Anna Hazare's supporters stage hunger strikes and protests in almost all districts

Over a thousand Anna Hazare supporters were on Tuesday detained in Maharashtra following widespread protests across the State. At Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, the epicentre of the Jan Lok Pal movement in Maharashtra, around thousand protestors were detained by evening after they courted arrest through the day.

The police control said hunger strikes and protests were staged in almost all the districts and around 100 people were detained in various places in the State outside Mumbai. People took to the streets in Satara, Sindhudurg, Kankavli, Devgad, Sawanwadi and Mr. Hazare’s village Ralegan Siddhi. Agitators mostly staged the andolan at tehsil offices. No incident of violence or rioting was reported anywhere in Maharashtra, the police said.

Around 2,000 supporters gathered at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on Tuesday morning and announced their jail bharo andolan following the news of Mr. Hazare’s arrest. They poured on to the main road in batches and barged into police vans raising boisterous shouts of “Vande Mataram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai.”

Women also participated in the jail bharo andolan in good numbers. All the agitators were whisked away to different police stations and remained under detention at the time of going to press.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Nisar Tamboli said protests took place in around four locations in the city. “Around 1,000 were detained at Azad Maidan under section 68 and 69 of the Bombay Police Act,” he said. Under section 68, persons are bound to conform to the reasonable directions of the police and section 69 gives powers to the police to restrain and remove.

In the central suburb of Matunga, 47 were detained and later released by 3 p.m. At Dindoshi, 30 were detained. Mr. Tamboli said the supporters, even those at the Maidan were detained, because they had not taken the requisite police permission to protest. No arrest has been made so far.

Although the Maidan is a designated area for staging agitations, police permission is required. Propitiatory orders were not in force at the Maidan. However, section 37(1) (3) of the Bombay Police Act was in force all over the city, which prevents assembly or procession by order, he said.

The police would be deciding on the further course of action with regards to the detainees. Mr. Tamboli said if they were not produced before the magistrate, they would have to be released within 24 hours as per the law.

The protests at the Maidan were marked by a high energy which refused to wane with the passage of time. Cries of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ rent the air. There was much commotion on the street as protestors marched with flags and placards. Some stood on the dividers along with media persons. Many sported the sign “Arrest me!” Some even dared the police to arrest them.

“No more happy babus” read one notice. In an innovative method of mocking the corrupt, a group of youths fished out currency notes and wallets and entreated all and sundry to come and take it.

Bollywood absent

While Bollywood was conspicuous by its absence in the andolan, model-actor Milind Soman registered his presence at the protests. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Raj Purohit arrived with his supporters. However, while they were let into the agitation venue, they were not allowed to enter with the BJP flags.

Social activist Medha Patkar exhorted the gathering to continue with the andolan undeterred. She condemned the government action against Mr. Hazare.

“It is absolutely undemocratic and unjustifiable. People have the right to participate in democratic decision-making. The government cannot get away with an anti-people, pro-corporate move. They don’t realise this nexus with the corporates is harming democracy in the long run and [destroys] the purity and probity of the Lok Sabha. The government has lost a balanced approach,” Ms. Patkar told The Hinduover telephone.

She was uncertain about the impact Mr. Hazare’s arrest on the movement. She said the government was trying to crush the andolan, but “each time such atrocities are done, the people feel the need to come out.”

Bandobast

Companies of the State Reserve Police Force, zonal officers’ delta squads, local police teams and additional forces from the local arms unit were deployed as part of the police bandobast.

Police vehicles of all the police stations in south zone were pressed into service for ferrying the detainees to various locations.