Anna Hazare & Co. Up the Ante
Social activist Anna Hazare took a more aggressive stand against the government on Wednesday as he observed his one-day fast against the police eviction of Baba Ramdev and his supporters from Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan festival grounds. Speaking at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial to an assembly of mostly urban elites Mr. Hazare first condemned the incident on early Sunday. “Police lathi [baton]-charged children and women sleeping at midnight. This is throttling of humanity, throttling of democracy.” “Shame” hollered back the crowd, whom the police put at around 3,000, as it sheltered under a white tent on a day when the temperature was around 36C.
“What’s the difference between British rule and the democratic rule?” said the septuagenarian activist, who models his life and habits on Gandhi. “It’s comparable to Jallianwala Bagh,” he said, alluding to the 1919 action by colonial police on an unarmed gathering at a garden in the northern Indian city of Punjab that left many dead.Mr. Hazare then dwelt on the drafting of the Lokpal Bill, which aims to set up an anti-corruption ombudsman’s office. He said the government is “creating hurdles on the drafting of the Lokpal Bill. If government continues to do so we will have to wage a second war of Independence all over the country.”
He told the government not to see his movement as something apart from it. “We are one. You just have to give up the feeling of being superior.” “The government has forgotten that people are the owners and it is their servant. We have to change this perception,” he said.
As he ended his afternoon speech, a program moderator shouted into the microphone: “ Anna nahi aandhi hai, yehi aajka Gandhi hai [He is not Anna but a storm, he is today’s Gandhi]” The crowd clapped in agreement. Speaking before Mr. Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, a noted information rights activist, said that what happened at the Ramlila Maidan was an “attack on the constitution.” He said with such action the government is trying to convey the message that it would continue being corrupt in spite of protests.
“Has the government come down to complete dictatorship?” Mr. Kejriwal said. “We didn’t vote for you so that you become autocrats for the next five years.” Replying to the government’s criticism that the civil society representatives on a committee to draft the Lokpal Bill themselves are divided, Mr. Kejriwal said disagreements were to be expected. “Civil society means this country’s 1.2 billion people.” “Hasn’t the Parliament been divided on issues?” he said. “The only time the parliamentarians have come together was when they had to raise their salary.” Read More