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India's youth and Anna's movement against corruption

Last updated on: August 18, 2011 00:33 IST

India's youth and Anna's drive against corruption

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Prasanna D Zore in New Delhi

Kargil 1999. Mumbai terror attacks 2008. And now, social activist Anna Hazare's campaign against corruption and enactment of a strong Jan Lokpal law. Very few moments in recent Indian history have been as electric as these three in bringing Indians of all hues together. Prasanna D Zore reports from New Delhi

Team Anna's agitation for a Jan Lokpal bill that brings the offices of the prime minister and the judiciary under its umbrella has brought one more element into sharp focus: India's demographic dividend -- the folklore of many a book by noted authors -- that favours our population in the age group of 15-35 was in full force as the nationwide protests against Hazare's arrest began on August 16.

It is not to say that agitators belonging to other age groups did not make their mark, since they too protested by organising peace marches, candle light vigils and other peaceful methods across the country to focus on just one man and his mission.

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Image: A young protestor at the India Gate in New Delhi
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Why can't the govt see what the common man wants?

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It is this demographic element that is asking the really tough questions.

Here are four such questions that were heard repeatedly across Jay Prakash Narayan Park in Delhi, where Hazare was originally meant to stage his fast-unto-death for a stronger Lokpal compared to what the government is offering, Tihar Jail where Anna was kept after his arrest, or India Gate and Jantar Mantar, the two venues where people -- young and old -- in thousands, challenged the undemocratic means adopted by the Delhi police and their political masters:

Why on earth did the Delhi police arrest an old man who was fighting for a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman that they think will help them and the future generations lead a better life?

Why is the government so adamant in not putting before parliament the draft of the Jan Lokpal bill proposed by Team Anna?

Why can't the government see what the common people want when it comes to handling corruption in their day-to-day lives?

Why is the government of the day not allowing an old man to stage a peaceful fast-unto-death to push for what most Indians believe now will be a panacea against corruption?

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Image: A poster mocking government ministers
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'Let them arrest us for as long as they want'

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These youths responded with 'mataram' when somebody across the street chanted 'vande' without even knowing who the latter were.

"Isn't it our democratic right to protest peacefully for what we think is right for us?" asks a young face in the crowd loud enough to be heard by everybody. 

A group of boisterous young students who have come along with their teachers to demand Hazare's immediate release from Tihar Jail, reply in the affirmative. They have not responded to a person. In fact they have responded to a voice, a question that they think is their right.

The previous day, scores of college students courted arrest for defying Section 144 that was in force at JP Narayan Park.

"Let them arrest us for as long as they want. Let us take them and dump us wherever they want. But they cannot stop our just agitation using unjust measures," said a young voice without fearing for its consequences.

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Image: College students at Jantar Mantar
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'It is up to us to build a nation that we want'

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Girls, some defying their parents, some with their blessings, participated in a movement they thought will decide India's destiny in the 21st century.

"It is up to us to build a nation that we want. And if we have many bodies but one mind we can surely beat the scourge of corruption in this country," said a collegian from Jamia Millia Usmania who had marched from India Gate to Jantar Mantar in the evening on Wednesday. She felt strong at the end of a tiring day.

"I am doing my bit for the nation. I am sure thousands and thousands like me all over the country are doing their bit too."      

It is this feeling of empowerment that Anna Hazare's movement against corruption has catalysed among the country's youth and they seem to be making full use of this opportunity.

"We don't want history to blame us for not showing courage and demanding our just rights when the situation demanded," says a 22-year-old girl from Bharti College when asked what inspired her to join the movement for a stronger Lokpal.

And, perhaps, it is this strength that is helping Anna's image as India's second Gandhi.

Image: College students outside the Tihar Jail
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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