Millennium Post

‘I have never seen a public uprising like this’

Anna’s fast venue at Jantar Matar last week resembled a carnival ground. As a supporter from the dais chanted, Sadda Haq, Ainthe Rakh, the popular youth anthem from last year’s Bollywood release Rockstar, visitors riding high on a wave of euphoria milled about the grounds. There were school and college students, youngsters out on a date, a mom-and-daughter duo, the Delhi socialite and daily wager all walking past the dais in a steady stream to catch a glimpse of Anna. When a singer broke out into a song, Anna tum age badho, hum tumhare saath hain, the excitement in the crowd was palpable. A supporter dressed in a short Gandhi-like
and Anna cap, was busily waving the tricolour flag, children were jumping up and down and everyone gathered would join in the chorus.

But whether it was support for the fasting crusader, a desire to see an end to corruption in the country or a desire to witness the next big thing in the country is doubtful. Perhaps the mood was best explained by a Dutch tourist in the city, ‘I saw a big crowd and came over to see what was happening. I have never seen a public uprising like this in Denmark,’ he said.

Team Anna members canvassing for support for the leader had managed to appeal to public fancy by projecting Anna as the next big thing since Gandhi. All those born after Independence who had read of Gandhi’s non-violent struggle only in history books and heard their elders talk about ‘those days’ in a hushed, awed voiced, wanted to have their own taste of glory, their own share in an era-defining moment. ‘I am here because when my grandchildren grow up and hear of Anna’s campaign and ask me about it, I want to tell them that I was there, that I didn’t simply watch it on television,’ said a supporter. Plus there was the promise that this would be the ‘final battle’.  The country expected Anna to win the Lokpal Bill issue this time or die fasting in the process. Oh no one, would admit it – Anna is simply too important to the country to be sacrificed for the cause. But there was in every heart a persistent little voice that refused to be silenced, ‘what if?’

For most, however, support meant just being on the grounds and waving a tricolour. Fasting, well only special people like Anna can do it. ‘And if everyone fasts and becomes weak who will do all the work?’ asked a volunteer. Perhaps it was this concern to keep the cause healthy and alive that made supporters queue up in front of Anna Ki Rasoi, that was providing free food to visitors.

It is debatable whether those at the fast ground  expected the campaign to work. An art college student sitting with a portrait of Anna that he had made said, ‘I think the campaign will work at a higher level and help control corruption among politicians, but the general people will not change. Our principal is an Anna supporter and asked us to come here, but my parents, though they too support the cause, didn’t want me here. That’s because the last time I went to Ana’s fast, my mobile got stolen at the fast venue.’

And an Anna supporter himself was blamed for being corrupt by his employer. Perhaps the most popular face at Jantar Mantar this year was Anil Bandoni’s who was dressed up as Rawana to portray corruption that need to be removed from society. ‘I work as a security guard at a hotel. I am skipping work to come to the fast. The other day I went to work and clocked in my attendance. But my employer called me corrupt because I had not worked the full duty hours.’

Anna’s fast of course had a tame end with the leader breaking his fast without having achieved his mission and announcing the launch of his political party. For the true supporter of the cause this might have come as a disappointment, but for the PYT in jeans and an Anna cap who had been at Jantar Mantar just to see the show couldn’t care less.

Poulomi Banerjee is Assistant Editor at Millennium Post.
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