Thousands pour in at Ramlila Maidan to witness Anna Hazare break his fast
A sea of humanity descended at Ramlila Maidan here on Sunday to witness history in the making as anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare broke his 290-hour-long marathon fast with coconut water and honey offered by two girls wearing “I am Anna” caps.
While hundreds of Anna's supporters stayed back to celebrate their victory after both Houses of Parliament passed a resolution on Saturday on the demands put forth by the social activist, a large number of supporters donning caps and waving the Tricolour started pouring into the Maidan from all directions at daybreak.
“I have been coming here for the past three days. I did not want to miss the opportunity to be part of this historic moment. I had to start off early. I reached the venue around 5 a.m.,” said Laxmi Prasad from neighbouring Ghaziabad.
As time for Mr. Hazare to break his fast neared, the crowd around the podium swelled manifold. Children rode on their fathers' shoulders, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 74-year-old Gandhian.
The anxiously-awaiting supporters screamed with joy as Mr. Hazare appeared on stage around 9.30 a.m. and greeted them by waving his hand. They welcomed him with chants of “Vande Mataram,” “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Inquilab Zindabad.”
As Mr. Hazare sat with his hands folded, several children wearing “I am Anna” caps — with the Tricolour painted on their cheeks — joined him. He clapped feebly as Mahatma Gandhi's favourite bhajan “Raghupati Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” played in the background. Team Anna members — Shanti Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia — also appeared on stage along with some of the volunteers who had been looking after him for the past nine days.
The Maidan again reverberated with pro-Anna slogans at 10.19 a.m. when he broke his fast.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Hazare reiterated that those who identified themselves with him must follow five principles in their lives — purity in conduct, purity of thought, an unblemished life, sacrifice and courage to take criticism.
“Mr. Hazare's stature has assumed ‘messianic' proportions. The movement led by him will not only help bring about a strong Lokpal Bill, which is our immediate goal, but in the long run, I am sure, it will transform an entire generation that has been a witness to the movement led by an old man who leads such a simple life and is patriotic to the core. We will cherish these precious moments till the last moment of our lives,” said Seema Yadav, who was accompanied by her husband and son.
Madhya Pradesh-based farmer Bhawar Singh said: “We thank Mr. Hazare for having shown us the path and giving us the hope of a brighter future.”
“It is a great opportunity for us to take a pledge that we would do whatever we can in the national interest,” said his friend Ashish Patil.
The crowd gradually started dispersing after Team Anna urged them to gather at India Gate to celebrate their victory at 6 p.m.
Mr. Hazare, who planned to visit Raj Ghat after breaking his fast, had to be taken to Medanta Medicity in neighbouring Gurgaon, where he was welcomed by a huge crowd of supporters jostling to catch a glimpse of him.