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Anna Hazare broadens scope of agitation

Last updated on: August 20, 2011 21:25 IST

Hazare broadens scope of agitation

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Prasanna D Zore in New Delhi

At about 2 pm on August 20, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare completed 100 hours of his indefinite fast. The 74-year-old Gandhian chose the moment to address the mammoth crowd gathered at the Ramlila Ground who had come from different parts of the country to express their support for Anna Hazare's cause.

Interestingly, now that Team Anna has got the government on the back foot, Hazare decided to broaden his scope of agitation, at times, making political remarks.

"You should not stop just at Lokpal," he stated with a confidence that his version of the Jan Lokpal bill becoming a reality was now inevitable. He exhorted India's youth to come forward and take the reins of the nation in their hands.

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Image: Anna Hazare on indefinite fast at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'Nations future in the hands of the youth'

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"Because of our flawed electoral system today's Parliament has elected 150 Lok Sabha members with criminal records. Out of them four parliament members and several ministers are inside prisons," he said drawing people's attention to the MPs and ministers involved in Commonwealth Games and 2G scam under arrest in Tihar jail.

"The nation's future is in your hand and looking at the youth here I am confident that the nation's future is bright," he said to loud applause.

Now, into the fourth day of his fast, this is how Hazare's vital health signs were reported by the doctors who are keeping a close tab on the veteran crusader: Pulse: 78; blood sugar level: 92; and blood pressure: 130/80.

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Image: One of the protestors supporting Anna Hazare's agitation at Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'Nothing can happen to me when people are with me'

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"All these signs are better than what you and I could possibly have," said former IPS officer Kiran Bedi. The thousands who have gathered to do their bit for enactment of a stronger Jan Lokpal Bill, cheered the news with revolutionary zeal.

"I have been telling my doctors that I am deriving immense strength from the people who have come in support of a cause," he said and the crowd erupted in cheers. "Nothing can happen to me when you people are with me."

In his effort to inspire the youth, Hazare said that he too, like them, saw corruption all around him when he was 26. He was confused as to what to do but after reading Swami Vivekanand's teachings he decided that he would rather fight against corruption than let the poison spread.

"I decided that the true service of Bharatmata (motherland) will be the sole aim of my life."

He stressed that even at 74 he still staunchly believed in the oath he took when he was 26. He said that though he did not marry he has got a family. "The small kids, young men and women, are my family," he said pointing towards the throngs in front of him. 

The assembly, like a perfect script, cheered every word Hazare uttered.

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Image: Anna Hazare speaks to doctors attending him
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'Govt usurping agricultural land by shooting people'

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He lamented that we have still not achieved real and meaningful independence even after 64 years of our free existence. "Gore chale gaye, aur kale aa gaye (The British rulers left us and were replaced by equally tyrannical Indians). What difference did their departure make to your lives," he said.

Broadening his scope of agitation he said that Indian farmers were being killed in a country that takes pride in calling itself an agrarian country. Hazare's indication was towards the death of three farmers in Maharashtra's Maval taluka where police firing led to killing of three farmers agitating against diversion of Pavna dam water to the industrial-manufacturing belt of Pimpri-Chinchwad.

Without naming anybody he said that agents of builders and landlords were looting the nation. "The government is usurping agricultural land by shooting its own people and lathi charging them," he said referring to the Maval agitation that was attempted to be crushed by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government in Maharashtra.

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Image: Protestors gather in huge numbers at Ramlila Maidan to support Anna Hazare's agitation against corruption
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'Let govt know who is supreme in this country'

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He asked the people to agitate for laws that would protect agricultural land from such ravenous builders and getting the Lokpal bill passed in Parliament, he said, would help them strengthen various other agitations. "Let the government understand who is supreme in this country," he said indicating that in a democracy the people's will is supreme.

He said that such laws should give power to local self governments like gram sabhas without whose permission the government should not decide how to allocate lands for non-agricultural purposes.

He also stressed that people should have a right to reject all the candidates running for elections if they believe that the person is question is corrupt or a criminal.

"These politicians will come to their senses only when they realise the amount of money being spent on holding an election and re-elections," he said.

He also criticised corporate policies that are anti-worker and anti-labourer. "They should not suck their blood. Is this the kind of democracy we had dreamed of?" Hazare said.  

His comments that the youth in the country today cannot secure admissions with paying bribes met with the loudest cheers from college students who were lined up in front of the dais from where Hazare was addressing them.

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Image: A poster lists the various scams the country has witnessed since 1947
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'There is a chain of corruption right from top to bottom'

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"Isn't our government unaware of these practices?" Hazare thundered. "They know about it as they are the ones who are responsible for corruption in college admissions as well," Hazare said.

"There is a chain of corruption right from top to bottom. We must change all these and rebuild a new India," Hazare added.

The veteran Gandhian, who has been drinking only water since August 16, spoke for about 15 minutes before he wound up citing weakness.

But before he thanked the people for their support he gathered all his strength that he could muster and then gave a loud war cry: Bharat Mata ki Jai, Vande Mataram and Inquilab Zindabad.

The same war cry, it seems, has now sort of become a template that everybody on the ground seemed to be following, egged on by one man who this assembly has begun to liken as "India's second Gandhi".


Image: An India Against Corruption volunteer distributes biscuits to protestors at Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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