Anna's villagers warn self immolation
Prasanna D Zore and photographer Sanjay Sawant travel to Ralegan Siddhi, the Maharashtra village where Gandhian Anna Hazare started his long journey on the path of social activism
Villagers in Anna Hazare's village, Ralegan Siddhi, some 250 km north of Mumbai, are angry and are threatening to self immolate if the Centre does not accept the veteran social activist's proposed changes in the Lokpal bill.
Anna Hazare is on an indefinite fast-unto-death at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar in his bid to get the Union government re-draft the contours of the current Lokpal bill.
Village sarpanch Jaisingh Sadashiv Mapari told rediff.com that some 10 to 15 young boys and girls will immolate themselves if Anna's demands are not met by April 12.
"How long will the people of this village remain mute spectators? People of Ralegan Siddhi consider Anna Hazare as their god and soul and if he is under duress then people will not keep quiet," Mapari said.
He wondered why the Union government is not accepting a simple demand to enact the Lokpal bill.
Image: Sadashiv Mapari
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
'I am not scared to die'
"We will not stop even if Annaji asks us to. Our ultimate aim is to get the Centre accept Annaji's demands," Kiran said.
When asked why he was laughing while declaring about his intent to self-immolate, Kiran said, "It's better to die with a smile on your face rather than dying unhappily."
Sarpanch Mapari said that Anna Hazare does not know about this drastic step being contemplated by the villagers.
"I justify doing this because the government is not serious about accepting our demands. I am not scared to die. My parents will feel proud about me that their son laid the life for a noble cause," Kiran added.
Image: Kiran Shinde
Photographs: Video: Sanjay Sawant
'We don't want to harm anybody'
"I have a good future ahead but I also want to do something good for my country," he said.
When asked if this was not a Gandhian way of protest, which their leader Anna Hazare staunchly believes in, Sarpanch Mapari said, "The nation now also needs leaders like Chattrapati Shivaji and Bhagat Singh along with leaders like Gandhi."
"We don't want to harm anybody. We will try to convince them (the Centre) for a few more days. We will not let any government official enter Ralegan Siddhi and you will see how many people will die here," he warned.
"Annaji will be pained by this move but what is the point in living a life like this? Annaji would never want us to take such a step but the villagers are not in a mood to listen," he said.
Image: Social activist Anna Hazare addresses supporters
Photographs: Courtesy: India Against Corruption