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How Ramlila agitation has changed lives in Ralegan

Last updated on: September 10, 2011 11:39 IST

Hazare propels Ralegan on world map

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After his historic Ramlila Maidan fast last month, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare's address in his native village of Ralegan Siddhi has changed...at least for the time being.

From the now famous Yadavbaba temple in the village, where Hazare used to reside earlier, he has been shifted to a hostel for security reasons.
Once a sleepy village that followed routine chores associated with the life in rural Maharashtra, Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district has now emerged as a focal point of a movement that appears to be changing the conventional equations between the rulers and subjects. It is all thanks to Hazare, whose roots and presence here has propelled the place on the international map.

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Image: Simran (2nd L) and Ikra wearing traditional caps offer coconut water and honey to Hazare
Photographs: Reuters
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Hazare leaves Yadavbaba temple

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And for the curious visitors, a centre of attraction is 'Yadavbaba' temple, which became a home and refuge for Anna Hazare, when he returned to Ralegan Siddhi 27 years ago, finishing his service in the army, dreaming of a new dawn of the social change of his vision, inspired by the philosophy of Swami Vivekanand.

"Yadavbaba was a saint, who came to Ralegan from the pilgrim centre of Alandi, situated on the banks of Indrayani, more than a century ago and took Samadhi here. The temple built to cherish his memory, became today's famous landmark, seen on television many times," says a villager.

He recalled that when Hazare returned to the village after being discharged from a Gurgaon hospital on conclusion of his historic 12 day fast in support of a strong Lokpal bill last month, he first went to the Yadavbaba temple to pay his respects.


Image: The Yadavbaba temple in Ralegan

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Hazare interacts with villagers three times a day

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But things have changed dramatically after the Ramlila agitation for the villagers.

Their beloved Anna, who is the 'presiding deity' of Ralegan after 'Yadavbaba', is now shifted to a new place -- Padmavati temple trust hostel --- for security reasons.

Six armed security men keep vigil in front of a grilled gate, from where, Hazare emerges three times a day to interact with the crowds gathered outside including the visitors from all over the country.

"He is the same Anna who calls himself " Mandiratla Anna" (The one who lives in Yadavbaba temple). But changes have become inevitable with the government security apparatus becoming real and visible, affecting his accessibility," says an old man, who fondly reminisced the days when Anna lived in the Yadavbaba temple, mixing freely with men, women and children.


Image: Hazare interacts with school children in his village
Photographs: Reuters
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Business in Ralegan is flourishing

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As if aware of the feelings of his folks, Hazare has requested the state government and home minister R A Patil not to go in for the proposed Z category security that can inhibit his interaction with the people.

Nevertheless, the new accommodation of Hazare -- Padmavati devi trust hostel -- looks an ideal spot for the visitors, who flock the place, which has a spacious compound surrounded by trees and shrubbery. A small devi temple stands in the middle.

Outside the compound, some people are seen selling CDs containing a powada ( ballad) narrating the deeds of Anna Hazare, set to the tune of folk music of Maharashtra. Eateries in the village, too, are doing brisk business with the increasing flow of outsiders.


Image: A computer centre in Ralegan
Photographs: Reuters
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In the mornings Hazare keeps to himself

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Currently, it has become customary for Hazare to make three appearances in a day as he speaks to the gathered supporters using microphones of television channels that beam his talk across the nation, even as the security men clad in plain clothes stand behind the man, who took on the mighty and powerful, bestowing a long forgotten honour to the Gandhi cap he wears.

In the early morning, however, he keeps to himself, when he takes a walk at a brisk pace alone in the compound under the eyes of the bodyguards working in shift duties.

Image: Hazare inspects a school building under-construction in the Ralegan Siddhi
Photographs: Reuters
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