'The awakening has begun, things will change soon'
As Team Anna sat on a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar reiterating their demands, thousands joined them in pledging their support to the cause. Rediff.com's Priyanka mingled with the crowd to get their reactions.
Team Anna's hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in the capital on Wednesday started when Anna Hazare, followed by team members Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai, among others, stepped on to the stage amid a loud applause around noon.
Around three thousand people who had been waiting stood up as soon as Anna Hazare walked towards a very spacious stage. After the initial excitement was contained and the crowds were seated team member Kumar Vishwas took center stage.
The team reiterated their demands: a fast-track investigation into charges against ministers and an SIT probe into tainted Cabinet ministers. The members on strike -- Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai sat next to Anna Hazare.
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Sloganeering against Arvind Kejriwal
Within minutes, a few members of the NSUI wing infiltrated the front rows of the rally and shouted slogans: Arvind Kejriwal hai hai. A few policemen walked in and the men were taken outside the rally area.
Team member Vishwas later informed that the team had received an audio clipping of a few NSUI workers saying: Arvind aur Manish ko dande marne hai, Anna ko toh sirf dhakka dena hai. This sound clip was also played on loudspeakers at the venue, but it was hard to make out what exactly was being said.
Every time a team member, Vishwas or Kejriwal, spoke about the charges of corruption against Cabinet ministers, the crowds waived flags, clapped and shouted reinstating their faith in the movement.
In fact, the crowd comprised of people not only from Delhi and surrounding NCR, but also from distant places.
For instance, a group of sixty people from Ambala in Haryana had traveled about 200 kilometres just to be a part of the rally and extend their support. The group comprising of young students, adults and women sat at Jantar Mantar intently listening to Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.
Image: Basti Ram and Amar Singh Sharma from Charkhi Dadri at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi
People travel from far and wide to pledge support
Rajnikanth, who runs a business of manufacturing motors parts in Ambala said, "We have a small informal group and we discuss corruption related issues. We are here to show our support."
Another member, Aman Agarwal said that though local problems about lack of cleanliness, drainage, electricity is troublesome, they want to be a part of Anna Hazare led movement, which he said had given them hope.
A closer look at the audience at Jantar Mantar and one could easily argue that it did not strictly comprise of youngsters or the metropolitan alone. There were groups who traveled from small towns and villages to be a part of the show.
A little further, a small group of old men from Charkhi Dadri village in Haryana were talking. It was humid and they needed water. A retired school headmaster Basti Ram informed that the villagers have formed a 1,000 member 'Anna Chetna Manch' to support an anti-corruption crusade. They have been a part of yoga guru Baba Ramdev's rallies too.
His fellow, a school lecturer Amar Singh Sharma said, "There are many problems at the village level. There is no electricity, no water. The panchayats are also corrupt."
"The MNREGA assistance doesn't reach us. Very little of what the government distributes through the public distribution system reaches us," said Basti Ram. About ten members of the Anna Chetna Manch were at Jantar Mantar. They assure that they realise that corruption will not come to end anytime soon, but they are hopeful that things will change someday.
Image: Supporters of social activist Anna Hazare protest in Guwahati against corruption and demand adoption of Jan Lokpal Bill
'Things will be better in the future'
In the background, a Team Anna member shouts from the podium, and says, "Hum thakenge nahi, hum rukenge nahi."
An aged Basti Ram smiled and said, "It might not happen today, but the awakening has begun. Someday things will change."
"I used to wander in Anna Hazare rallies and found like-minded people, who really want to do something to get rid of this corruption," said Dr Shankaran, who worked as a physicist in the United States for several years. He formed a group 'Circle Anna' to support the crusade.
"Each group consists of only ten members. A new group is formed by every eleventh member. We hold discussions and have now started publication units," he informed.
Like many in the crowd, Dr Shankaran too believes that conditions will change for the better in the future.
"Gatherings like these are going to get bigger and bigger," he said, "People are becoming more aware. I am hopeful, things will be better in the future."
Image: Dr Shankaran, who along with like-minded people, formed a group 'Circle Anna'