawar's continuance in the Committee. 

The government had to agree to a committee of ten people – five each from civil society and government – to draft the anti-corruption legislation. The Anna Hazare camp is not satisfied still. It wants the committee's chairmanship to be given to the Gandhian. It also wants the government to issue a notification regarding constitution of the committee. The committee will have no legal standing without government's notification, observed noted RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, one of the two members of the civil society who met government representative Kapil Sibal,  Union Telecommunications minister, to put across Hazare's demands. 

After two rounds of talks, Hazare's supporters are in no mood to settle for anything less than a firm commitment on complete overhaul of the anti-graft legislation. However, Anna's fast continues  as thousands of youth, commoners, civil society denizens, activists and students across the nation join him in observing fasts and are protesting against the menace of corruption. Perhaps, after JP movement, this is the first of a kind that is witnessing a snowballing impact among youth against the corruption.

A huge number of youngsters, including students and young executives, are transiting Jantar Mantar alongside their counterparts in cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Allahabad, Patna, Ranchi, Jaipur, Bhopal and  endless others. Rakesh Singh, 29, a banker from the national capital, took a day's leave from office and brought along five of his colleagues to join the protest. "This effort will surely bear fruit and I am 100 per cent sure that we will be successful. People from all over the country have gathered to defeat those who are corrupt and this is a Gandhian movement," said Singh.

Added Rakesh's associate and friend Nupur Jain: "We have not seen Gandhi. But, I am sure if he had been here today, even he would have supported Anna and his cause. I am grateful that when we don't have a single leader to look up to, we have a Gandhian Anna fighting for our collective good. I am fed up of looking down on our present day politicians or self-proclaimed leaders."

The massive and spontaneous outpouring of support for Anna's crusade has forced the government to sit up and take notice. 

However, UPA chief Sonia Gandhi has also expressed her concern over the matter. "I am pained by Anna Hazareji's fast-unto-death. The issues he has raised are of grave public concern. There can be no two views on the urgent necessity of combating graft and corruption in public life. I appeal to Annaji to give up his fast", said Gandhi in a statement.

Meanwhile, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi also expressed his support for Anna. During an election rally in Gandhinagar, Modi said, ''Hazare's fast against corruption is being supported by people from all sections of the society but the Prime Minister refuses to accept the issue and was making irresponsible statements creating an emergency-like situation in the country." 

 "The Prime Minister cannot doubt his honest intention and the Centre should not consider him its enemy but accept the fact that corruption has assumed alarming proportion", Modi added. 

Interestingly, spontaneous protests stopped politicians trying to reach out to Anna Hazare. The message is clear – there is no place for politicians in a people's durbar against corruption. Senior BJP leader Uma Bharti, ex-CM of Haryana Om Prakash Chautala, veteran leaders Madan Lal Khurana and Ajit Singh were asked to leave Jantar Mantar as Anna precisely mentioned that this stage is not for politicians, though he fully regards and respects their support. 

"I am pained that instead of solving the issue of corruption, the government is more bothered about speculating on our movement. I have heard that people have said that I have been cornered into fasting. This is an insult to my intelligence and wisdom. I have exercised my restraint. We have eight versions of the Lokpal Bill. You (the Prime Minister) haven't passed even the weak version. Please do not mislead the nation by telling that we are not ready to talk," Anna wrote in a fivepoint letter to the PM. Sahara Time has a copy of that letter.

Reacting to people's power, Kamal Mitra Chenoy of JNU said, "I am fully in support of Anna Hazare. I think it's a very important issue of national concern." Affirms Amita Singh, chairperson of law studies at JNU: "Not accepting the demand because it is not a priority of government is one aspect; secondly, Parliament has now become a rocking House, and not a place where representatives resolve people's problems. India is a hub for the world's highest intellect and Anna has proved that it still resides with the grassroot leadership. He may complete the task left half-done by Jayaprakash Narayan".

With Anna's movement gaining momentum, parties have rushed in. For the BJP, it's a chance to strengthen its campaign before assembly elections, while for the Congress, it couldn't have come at a worse time. Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and state minister for health Dinesh Trivedi, sensing the public mood, supported Anna.

Amusingly, the public movement has become a rage among netizens. The Facebook page created by the group has registered over 40,000 followers in one day, while more than seven lakh people from across the country have pledged support to the cause through mobile phone registration. On the Facebook page, minute-by-minute updates on Anna's messages support to the cause from different sections of the society and government's response to the same are posted. "Wake up Indians!!!!! This is the right time to fight against corruption!!!! Chalo Jantar Mantar," posted Srinivas Gudi on Facebook.  And, all this thrills Hazare as he battles to stay strong and fit despite dehydration; he's been suffering. Says Anna: "You know, when I see these young boys and girls and read their messages of support posted by them through different social networking sites, it really heartens me. It gives me energy and enthusiasm to carry on the crusade against corruption."  Author Chetan Bhagat has also launched a drive titled Mera Neta Chor Hai in support of Anna Hazare's crusade.

Dr Kisan Baburao Hazare, fondly known as Anna Hazare, has journeyed for four decades as a soldier to a social reformer, and a right to information crusader. Anna's fight is quiet, but relentlessly effective – a battle always based on the Gandhian principle of non-violence and one that instantly strikes a chord with the aam aadmi.   

"The nation will  teach the government a lesson"
73-yr-old Gandhian Anna Hazare's strong will against corruption has made the nation come out in his favour. Sahara Time correspondent Viresh Verma met Hazare while he is observing fast against corruption   at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Excerpts:
Q. National Advisory Council members have started discussing the Lokpal bill. So, now what is your stand?
A.  All this they have been doing for long now. I will continue my fast-unto-death till the government agrees to form a joint committee comprising 50 per cent officials and the remaining citizens and intellectuals to draft the Jan Lokpal bill.
Q. Just in a day it has become a mass movement and almost all over the country people have come out in your favour. Comment.
A. Everyone is sick of hearing news on corruption everyday and it's their anger which has motivated them to come out on streets. The entire nation has supported us, they will teach the government a lesson.
Q. Congress leaders are accusing you of being an agent of RSS.
A. (Laughs) If you have jaundice, then everything you see appears yellow to you. That's just the case with them. I have never been associated with any political party in my life, then why would I associate with them today. All this is just to distract the public from the real issue.
Q. Why are you so apprehensive of having Sharad Pawar on the committee initiated by the government?
A. He is the most corrupt minister in the UPA and with him on the committee, I don't think we can bring a just bill to curb corruption. 
Q. Lastly, what exactly do you want the Prime Minister to do now?
A. Today, I have written a five-point letter to the PM. I have not asked him to accept the bill drafted by us. But to kindly create a credible platform for discussions – a joint committee with at least half members from civil society suggested by us. Your spokespersons are misleading the nation when they say that there is no precedent for setting up a joint committee. At least seven laws in Maharashtra were drafted by similar joint committees and presented in Maharashtra Assembly. Maharashtra RTI Act, one of the best laws of those times, was drafted by a joint committee.
Harish Salve, Supreme Court lawyer  
Our generation has failed. It's the youth of this country who would bring the change. I salute the youth who strongly feel the need to fight against corruption. But remember anti-corruption drive should not change into anti-democracy or so.
Aamir Khan, Actor
I would like you to know that I am one amongst thousands who are fully supportive of your efforts. The crusade that you have begun is an extremely important one, and I would like to extend my support to you.
Mallika Sarabhai, Danseuse and activist
It is not about the Congress. It's about all parties. It's about the fight against corruption. Abhishek M Singhvi should be happy that this movement is galvanising the whole nation. For the first time, we are having a democratic movement.
Swami Agnivesh, Activist
I request the Prime Minister to take early action before the youth of this country go out of control; then no one would be able to stop the people of this country.
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11-APRIL-2011 viresh
thanx mekhla....
11-APRIL-2011 mekhla
Viresh, I understand why you feel the weight on your shoulders... you're doing a great job!
10-APRIL-2011 harshita
The house of actor Anupam Kher was attacked by alleged activists of Republican Party of India on Saturday who protested his remarks on the Constitution!!! The actor was not present when stones were pelted at his house. Will we see other signs of this too?
10-APRIL-2011 viresh verma
Thanx leena, anandita, abhishek, malaika. Yes anandita, i feel all's well till your intentions are not wrong, because India belongs to each one of us and we all responsible on our own for our deeds
09-APRIL-2011 Anandita Sen
The anna hazare campaign must be wary of those jumping on the bandwagon. All kinds of reactionaries could latch on. Viresh, what is your opinion?
Anna Hazare has shown us the way. It is now our responsibility to keep the spirit at Jantar Mantar alive in every corner of the nation.
09-APRIL-2011 Abhishek Anand
Anna's victory is bigger than Dhoni's World Cup win!!! Thanks for concentrating on the larger picture Viresh! And thanks Jas for not just channelizing fashion... sometimes we need to go beyond the arc lights. Good work, guys.
09-APRIL-2011 Anandita Sen
Hats off to anna hazare. It takes grit n determination to push against resistance to clear a corrupt country!!
09-APRIL-2011 leena suri
Anna Hazare,,,, simply fantastic that a simple man from a place no one can point on the Indian map shakes the nation in a week!
08-APRIL-2011 viresh verma
thank you komal and m happy that we ..i mean the youth, has won the battle against corruption
08-APRIL-2011 komal Sarin
very well written, sir
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