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When Anna's men and cops shared the same dais

Last updated on: August 18, 2011 00:32 IST

When Anna's men and cops shared the same dais

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Prasanna D Zore in New Delhi

It is very rare when the police has to resort to take help from the leaders of the agitators to calm their supporters. The late evening of August 17 outside Jantar Mantar in New Delhi was one such moment that surprised one and all. Prasanna D Zore reports from New Delhi.

After agitating through the day in a scorching sun outside Tihar jail, supporters of social activist Anna Hazare made their way to the India Gate as the sun began its descent. The crowds at India Gate were much bigger than outside Tihar jail.

Those who came to Tihar with the Tricolour aflutter, a patriotic song on their lips and venom against corruption and politicians who perceptibly supported it were told about a peace March that were to start at the India Gate at 4 pm that were to culminate at the Jantar Mantar after taking a detour across Parliament Street. 

Expectedly, thousands of protesters gathered at the India Gate at the designated time defying a government that they felt was siding with the corrupt or were trying to hide the corrupt under its wings.

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Image: Swami Agnivesh addressing protestors at Jantar Mantar
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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'Thank you for your show of solidarity'

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By about 7 pm, the same posse of protesters made their way towards the Jantar Mantar where leaders of India against corruption -- Swami Agnivesh, Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar -- too joined their supporters to thank them for their show of solidarity.

The police on its part had barricaded the streets to deter protesters from gathering in large numbers to avoid any untoward incident. The protesters, however, had a different idea.

Having been cramped for space the protestors -- along with their leaders -- climbed atop these barricades and began cheering the crowd exhorting them to raise the pitch against the highhandedness of the Union government that had arrested their "leader" Anna Hazare, and was denying him permission to stage an indefinite fast unto death at Jay Prakash Narayan Park.

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Image: Activist Megha Patkar addressing protestors at Jantar Mantar
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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The crowd goes in a frenzy

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Even as the protesters, despite being peaceful, were chanting unparliamentary slogans against the ministers of the United Progressive Alliance government right outside the additional deputy commissioner of police's office, the cops, in full riot gear were keeping a watchful eye.

Slogans such as Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hai (this is what people don't know, the police is with us) seemed to have disarmed a police force maintaining vigil over the protesters.

At one point during the rambunctious demonstrations a group of overexcited protesters tried to climb atop a couple of iron barricades and fell down. Thankfully, nobody was hurt in that melee.

The police realised that Agnivesh and Bhushan were trying to calm down the crowd with no effect, as the microphone and speaker they were using was outdated.

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Image: The rambunctious demonstrations at Jantar Mantar
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Should we ask for their help, ask cops

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The police authorities, feeling that the crowd might go overboard, decided to act. But they knew they had to be tactful while doing so in such a surcharged atmosphere. Somebody suggested the police should request the leaders of the agitation to help control the agitators. In no time, out came a microphone that was promptly handed over to the sentry atop a makeshift post.

"Could we request the leaders of the agitation to come atop this post and address the crowd to maintain calm?" blurted the sentry into the microphone and the crowd went berserk.

They had grasped the momentousness of this announcement. They knew it would be a rare moment in their agitation, a proof that whatever they had been sloganeering was coming out to be true (Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hai).

While it took some time for Agnivesh and Bhushan to cross the sea of human beings that separated them from the police post, once atop, they lost no time in heeding to the police's request.

They too after all had an interest in not letting anybody tar the movement because of the overzealousness of some overexcited supporters.

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Image: Nervous policemen at the Jantar Mantar
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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A situation well-handled

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"Inquilab Zindabad," shouted Agnivesh into the microphone in one hand and the national flag in the other. The crowd reciprocated with a deafening echo.

Agnivesh and Bhushan then requested their supporters to call it a day and keep their ears glued to the goings on for their next plan of action.

"We are sure the police will unconditionally accept Annaji's demands for staging an indefinite fast unto death, perhaps at the Ramlila maidan," Agnivesh said.

But till then you will have to maintain your vigil and not let any untoward incident sully the image of our peaceful agitation," he added for good measure.

The crowd too got the message. In about 20 minutes after this "historic moment" the crowd began to disperse peacefully. Thursday will yet again be a long day.

Image: Policemen removing the barricades after the protest
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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