Priyal Dave reports on how, a day after our 65th Independence Day, people came together at Azad Maidan to demand independence from corruption. (And Anna Hazare was in and out of Tihar Jail)
The constant rant, about the new generation undervaluing the independence our freedom fighters gave us so painstakingly, was challenged magnificently yesterday at Azad Maidan, in Mumbai considered Ground Zero for Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption, with the youth showing an electric enthusiasm as they thronged police vehicles and headed to jail.
A back-of-the-page calculation reflected that around 1, 500 people were detained yesterday at Azad Maidan police station alone. Surprisingly, despite the huge numbers, both the city police and the protestors, who were almost possessed with the idea of attaining freedom from corruption, behaved most cordially with each other and acceding to each others command. Close to 80 police vehicles peacefully removed protestors over a period of two hours from 2 pm onwards, detained them at different police stations and then released them to return to their places of protest. Morning charged up as news of Anna’s arrest spread
Yesterday was one of the most well managed rallies that the city has seen in recent times.
With SMSes of Anna Hazare’s arrest in Delhi circulating rapidly, volunteers of the India Against Corruption (IAC) and hundreds of supporters in Mumbai headed towards Azad Maidan, while others rallied at different spots in the city. Tossing jibes at the government for its insistence on keeping the Prime Minister out of the ambit of the Jan
Lokpal Bill (JLB), Mayank Gandhi, Mumbai coordinator of IAC, said that the government was trying to fool the people by claiming that certain offices are above law and hence should be kept out of the JLB purview. To enthusiastic applause, he referred to the CBI as ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’.
Gandhi was joined by Narmada activist Medha Patkar, who boosted the morale further with her impeccable Hindi, saying that it was a day to celebrate – either at the Maidan or inside the jail. At regular intervals, Gandhi announced news of growing support and more arrests across the city, each one met with a thunderous applause from the crowd and chants of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’.
Fasting with and for Anna
Among the out-of-towers, hHaving arrived in the city yesterday morning, Suresh Brahmankar (48) from Bhandara in Vidharbha district was on indefinite fast. “I stood by Anna at Jantar Mantar and this time too, I will fast to support him. The government will have to hear us, I believe so,” said Brahmankar, as he rested on the stage where another 25 people were fasting simultaneously. Another volunteer, Dr. Ratna Magotra (64), who was also fasting indefinitely, volunteered to go to the jail in the first batch. She was, however, pipped at the post by dozens of people already in line to go to jail. A touch of glamour was lent to the occasion by actor Milind Soman who joined the crowd for a short while in the evening to support Hazare. Aso there were musician Vishal Dadlani and some other entertainers.
IAC planned the protest neatly
While mass rallies often turn out to be volatile and ugly, this one suffered from no such infirmities. At 12.40 pm, after the news of the death of the Bhopal coordinator of IAC, Shehla Mehsood filtered in and was shared, there was silence and melancholy and the sound of chanting led by volunteers of the Art of Living. But it went no further, perhaps because it was equally swiftly learned that her death was at the hands of unknown assailants who shot her in her car as she was about to leave to join an Anna rally in her hometown.
The news of the freshest round of arrests kept coming at regular intervals, and the cheers, albeit on a subdued note, took place dutifully. Soon afterwards, at around 1 pm, Gandhi announced that Mumbai would begin the Jail Bharo Andolan. Four batches of 25 people, starting with women, senior citizens and the youth were mutually agreed upon and within five minutes, registration was started. At least two boys, one of whom was 11 years old, were a part of the long line that was waiting to be registered to go to jail.
BJP lead by Raj Purohit played spoiler
The protest which was doing well and proceeding calmly, suddenly took an ugly turn after the BJP, led by Raj Purohit with his bandwagon of supporters and BJP flags, tried to hijack the show. As BJP supporters tried to push into the Maidan and take over the cause, handing out slogans and flags with equal generosity, the police intervened and shut the gates, causing a slight disturbance in the crowd. The plan for orderly detention seemed to go for a toss and besides those who had registered, several others were seen trying to hang on to the police van as if they were afraid of missing the last bus home!
The Mumbai Police managed marvellously
As the protest began at Azad Maidan, enough vehicles, including Rapid Action Force vehicles and police forces were deployed to avoid any untoward incident. However, after 2 pm, when protestors flowed onto the roads, the city police swiftly summoned vehicle after vehicle and started removing protestors from the road without using force even once. The process went on for hours and despite more than 3,000 people at the site, the situation remained under control. The protest at Azad Maidan was concluded by 5pm on the insistence of the police, with the release of almost all protestors who were detained. It starts again at 9 am today.