News Story

Anna the real revolutionary

by Vaidehi Sachin


Social activist Anna Hazare was sent to seven days judicial custody in Tihar jail but was released later on. Hazare, 74, was detained early morning, shortly before he was to begin a fast-unto-death to press for a strong, anti-corruption Lokpal Bill.
"Anna Hazare denied to sign the personal bond and has been sent to seven days judicial custody in Tihar jail," Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.
Earlier, Hazare's associates Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Shanti Bhushan were also detained along with about 1,000 supporters. As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the move smacked of the excesses during Emergency and parliament was stalled, the outrage spread across the country with reports of protests coming in from virtually every corner.
Hazare and Kejriwal were whisked away as they stepped out of an apartment in east Delhi on their way to the JP Park where police had clamped prohibitory orders and where the activists were planning to set the stage for their strike against the government's version of the bill that keeps the prime minister, judiciary and junior officials out of its ambit. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 4.
Hazare's supporters, who had gathered in hundreds in the apartment complex, shouted anti-government slogans and lauded the 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader who had gone on a hunger strike in April.
While the many hundreds who had been detained were kept at the Chhatrasal Stadium, lawyer and Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said they had no news about the whereabouts of the others. They were planning to move the Supreme Court against the detentions but could not.
"It was not possible to move the court as we don't have the signatures of Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwala on the petition," Bhushan had said.
"Their whereabouts are not known," Bhushan, who said the arrest was illegal and unconstitutional.
Just before his arrest, Hazare said in a recorded video message: "Don't let my arrest stop this movement. This is the nation's second struggle for freedom."
The message was flashed on television screens, fuelling protests in many states including Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mahara-shtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa where people trooped out of their homes to voice their anger. Many shopkeepers down-ed shutters.
In India's financial capital Mumbai, thousands gathered at various places. "We are also requesting supporters to strike work and support Annaji," a volunteer for India Against Corruption said.
Celebrities too stepped in to verbalise their distress. Lyricist Javed Akhtar said: "I have had certain reservations about Anna's method but his arrest cannot be condoned. It is undemocratic, unacceptable."
The ripple effect was widespread. "In a democracy like ours, one has the right to protest in a peaceful manner. By detaining Hazare and others supporting him, the government is depriving the country's citizens of their constitutional rights," said P.K. Garg, a retired professor in Lucknow.
As the protests spread, the government attempted to clarify its position and said Delhi Police was not acting under political pressure and had made the detentions because the anti-corruption crusaders had refused to agree to certain conditions.
"If someone says we will defy the orders, I think this is unacceptable in a democracy," said Home Minister P. Chidambaram. "It is a real regret that police have taken this action."
The crisis for the government comes soon after the clampdown on a protest by yoga guru Ramdev on June 5.The opposition was quick to seize the opportunity.
"It is regrettable and condemnable. This government is bent upon crushing anyone who wants to protest against corruption," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
At the other end of the political spectrum, the Communist Party of India-Marxist agreed. It said Hazare's detention and the police ban on his hunger strike showed how "the Congress leadership is intolerant to any anti-corruption movement as their government is itself steeped in high-level corruption".
The volatile situation was set to snowball further with protests and rallies planned through the day. Using SMS messages, twitter and television, the anti-corruption crusaders called for people to gather in protest. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in and called for an emergency meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs after Hazare's arrest.

What is Anna Hazare fighting for?
Will Dr Kisan Baburao Hazare's indefinite fast bear results? Or will the 74-year-old activist's campaign fade into the background?
A week before he announced his hunger strike, Hazare, or Anna as he has been called for untold years, made one poignant statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: "It is only because of the 'remote control' that he cannot do anything. Otherwise he is such a good man."
Hazare was speaking at a press conference to gather support for the 'Jan Lokpal Bill' a bill that aims to change the way India tackles corruption.

What is the Jan Lokpal Bill?
It is a Bill drafted by Santosh Hegde, former Supreme Court judge and the former Lokayukta of Karnataka; Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court lawyer; and Magsaysay Award winner and social activist Arvind Kejriwal.
According to 'India Against Corruption', the web site where the Bill has been made public, the Jan Lokpal Bill, once passed, will be an "act to create effective anti-corruption and grievance redressal systems at the centre so that effective deterrent is created against corruption and to provide effective protection to whistleblowers".
The salient features of the Bill can be summed up as follows:
1. An institution called 'Lokpal' in the centre and 'Lokayukta' in each state will be set up. These will be independent of the government. No minister can influence their investigations.
2. Investigation in any case must be completed in one year. Trials should be completed in the next one year so that the corrupt officer or politician goes to jail in two years.
3. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
4. If a citizen's request is not completed in the prescribed time in any government office, the Lokpal will impose a financial penalty on the guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant. So, when the Bill is enforced, you could approach the Lokpal if your passport or voter card is being delayed unnecessarily. The Lokpal will have to get it done in a month's time.
5. What if a Lokpal officer becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
6. All existing anti-corruption agencies -- CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI -- will be merged into the Lokpal, which will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
7. The punishment would be minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment.
The Jan Lokpal Bill is meant to counter a similar Bill drafted by the government of India. Criticising the government's Bill, Hazare and Kejriwal say the intention was to protect the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, rather than prosecute them. He said the Jan Lokpal Bill would instead give wider powers to the Lokpal to initiate action and prosecute corrupt public servants.
"The nine members of the Group of Ministers appointed for drafting the anti-corruption Bill are some of the most corrupt Ministers," Hazare alleged, while criticising the government's casual approach towards treating corruption.
"Today no government official or politician is afraid of law, because they know they will not be prosecuted," he said.
Incidentally, Sharad Pawar is heading the draft of the Government of India's Anti-Corruption Bill.

What does the Government say?
Hear it from Hazare himself: "We approached the Prime Minister for talking about our draft Jan Lokpal Bill. But he says he does not have time to take action against corruption till May 13.
It was after this statement from the PMO that Hazare decided to go on a fast till the Bill was tabled.
"I will observe fast-unto-death till the government agrees to form a joint committee comprising 50% officials and the remaining citizens and intellectuals to draft the Jan Lokpal Bill," Hazare said at Rajghat.
And slowly, support gathered for the veteran Gandhian crusader.
Hazare went ahead with his agitation despite the Prime Minister's Office expressing disappointment over his decision to go on a fast unto death. The PMO release said that the Prime Minister has enormous respect for Hazare and his mission.
"The Prime Minister says we trust you [Hazare], we respect you. But, then why did the PM not sit with us even once after the meeting last month," Hazare said.
Hazare's supporters at Jantar Mantar included people from all walks of life, from students to activists and professionals.
"I am here because Anna is risking his life for making the country corruption free," said Ramesh Rajpal, who came to Jantar Mantar from Gurgaon to support the hunger strike.
Most of the people who joined the rally are also observing a fast.
"If we can come on the streets to celebrate the World Cup victory, why can't we come out to support Anna? It is a struggle to make the country clean," Delhi University student Srikant Jaiswal said.
Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav, who was present to show solidarity with Hazare, said he was convinced that the Jan Lokpal Bill was the need of the hour to tackle corruption in the country.
"Just as Election Commission and Supreme Court are effective bodies, similarly an institution which is to fight corruption has to be equally powerful," Yadav said.
"I approve of the draft prepared by Hazareji and others. I am willing to back it in Parliament," Yadav said.
The BJP was not far behind in extending support to Hazare's indefinite hunger strike and said there was need to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill in parliament.
Former BJP president Rajnath Singh said in a statement that the government lacked strong will to tackle corruption and people wanted decisive action. He said the reaction of people like Anna Hazare reflects the deep pain and anguish of the common man in the existing situation.
Calling for enactment of Jan Lokpal Bill in parliament, Singh said a powerful institution like Lokpal can provide a mechanism for effective and credible deterrence against corruption.
The Congress admitted that there were differences of opinion on the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill but said 'harmonising opinion' was part of the democratic process. Spokesman Manish Tiwari said the party has always stood for transparency and accountability and has enacted Right to Information legislation.
When asked about Hazare's fast, Tiwari said: "India is a free country and if anybody wants to fast, he cannot be stopped."
Citizen-of-India says: It is a shame that the citizens have come to this point. Shouldn't anti-corruption laws and enforcement just be there? Why does one have to fight for it?
Abrahma says: Do we have courage to come out in streets and favour this movement against corruption? Let's organise our youth to march against corruption and favour this movement to make it historical and enormous. We need to be in action.
Perhaps, it was Saptaswara99 who summed it up: At last, something seems to be happening. Please spread the news through Facebook/Twitter, etc. If it can happen in Egypt, then why not in India?
It is now time for the 'Indian people' to stand up for what is right. Join Anna Hazare's fight against corruption.

Who is it for, if not for us?
A modern day Mahatma who battles corruption
His diminutive stature hides his steely resolve. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he uses hunger strike as a weapon to hit out at the mighty. Now, Anna Hazare, a crusader against corruption, is making waves in a country where hunger for easy money has become a way of life.
The modern day Mahatma, as his supporters fondly describe him, is on a fast in the heart of the capital, drawing tens of thousands from all walks of life who are sick and tired of India's cancerous corruption.
It is a remarkable achievement for a 74-year-old man who dropped out of school at Class 7 due to poverty, sold flowers for a while and then became a driver in the army to feed his family in a rural part of Maharashtra.
Much like Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare -- born Kisan Baburao Hazare -- began his activist life in a humble way.
His first target was his own village, Ralegan-Siddhi in Ahmednagar district. It was a miserable and barren place with insufficient rainfall and lacking any economy. It also suffered from frequent droughts.
The year was 1975. Launching watershed development programmes, he persuaded people to change their ways and managed to transform the barely breathing village to one Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of.
India recognised his work by awarding him a Padma Vibhushan and a Padma Bhushan. But, unlike many, he would not rest on his laurels. He unleashed a war on corruption, launching the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan.
His first victims in politics were three ministers in the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Maharashtra: Shashikant Sutar, Maha-deo Shivankar and Baban Gholap. This was in 1995.
In 2003, when Maharashtra had a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government, he went on fast against four ministers, Sureshdada Jain, Nawab Malik, Vijay Kumar Gavit and Padamsinh Patil, who he said were corrupt.
Anna Hazare's reputation as a man of integrity gave him clout that the corrupt found difficult to battle.
He is a self-made man with no air whose father was an unskilled labourer. Out of school, Anna Hazare sold flowers and set up a floral shop in Mumbai before the Chinese attack of 1962 led him into the army.
It was while in the army that he was exposed to the works of Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave, leaders who captured his imagination.
As an activist, Anna Hazare battled many corrupt officials. He also fought for the rights of tribals, the lowliest of the lowliest.
But he realised that nothing could be achieved until people were empowered. And so he campaigned extensively for right to information, travelling for more than 12,000 km in Mahara-shtra, creating awareness about the legislation.
Now, Anna Hazare has again embraced the weapon of hunger strike to create a mass movement that he hopes will force politicians to enact a stringent anti-corruption law.

India trusts Anna Hazare, not the government
There is no confusion on where the Indian citizen's loyalty lies. The drafting of the Jan Lok Pal Bill to fight corruption has triggered a revolution; one that has been branded a 'second freedom struggle' by civil society members on the Lok Pal panel.
And in this tussle, the people of India seem to have placed their trust unanimously on one man alone -- Anna Hazare.
When a question was asked to a number of people whether they had greater faith in Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev or the Indian government, 61 percentage of voters placed their faith in Anna. Out of 31,192 respondents, a majority of 18,986 readers believe that under his leadership alone, the Jan Lok Pal bill would see the light of day.
When Anna sat for his first fast in April, yoga guru Baba Ramdev also declared his support to the movement. Ramdev then took it a step further by announcing his own fast against black money at the capital's Ramlila Maidan. That fast began as promised on 4th June but did not last for more than one day. The Delhi police cracked down on those gathered in the dead of night. They targeted women, men and children ruthlessly.
The midnight crackdown has gone down in history as one of UPA 2's most infamous moments. Anna Hazare did not hesitate to liken it to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. "The attack on sleeping innocents is an attack on democracy", he remarked during his one-day fast at Rajghat.
But it is interesting to note that despite the dramatic and forceful eviction, only 7,283, i.e 23 percent of voters, believe in Ramdev's fight.
Perhaps the backing of political forces (BJP, RSS) weakened the credibility of the movement. Ramdev's initial discussions with the Centre's emissaries Kapil Sibal and S K Sahay also generated talk that he had signed a deal with them.
What is a certainty though is that the Sibals and Sahays of the UPA should be a worried lot. The poll received only 4,923 voters who had faith in the government; a mere 16 percentage of respondents.
"This government must be taught a lesson…Beating innocent women and children with lathis and tear gas at 1 a.m is the most autocratic act one can do..", posts Sahil from New Delhi on the 'Support Anna' page.
"Shame on Delhi police and Delhi and Manmohan Government..Angrez chale gaye...kale angrez aa gaye. Congress has shown it's true colours.", adds Deepak.
The anger is only growing, and every action/reaction from the government's side has so far swung from catastrophic to complacent.
"The people of India voted for you. They are your masters, not the other way round", raged Lok Pal panel member Arvind Kejriwal at Rajghat. Fasting along with Anna Hazare, Kejriwal's each word was cheered by the crowd proving that the Indian public is no longer willing to stay mum.
Let there be no doubt. A whopping 84 percentage of voters declared they trust the members of civil society in the fight against corruption than the government they themselves chose.
India has truly spoken and it backs Anna Hazare all the way.


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