Mood was decidedly anti-government and many felt Team Anna's core members are targeted
Sunday' s fast by social activist Anna Hazare at Jantar Mantar here saw a huge turnout of supporters, shouting slogans and waving the national flag.
Banners announcing “Anna's five ideas” of “pure thoughts,” “pure behaviour,” “unblemished life,” “sacrifice” and “ability to endure humiliation” dotted the venue and places around it.
By 11 a.m., the venue was almost chock-a-block with people, many of whom had arrived from different parts of the country to be a part of the day-long fast. The event also saw politicians across parties discuss the provisions of the Lokpal Bill. Two big screens with sound systems, with cameras focussed on the main stage and facing the crowd had been installed to ensure that no one missed out on the action.
India Against Corruption volunteers guarded against the situation getting chaotic as the crowd erupted several times in agreement with or disapproval of the speakers' comments. Forming human chains, the volunteers kept the crowd from spilling on to the stage. Main bhi Anna caps made a comeback as did the “Lokpal anthem,” which had the crowd swinging and cheering.
Information kiosks, a sale counter for paraphernalia and a volunteer registration counter were all clearly marked and approachable. Volunteers distributed water to people, and made sure to collect all used bottles and packets to prevent littering.
Disciplined crowds, a rare sight in Delhi, have probably become synonymous with protests involving Anna. “There was a huge line at the Parliament Street side to get inside the venue in the afternoon. I was amazed to see everyone moving in an orderly queue, without trying to push their way through,” said Sarika Manchanda, a Delhi University student.
Sunday's fast was a scaled-down version of Anna's protest in August, which was held on the huge Ramlila Maidan. However, there was a marked difference from the protest held at the same venue in April this year. While in April, most people came to the venue out of curiosity, Sunday's fast saw people who were much more enlightened and sure of their presence at the venue. The April event saw unprecedented numbers that were difficult to control, but now the organisers seemed much more prepared for the huge rush at Jantar Mantar.
As the political leaders put across their views, people followed every word and reacted instantly. The mood of the gathering was decidedly anti-government, and several felt that Team Anna's core members were being targeted after the social activist ended his fast in August. “This is a wretched government, trying to discredit members of Team Anna. These are good people trying to do something for the country and are suddenly being portrayed as corrupt by the government. Where do the ones in power get their riches from?” questioned Dr. Anurita Bhalla.
Banners and placards supporting Anna Hazare, the Jan Lokpal Bill and those questioning the government and the Prime Minister were put up at strategic points around the venue and the stage. One placard even proclaimed Anna as the “original rockstar.” A “Wall to the Prime Minister” was also put up near the Jantar Mantar food stalls by civic organisation Avaaz.org. By evening, every inch of the installation was filled with scribbles and messages from people, urging the Prime Minister and the government to bring in an effective Lokpal Bill.