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'We wanted to see the man who took on the govt'

Last updated on: August 19, 2011 22:35 IST

'We wanted to see the man who took on the govt'

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Prasanna D Zore in New Delhi

Anti corruption crusader Anna Hazare surprised everybody at the Ramlila Grounds when he landed at the place at 2 pm even while a couple of India Against Corruption speakers kept telling his followers that he would be at Rajghat at 2 pm. Prasanna Zore reports.

As soon as he climbed the dais, he addressed his supporters with Bharat Mata ki Jai, Vande Mataram and Inquilab Zindabad.

He then addressed the gathering, telling them how his movement and fast that began on August 16 has passed off peacefully. He congratulated the gathering for their peaceful conduct that has proved his detractors who claimed that his movement might turn violent and arrested him on August 16.

Interestingly, he told the assembly that he has been feeling weak, but then made a spirited speech. "India's second freedom struggle begun on August 16," he said to a thunderous applause from more than 30,000 people who had assembled at the grounds at 2.20 pm.

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Image: Social activist Anna Hazare at Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Crowds braved rains and held their ground

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He categorically made it clear that Team Anna would make no compromise as far as enacting a strong law to fight corruption in the country.

The crowd at Ramlila cheered every time Anna challenged the might of the government. He said that he will continue his fast until Parliament passes a stronger anti-corruption law.

On the ground, the scenes were unbelievable. Just before Hazare arrived, a strong torrent had converted the grounds into a puddle of muck, yet the people stood their ground.

In fact, the crowd broke into a gig and danced their way through the muck. It seemed the assembly was part of one grand carnival.

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Image: Hazare supporters at Ramlila Grounds
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'We came to see Anna'

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Sujata Mehra and Surabhi Sapru, both in their mid-60s were part of the crowd that cheered Hazare. They had come from Vasant Vihar since noon to see their 'hero Anna'.

"We had seen him only on TV. We wanted to see the man in flesh who made the might of the government supplicate before him," said Sujata. She has suffered at the hands of corrupt babus of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi many a times.

"Last year we wanted to get a new water connection. We fulfilled all regulatory requirements prescribed by the MCD. But our file didn't move for more than two months," Sujata said. 

So, what happened then? "Left with no choice we had to grease some palms," Sujata answers. But did she feel bad about bribing municipal officials? "We had no choice," she said.

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Image: Sujata Mehra and Surabhi Sapru
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'There is no fear of death left in me'

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Satinder Singh from Hamirpur in Himacha Pradesh and Rajesh Pandit of Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand, two Right To Information activists -- met at the grounds on Friday morning, and have been hanging out together ever since.

Since both are actively involved in exposing corruption in their respective hometowns, they had a common reason to come to Delhi.

"Hazareji is an icon for young activists like us," said Singh. "I have been trying to fight against the land mafia in Hamirpur," he added. 

Pandit has been fighting against the exploitation of forest wealth by officials and has had to face threats to his life many times. "Earlier I used to get scared, but later realised that if you tread cautiously these elements can't touch you," he said.

"Now that Hazareji is inspiring us so much, there is no fear of death or physical harm left in me," Pandit added.

Both these activists have decided to stay back in Delhi until Anna succeeds in his mission.

"We will stay at my relatives' house in Delhi," says Singh when asked how he will manage in the city for almost two weeks. He added that his relatives are happy since he is participating in a noble cause.

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Image: Satinder Singh and Rajesh Pandit
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'Nothing will happen to me'

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Meanwhile, a couple of government doctors came to check Hazare's blood pressure and pulse, no sooner he settled down in a chair. They gesticulated that Hazare's health was fine.

Hazare thanked them and asked them to look at the thousands down on the ground, and said, "As long as these people are around, nothing will happen to me.

Like he has been saying all the while: yeh desh ke yuvak mere aashastambh hai... inhe dekhkar meri urja badh jaati hai(The youth of this nation is my source of inspiration. Their presence enhances my energy levels manifold).


Image: Government doctors with Hazare
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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