Singing devotional songs and holding placards, hundreds of supporters gathered near Rajghat in the capital Wednesday morning to support veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare and participate in a day-long fast to protest the crackdown on yoga guru Baba Ramdev.
With the weather turning a little benevolent and the tricolour fluttering in the background, a smiling Anna sat on the raised platform and waved to the supporters who raised slogans like ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai!’.
Holding placards with slogans like “This is the second war of independence”, people started thronging Rajghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, as early as 7 a.m. although the fast was not to begin before 10 a.m. There was also a heavy police presence at the site.
The fast will go on till 6 p.m.
One of the first ones to reach the venue was Kuldeep Singh of the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Party who came with his friends from Punjab to support Anna’s movement.
“We have come here to support Anna. What the government did at the Ramlila ground was wrong and it should not have taken such a step. Corruption is a big issue and we have the right to protest against it,” Kuldeep Singh told .“Anna and Baba Ramdev should come together and fight this battle together,” he added.
In April, Hazare’s five-day fast drew widespread support across the country and forced the government to set up a joint panel to draft a Lokpal bill to combat corruption in high places.
Vaibhav Kumar, one of the many young supporters of Anna, said: “Just like Gandhiji took the path of non-violence, Anna Hazare is doing the same and we are supporting that.”
“What happened at the Ramlila ground is shameful. The people who gathered there were protesting peacefully. If the government can baton-charge peaceful protestors, then they should remove Gandhiji’s photo from all government offices and the currency notes as well,” he added.
Wearing a Nehru cap, another young Anna supporter said: “We are not aligned to any political party. Our only aim is to fight corruption.”
Earlier in the day, before proceeding towards the fast site, Anna Hazare said: “The government action at Ramlila ground was an attack on democracy.”
Former top cop and activist Kiran Bedi said: “We need a stronger law against corruption which can be trusted. The system should be approachable. We will consider ourselves free only when India is free from corruption. It is a second war of independence.”
Police cracked down post-midnight Saturday on an anti-graft protest by close to a lakh of followers of yoga guru Baba Ramdev at Ramlila ground here forcing them to disperse. Ramdev was arrested, flown in a special BSF plane to Dehradun and taken thence to Hardwar near where his Patanjali Ashram is located.