Unprecedented crowds braved monsoon rain to greet anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare at the Ramlila Maidan from where he called upon youth to lead a non-violent revolution for change. “Our fight goes beyond Lokpal Bill to bring about a change in the system and to give justice to the poor,” he said.
“The country has a bright future because the youth has awakened. Youth power is the nation’s power. They will not tolerate any further loot of the country,” he said.
Giving examples of protests in some other countries, he said the Indian youth will set an example in the world for non-violent and peaceful struggle.
“We had a revolution in 1942 because of which our white-skinned rulers left. They left, but corruption did not end. So the second struggle for freedom has begun,” he declared amidst huge cheers.
Moved by the incredible presence of thousands of people at the Ramlila Maidan, the septuagenarian social activist declared the fight for a strong Lokpal to be the people’s fight. “Whether I am there or not, don’t allow this flame to be extinguished. Till India is free from corruption, this flame should burn,” he said raising his voice above the roar of the crowd.
The activist, who had begun his fast in jail on August 16, said he had lost 3 kg of weight in the last four days but declared that loss of weight will not dampen his enthusiasm. “I am energised by you,” he told the cheering crowd asking them not to leave Ramlila Maidan till the government agrees to the demand for a strong and effective Lokpal Bill.
Rain did not dampen the spirit of people who poured into the Ramlila Maidan in hundreds waving the tricolour and raising slogans like “Anna tum aageh bado, desh tumare saath hai” (Anna, you go ahead, the country is with you).
He later sat on the dais where a team of doctors checked his blood pressure. He took sips of water from a bottle.
Earlier Mr. Hazare was lifted on people’s shoulders when he visited Rajghat to pay his respects at the Mahatma Gandhi samadhi. When the strong contingent of police that threw a protective ring around him asked him to walk faster as the crowd was growing thicker, the activist started to run.
In the morning, thousands of people thronged the Tihar gates from where Mr. Hazare emerged at 11.45 a.m. His entire route from the prison to Lal Batti Chowk and Mayapuri in west Delhi was suffused with people of all ages. Briefly addressing them, Mr. Hazare thanked them for their support and asked them to maintain peace. From Mayapuri he travelled in a private car to Rajghat.
However, the Ramlila Ground that can hold about 50,000 people was still being prepared till after Mr. Hazare’s arrival. Several trucks of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi were pressed into service to clear the ground of muck and level it out. Sudden rain did not help matters.
Speaking to journalists, Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said Mr. Hazare’s fast will continue till their demands were met. They want provisions of Jan Lokpal Bill to be incorporated in the official Lokpal Bill which is before Parliamentary Standing Committee.
“We have not received any official word or feelers from the government to open a dialogue,” lawyer Prashant Bhushan told journalists when asked about reports that a Maharashtra-based NGO and a Cabinet Minister had been deputed for ‘informal talks’.