Clamour for arrest as people from far and near join protest in New Delhi

The Chhatrashal Stadium in North Delhi, which was turned into a temporary jail in the wake of widespread public protest in support of Anna Hazare's campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill, was packed with his supporters on Tuesday after they courted arrest in protest against the police action against him.

Soon after Mr. Hazare was brought to the Gazetted Officer's Mess in Civil Lines, the protesters, chanting “Vande Mataram” and “Inquilab Zindabad” and carrying the national tricolour, started gathering there in groups asking the police to put them behind bars. They were rounded up and sent to the nearby Chhatrashal Stadium. By 10 a.m., about 30 buses had been deployed to take them to the stadium.

The number of protesters increased manifold as the day progressed. After Mr. Hazare was shifted to Rajouri Garden, they turned towards the stadium and by afternoon the crowd had swelled and slogans intensified. They all asked the policemen to let them into the stadium. “The stadium is full. You may be taken to some other place,” a policeman said.

A large number of students from the nearby North Campus of Delhi University also joined the protesters, among whom was 61-year-old social activist Dayaram Singh from Etah in Uttar Pradesh.

“I was at Jantar Mantar when Anna Hazare started the [anti-corruption] movement. I again joined him during the one-day protest organised recently. This time, I have come here along with my village friends to extend all support to Anna to rid the country of corruption,” he said.

Seventy-one-year-old Jai Narayan Pawar of Indore also joined the protesters, shouting slogans.

‘Cant just sit in homes'

Vinod Sharma (58), from Kurukshetra in Haryana, said: “I am a medical practitioner. I could not keep myself away from the ongoing movement that has shaken the conscience of the nation. We cannot just sit in our homes, watching the action on television.”

For 65-year-old Navin Chandra of Mumbai, it was a call for freedom from corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

School students gathered in large numbers to court arrest, but they were goaded away by the police. “Some of our friends have been kept in the stadium,” said one of them. Among the protesters was businessman Sumit, his wife and his minor child. “We should strike while the iron is hot,” he said. Many people passing by in buses waved at the protesters in support.

‘Ray of hope'

Carrying the tricolour, a retired Delhi Police inspector, Phool Kumar Malik approached the policemen deployed outside Gate No.3 of the stadium, asking them to arrest him. “Most of the lower-rung police personnel are passively supporting the campaign against corruption. We are also from the same society and desperately want a clean system. Anna's movement is a ray of hope,” he said.

Gaurav, a private firm employee, said: “I have taken leave of absence to join the protest. I have also requested my colleagues to extend support to Anna.”

Karan, a young woman from northeast Delhi, led one of the groups cheering the protesters. Responding to the slogans, many of those lodged in the stadium scaled the walls, waving flags and chanting “Vande Mataram” in unison.

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