Nearly 250 Indian Americans on Thursday took a day off from work to express their support for activist Anna Hazare's fight against corruption by holding a demonstration at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco.
Indian-Americans holding banners, placards and the tricolour stood at the narrow pathways of the consulate to condemn the "undemocratic and unconstitutional arrest" of Anna Hazare and his aides. Members of India Against Corruption and People for Loksatta submitted a petition condemning the arrest and demanded that the Jan Lokpal Bill be implemented soon.
Pramod Mahadevan of India Against Corruption's Bay Area unit told rediff.com, "We are doing this because independence from corruption is the struggle of our generation."
Prasanna Meda, president of People of Loksatta Bay Area, a non-profit organisation, hails from Andhra Pradesh.
"There is a lot of corruption in our state and we want state and district level organisations to come under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill," Meda told rediff.com.
He alleged that in AP, scams were rampant in mines and port operations; they often had the patronage of local politicians.
Meda believed that many people had left India because of the high levels of corruption that affected the quality of life. "We have gone through corruption in India by paying bribes. We Indians deserve more than that. We need a strong Lokpal Bill," he said.
Nidhi Shah, a student at San Jose State University, was one of those who took a day off from work.
"I did not want to lose this opportunity. I regularly follow Indian news channels and I saw hundreds of people protesting against corruption. I always wanted to contribute something for my country. Even though I don't live in India, I care a lot about it," said Shah.
She agreed with Meda that the reason so many Indians chose to settle abroad was because they wanted a peaceful life without the scourge of corruption.
"If we get that in India, why would we settle in another country," said Shah.
She added that by joining the protest, "I want to tell them that even though we live outside India, we care about its people and their future."
Another protester Jay Sahu said, "I want to support the Jan Lokpal Bill to the best of my ability. Corruption is the biggest concern in India. If we can make the world's best softwares, systems and networks, then we can build a better India too.
"I have taken an off from work because since the last two days, I have been calling my friends and people I know and requesting their support," said Sahu.
"Now it's my responsibility to fight not only for myself but for the people of the nation," he said.
Sahu said he had spent 28 years in India but after coming to the US, "I realise what freedom is. We want Indian people to feel and enjoy this freedom."
He added that he wants the next generation of Indians to experience this freedom. "I don't want my children to question 'Why didn't you take a decision to support a great cause for me?'"
"It's time for us to take a mature and educated decision to make India a developed nation instead of remaining a developing country forever," said Sahu.
Devkumar Jayaprakash, who had taken a day off from work, said, "My country needs me. I am taking time off from work to show my solidarity with Team Anna for a better Jan Lokpal bill.'
He slammed the stance taken by the Indian government that only Parliament had the right to formulate a Bill.
"We know which one is the Jokepal Bill and which is the Jan Lokpal Bill. If this is the kind of Bill we will get from Parliament, then we don't need our leaders. Jai Hind," he said.