Social activist Anna Hazare joined the indefinite fast being observed by his team members at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday, energising the anti-corruption movement and bringing the crowds back to the venue.
Not just Jantar Mantar but the entire India Gate roundabout was thronged with enthusiastic supporters at a late evening candlelight march.
As promised, on the fourth day of the fast by Team Anna members and 350 others, Mr. Hazare joined the agitation, despite his “failing health.” It was the Anna of last year who roared Bharat Mata ki Jai and Inqilab Zindabad from the dais occupied by the fasting members, some of whom had to be taken to hospital. “We want an effective Lokpal Bill,” Mr. Hazare said, “but till such time that the Union Ministers charged with corruption occupy office, we know that an effective and independent Lokpal will not come [into being]. We know that if there is a strong legislation, these Ministers will have to face the consequences. Hence, we are demanding an independent special investigation team to probe the charges against them.”
The “betrayal” of the ruling class and a movement to give power “back” to the people were the recurring themes, with the tricolour as the symbol. Team Anna demanded the passage of the Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament.
By late afternoon, there were more people than all the previous four days put together. Television cameras had to be suspended from cranes to catch the action on stage, and the tricolour was visible everywhere.
When Mr. Hazare came on stage, the crowds broke out into frenzied applause and cheering. He said his team members had asked him not to join the protest, but that he could not stand by while so many others were fasting. His announcement evoked appeals from his team not to fast, since it needed his leadership.
Speeches by Team Anna members, activists and politicians were interspersed with chanting of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai and the rendering of Ragupathi Raghava Raja Ram and other patriotic and religious songs.
“Our movement is gathering strength,” said activist Sanjay Singh.
“Our land is not just land, it is our life,” screamed farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, as the crowd roared in approval, taking several minutes to calm down. “When freedom was given to the nation at midnight…,it was given to the ‘people,’ but that freedom was also taken away by the ruling class. Now, the ‘people’ are demanding their freedom back,” said activist Bhupesh Singh.
Earlier, releasing activist Arvind Kejriwal’s book Swaraj, Mr. Hazare said ‘swaraj’ meant people taking decisions and not politicians or bureaucrats.
Mr. Kejriwal asked college students to sacrifice one week of college for the “cause.”