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Hazare's anti-corruption wave sweeps New York too

Last updated on: April 12, 2011 12:58 IST

Hazare's anti-corruption wave sweeps New York

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Hundreds of Indian-Americans came out in support of social activist Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade in New York. Rediff.com's Aseem Chhabra reports.

On Saturday morning, social activist Anna Hazare ended his hunger strike, as the Indian government agreed to his demand to table the Lok Pal bill in the Parliament. Hazare's fast unto death captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people across the nation and soon the anti-corruption wave spread overseas thanks to the media and social networking sites.

This was evident when nearly 100 people of Indian-origin -- mostly in their 20s and 30s -- gathered at New York's Time Square on Saturday to show their support to the Gandhian's call to put an end of corruption back home. Many of them backing Hazare's call were recent immigrants to the United States.

On Saturday, the public square on 47th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue was packed with tourists, but the Indians stood out. The gathering organised by 20 young men and women from the city was a hit and the message was loud and clear -- NYC 4 Anna -- even on the tees they sported.

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Image: Hundreds of Indian Americans gathered at Time Square to show their support to Anna Hazare
Video: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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'We can make a difference in India'

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There is so much cynicism in India," said Atul Kumar, the brain behind the rally, who essentially used social media to draw other like-minded Indians to Times Square. "Kya ho sakta hai? Desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta! Our parents, our grandparents feel that India is a hopeless case. We don't feel the same. We feel we can make a difference in our lifetime," he said.

Kumar said he was earlier drawn to the India Against Corruption campaign organised by many activists in India, especially Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal, after he read about it in an e-mail sent by the alumni association of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

"Perhaps because I am from Bihar and am aware about the allegations against Lalu Prasad Yadav, this was a cause close to me," he said.

Image: The rally at Times Square received overwhelming response from Indians
Video: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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'Hazare's campaign bigger than winning the World Cup'

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Many who had gathered at Times Square pointed to the connection between India's spectacular World Cup cricket win and Hazare's campaign. Rhishikesh Sansalkar and Dixit Patel both participated in the rally wearing the Indian cricket team jerseys.

"The reason I am wearing this T-shirt is because I noticed the World Cup generated a lot of passion and patriotism," Sansalkar said. "But patriotism has more to it than about winning the World Cup. It is about doing something for your country and society as a whole, especially given what is happening in India in every walk of life. From getting a birth certificate to a death certificate corruption prevails everywhere."

Patel added that he was wearing the T-shirt because "India won the World Cup, but this is even more important and bigger."

Image: Rhishikesh Sansalkar and Dixit Patel participated in the rally wearing Team India jerseys
Video: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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'The chalta-hai attitude is changing'

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Another organiser, Shweta Joshi, recalled the day India won the World Cup. Hundreds of Newport residents in Jersey City spilled onto the streets to celebrate, causing a massive traffic jam. The city police had to be dispatched to clear up the commotion.

Vikram Malhotra, a Manhattan-based investment banker, said that young Indians rarely come together for such causes. "Indians have a chalta hai attitude. But after the World Cup suddenly everyone is passionate and our goal is to continue pushing until something actually gets done. The difference now is that people are realising that the actions of one person can make such a big difference," he said.

Video: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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'Indian middle class wants to ring in the change'

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Now for the first time thousands and thousands of people are coming together in India and outside the country for a cause which doesn't have anything to do with Bollywood, cricket or the traditional pastimes of the Indian middle class," Kumar said, referring to the massive support that Hazare received while he was campaigning against corruption at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. "So that gives us the hope that the Indian middle-class wants to make the change."

Kumar believes his presence and his voice can matter in the struggle to root out corruption from all walks of life in India.
"Change has to come from within," he said. "I as an individual can make sure that I will never bribe anyone. But I hope that the next generation grows up with the value that being honest is as important as being rich, or being famous. It is then that I think change will happen from the grassroot level."

Image: Many of those who participated in the rally moved to the US recently
Video: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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'Put a stop to corruption now or it will ruin the nation'

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Three young women -- Purvi Parekh, Priya Gogia and Alpa Patel -- were extremely enthusiastic about the rally. When asked whether their presence in Times Square would make a difference in India, Parekh said, "I don't know, but I have to support it. We don't want to be cynical about it and say it will not make a difference. So hopefully it will make a difference"

"Corruption has always been prevalent in India," Parekh added. "But now with more monetary power it's more rampant. I think there's a need to put a stop to it now, otherwise it's going to harm the nation in the long run."

Video: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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