“There are people waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon us”

A day before leaving for Mumbai, social activist Anna Hazare said on Sunday the agitation for a strong Lokpal Bill should not turn violent at any cost, as there were people waiting for violence to happen. He was speaking to the public after two days — he was unwell, suffering from cold and cough.

Addressing a gram sabha here, Mr. Hazare, who still seemed frail, set the tone for the andolan.

“There are people waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon us, so we will ensure that the entire agitation is non-violent.” He appealed to the people to participate in the andolan in whichever way they could.

Mr. Hazare said he would stage a dharna in front of the houses of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi. “People should be spoken to in the language they understand. It has been almost a year since the non-violent struggle started.”

“Follow ahimsa”

The anti-corruption crusader would leave for Mumbai on Monday afternoon. He would observe a fast for three days and then the “jail bharo” andolan would start. “Be ready to face lathis of the police, but the entire agitation should follow ahimsa,” he said.

Mr. Hazare's physician Daulat Kothe said that though he was ready for a three-day fast, it could not be extended beyond that period.

Vrinda Malik writes from Mumbai:

In Mumbai, hundreds of volunteers gathered in the Bandra-Kurla Complex, the venue of the fast, to plan the protest amid police protection.

Over 600 constables marched to the venue to inspect the area, where they are to be deputed for the next few days. “At no cost should anyone be rude; politely ask people to cooperate so that there is no unpleasantness,” a group of constables was instructed at one of the corners of the 30,000-sqm ground.

Over 50,000 people are expected to turn up for the fast every day. “We are not going to register every person as it will be very difficult to keep a count. Only people observing fast with Annaji will be registered,” said Mayank Gandhi, Mumbai coordinator of India Against Corruption.

Huge support

Mr. Gandhi said while there had been a huge support for the movement, the IAC would not accept any financial aid from anyone this time round. “I am glad to say that people have volunteered to sponsor food, water, CCTV cameras, and rent for the venue. Within few hours of our submitting application with the MMRDA, people pledged over Rs. 70 lakh. But we are not accepting any cash or cheque this time.

“We have lived our lives under forced corruption; our only demand is that the government come up with a strong anti-graft Bill so that the coming generation will have a choice to be corrupt or not. We are still expecting the government to give an actual anti-graft law and that will be a victory for us and the country, but there is little hope from politicians,” one of the volunteers said.

“I am going to be here for as long as it takes ... my business will get affected but the country has been hurt more,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Over 84,000 register

In a related development, 84,487 people from all over the country had registered their names till now on www.jailchalo.com, website set up by the IAC for registering the names of volunteers who expressed their readiness to go to jail as part of its ‘jail bharo andolan' slated for December 30, 31 and January 1 in the cause of the Jan Lokpal. Nearly 8,000 people from Mumbai and suburbs have got themselves registered.

“This number is going to increase, we were expecting people to start registering after the 27th, when Annaji is here and the fast begins, but we already have over 80,000 people,” said Radhika Prashad Dubey, who has taken up catering responsibility at the venue. “We have not tried to estimate the number of people, we will feed every person that comes here,” Mr. Dubey added.

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