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Rediff.com  » News » In PICS: 2,000 turn up for Anna's fast

In PICS: 2,000 turn up for Anna's fast

Last updated on: June 8, 2011 22:02 IST

In PICS: 2,000 turn up for Anna's fast

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Sahim Salim in Delhi

It was a protest of fear to say the least. Anna Hazare's supporters, who arrived at Rajghat in considerable numbers, were afraid. They were afraid of a repeat of the crackdown on Baba Ramdev's supporters which is still fresh on their minds. Sahim Salim reports.

One of the coordinators of the protest at Rajghat, Manish Sisodhya told rediff.com that they had received frantic phone calls in the morning from concerned supporters, asking if they would be arrested if they came.

"We had to finally send SMSes to them that police have given us official permission for holding a peaceful protest and that there is no danger of arrest or police action," Sisodhya said.

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Image: Supporters were initially wary of turning up, fearing a repeat of the Ramdev incident at Ramlila Grounds
Photographs: Sahim Salim
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'Anna Hazare is the Gandhi of today'

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Take for instance Raj Rani. This 82-year-old has left strict instructions with her sons to keep checking on her every half an hour to know that she is safe.

"I am even carrying my voter-id card with me in case a stampede results from some kind of police action. After the incident at Ramlila Maidan, you can't be too sure if these policemen won't fire tear gas shells at us and use force," Rani said firmly.

Rani, a resident of Geeta Colony in east Delhi, said that she had arrived "scared" at Rajghat at 10.30 am.

Braving the severe heat and lack of chairs at the venue, she stood among the supporters, showing solidarity to her hero. She herself is a victim of corruption. She said the Geeta Colony police did not register a case in a property dispute case even after she was beaten up by some hooligans a few weeks back.

"They were asking for money to register a First Information Report. He (Anna Hazare) is the Gandhi of today. So what if I am not young? Anna says you only have to feel young for an andolan. I will do everything to support him. If the police want to use force, let them. I still have my identity card in case I am hurt," Rani said.

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Image: East Delhi resident Raj Rani said that she herself was a victim of corruption
Photographs: Sahim Salim
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'Anna is our saviour'

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At the other side of the venue is 7-year-old Madhav Khan is a resident of east Delhi's Mayur Vihar. His mother brought him here after he insisted he wanted to see Hazare in person.

"I know people who indulge in corruption are rakshas. Anna is our saviour," said the boy.

His mother, Sadhna Khan, a professional dancer, said that the boy does not understand complex issues such as corruption, but has an amazing understanding of right and wrong.

"It was on his insistence that I brought him here. He is a huge fan of Anna Hazare. That is him. He knows that corruption is wrong and Hazare is right in fighting against it," Sadhna said.

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Image: Seven-year-old Madhav Khan just wanted to see Hazare in person
Photographs: Sahim Salim
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'If we don't stand together, who will?

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Senior citizens who rediff.com spoke to said that the government's attempts to thwart a nation-wide anti-corruption movement remind them of the Emergency period.

"I don't think you were even born during the Emergency. What Hazare is doing reminds me of the Jai Prakash Narayan movement. The government first tries to discredit the person, and then uses force if that does not work," said 73-year-old BK Sharma, who is has come to the capital from Kanpur to attend the protest

"That is exactly what they did with JP. They declared him a Central Investigation Agencey agent and what not. And then they used force," he said.

"I had to be a part of this. These are some dark times our country is going through and if we don't stand together, who will?" Sharma, who runs Parivartan, a Non-Governmental Organisation in Kanpur, said.

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Image: BK Sharma came all the way from Kanpur to attend the protest
Photographs: Sahim Salim
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'Anna's movement reminds me of Jai Prakash Narayan in 1975'

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A few metres ahead, 71-year-old Ronald Ansari, echoed similar views. Ansari, who flew in to the capital from Chennai specially to attend the protest said that this is almost a replica of the Jai Prakash Narayan movement.

"What happened at Ramlila grounds three days ago eerily reminds us of what happened when JP had gathered people at the Ramlila grounds in 1975. In both cases, there was a police crackdown and their leaders were taken out of the state," Ansari said.

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Image: BK Sharma came all the way from Chennai for the protest
Photographs: Sahim Salim
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'How dare they use tear gas shells?'

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Ishan Pasrila, a student of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, said that he is attending the protest on moral grounds.

"It was a stupid thing for the government to go in like thieves in the dead of night and arrest Ramdev after using excessive force. It was an enclosed area. How dare they use tear gas shells?" Pasrila asked.

Pasrila, a IInd year student, said that he would answer the call whenever Hazare sounded it. "He is fighting for us; for a better tomorrow. I will be here!" exclaims the young student.

Overall, it was a decent turnout. About 1,500-2000 people arrived at Rajghat and braved the sweltering heat and lack of food-joints nearby. Probably taking cue from the criticism they faced last time around, there was no saffron presence on or off stage.


Image: Ishan Pasrila attended the protest on moral grounds
Photographs: Sahim Salim
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