NEW DELHI: “Don’t let my arrest stop this movement. This is the nation’s second struggle for freedom.” Anna Hazare – aware that he could be arrested – said in a recorded video message before being arrested.
The message had a viral effect not only on Facebook and Twitter but across the strata of religious, regional and all other divides. The people literally erupted coming out in thousands from small villages to cities and towns against what they termed govt. emergency like action against peaceful protest.
No one really, not even Anna Hazare would have anticipated the extent of countrywide support for his crusade against corruption. Within hours of Anna’s arrest, protests broke out from Gangtok to Chennai, Patna to Jammu, leaving the government gasping.
But before the day of democratic turmoil, the Manmhona Singh and his cohorts led by Kapil Sibal tried out all the options to weaken social activist Anna Hazare’s campaign from spreading.
Delhi Police went preemptive by arresting Anna Hazare before he could reach JP Park to fast. Leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj asked govt. why did it arrest Anna from his place when Section 144 was imposed in J P Park.
Then followed a whole day of fire fighting by the government to stop the Team Anna and its supporters from campaigning. Hundreds courted arrests and thousands participated in demonstrations, even as millions remained glued to the 24*7 news channels. Kapil Sibal along with Ambika Soni and Home Minister P Chidambaram held press conference to give all the arguments they could to express sadness at Anna’s arrest even as they justified it.
But the arm twisting of the govt. continued. With the crusade against corruption intensifying, the government resorted to unofficial blockage of bulk SMSes to prevent the Gandhian’s campaign managers India Against Corruption from garnering support.
“Though there is no official ban on bulk SMSes, the services are apparently blocked by bulk SMS service providers, since the telecom service providers associated with them have felt that the SMSes for Hazare’s campaign have ‘objectionable’ content”, reported CIOL.
Murder of RTI activist and Anna Hazare supporter Shehla Masud
On a day when the nation was on the streets to force the govt. release Anna Hazare and pass the civil society version of Lokpal Bill, the news of the murder of RTI activist Shehla Masud in Bhopal at 11 in the morning came as another shocking reminder of the difficult struggle against the corrupt. Masud, 39, was shot in the neck point blank when she was about to get into her car to attend a signature campaign in support of Anna Hazare’s agitation.
Shehla Masud had recently sat on a hunger strike in support of Anna Hazare. She was known for raising issues related to the death of tigers in Madhya Pradesh.
Govt attacks and then goes on the backfoot; Releases Anna and ready to apologise for arrest; Anna refuses
Caught amid unprecedented national storm after Anna’s arrest, within 12 hours of Anna’s arrest, the govt decided to release him. However, the veteran Gandhian has refused to walk out of the jail until he was allowed to hold his fast without the prohibitory orders imposed by police.
With crowd only swelling outside Tihar Jail and the Chhatrasal sports stadium, the Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the tense situation and the likely political fallout.
“We can apologize” for arresting Hazare, Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhry said late in the evening, reported IANS.
No respite for govt.
Despite ban on bulk SMSes, Team Anna has been able to get across to people through Facebook, Twitter and other means. The Facebook Page of Indian Against Corruption is requesting people to “Reach Tihar Jail gate, its late night and we need support for Anna Hazare, prepare to spend night there, bring friends, Send SMS”.
Support for Anna is also pouring from other quarters. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar reached Tihar jail around 12 am on Wednesday. His Holiness requested all AOL members to reach there.
Nyay Bhoomi, an auto-rickshaw union which claims 10,000 members, has called for a one day strike on Wednesday to mark protest against the arrest of Anna Hazare.
Not to be left behind are the govt. servants who themselves would be under the ambit of the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill. There are unconfirmed reports of govt. servants planning to go on a mass day long strike to express solidarity against corruption.
Support has also been pouring for Anna Hazare from Indians in New York, New Jersey, London and other parts of the world.
One of the late night messages that has been coming from Team Anna: “Tihar Jail is our Tahreer Chowk tonight, reach there to support Anna, bring your friends.”