|Few mass movements in modern India have galvanized so many so quickly like the one by Anna Hazare in August. Not since the struggle for independence from British rule, have Indians, cutting across all spectrums of society, come out in open support in such large numbers against any one cause—in this case the scourge of corruption. Anna ignited and propelled a nation to come out on the streets and agitate with him, albeit peacefully, through the strength of his conviction, credibility and Gandhian values.
In no time, he was joined by a gigantic army of volunteers who were guided intelligently by members of civil society. Team Anna’s most valued members were former bureaucrats Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal and lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan. They supported Anna tirelessly, addressed the media after their frequent meetings and run-ins with the Government, reached out to the public, and took turns at the public address system to keep the movement's momentum going.
What was indeed very riveting about the entire two and a half weeks of Anna’s incredible movement was his repeated calls for non-violence. He knew that if people resorted to any kind of violence, the law and order machinery would be forced to break up the agitation, and ban all rallies. His appeals worked, and millions across India raised slogans and banners, sang songs, and lashed out at the corrupt, but all peacefully. It helped that in Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer, Anna found an ally who had considerable clout and goodwill in the police force of Delhi. So, the police would also not act rashly against someone they considered as part of their own. The indefatigable duo of Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal, along with Bedi, took turns to address mammoth gatherings at Delhi’s Shri Ram Lila Maidan, and never let energy levels drop. Bhushan has been long associated with anti-corruption activities, and this time he once again showed how firmly one can stand against corruption if one really wishes to.
Often the Government was found talking in two languages when it came to taking action on Anna’s demands. But when faced with the dire prospect of something serious happening to the 74-year-old Anna who had completed 12 days of fasting, the Government buckled, and acceded to the demands of his team for including various provisions in the Lok Pal Bill. It was victory for a people’s movement, and critically exposed the mistrust the citizens of this country have about politicians in general.
The time has also come for politicians to self-reflect on why they have lost credibility. “Looters,” Anna described them in one his speeches. Many in the political fraternity have become just that, siphoning away public money at will, and getting away with it. This mass loot across India has clearly ired the nation. Anna brought this ire to the fore, and instantly became India’s 21st century hero.
The cover story is a tribute to what a diminutive man from Ralegan Siddhi in western Maharashtra could achieve. By forcing the Government to include all stringent provisions in the Lok Pal Bill, he and his team have given hope to millions of Indians that in times to come corruption at the very top of India’s democratic structures would be dealt with effectively.
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