Jantar Mantar turns into an epicentre of mass protests across the country

Anna Hazare's open challenge to the government to implement a tough anti-corruption Bill and the unprecedented response from citizens has turned Jantar Mantar here into the epicentre of mass protests across the country.

A large number of people converged at Jantar Mantar all through Friday to express solidarity with Anna Hazare and his 200-odd fellow satyagrahis. With every inch of space in a 20-metre radius around the satyagraha dais being taken up, a narrow passage was formed for people to walk past and catch a glimpse of the veteran Gandhian.

Baba Ramdev arrived in the afternoon with hordes of his supporters who jostled towards the front of the stage to hear their spiritual guru harangue the government's ways. All semblance of order that the few dozen volunteers had painstakingly strived to preserve for the past three days went for a toss.

Though the organisers repeatedly made requests to the few policemen at the venue to help them in crowd control, hardly any of them came forward. The satyagrahis were the ones to suffer as the enclosures made to ensure their segregation from the supporters were breached. At least eight satyagrahis collapsed due to dehydration and hypoglycaemia.

Cries of “Vande Mataram”, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Halla Bol” rent the air. If the morning was dominated by schoolchildren from city schools, by afternoon youth from colleges in the city flocked to the venue.

The organisers said they collected nearly Rs. 90,000 on Wednesday and over Rs.1 lakh on Thursday from supporters to pay for the shamiana, carpets, mattresses, water and medicines that the movement needed. On Friday too, people liberally contributed money. A signature campaign collected at least 7,500 signatures from participants.

From an eight-year-old girl who walked the 10-km distance to Jantar Mantar from her home near Kalkaji Mandir to a 103-year-old freedom fighter V. Mudgal Swami who said if he were to become a martyr he would prefer it to happen by Anna's side – there were several instances of patriotism manifesting itself throughout the day.

Acknowledging the role played by the media in taking the movement to every corner of the country, newspapers and TV channels came in for much praise from Mr. Hazare, his lieutenants and the assembled supporters.

There were banners equating Jantar Mantar to Cairo's Tahrir Square, others highlighting the scams of the past few years, and several with pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare and Bhagat Singh accompanied by interesting slogans.