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“The country did not get actual freedom even after 64 years of independence... The same looting, same corruption, same rowdyism still exist. If Jan Lokpal Bill is not brought in the Monsoon Session then I will continue my fast beyond 21 days.” -Anna Hazare, August 20, 2011
On April 6, 2011, Anna Hazare, named this century’s Gandhi, decided to go on a non-violent hunger strike against corruption at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, India. All around the world many Indians began supporting this cause by fasting, marching, holding candlelight vigils, or attending protests. “Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Orkut were overflowing with emotions. It seemed as if Hazare unleashed a people’s tornado,” wrote a journalist from Easymedia.in.
As soon as the government was challenged, officials tried to silence the voice of their adversaries. The fasting site Ramila Maidan was overcrowded, causing the police to forcibly disperse the citizens. Anna Hazare was imprisoned during this process for causing “disruption.” His arrest was mocked as the government’s way of ending this “chaotic” protest. However, instead of terminating Hazare’s fast, or interfering in his plans for revolution, the government accidentally helped Hazare and his team by motivating them to depose corrupt leaders.
Not only in India, but also in Japan and the U.S., subjects joined Hazare’s campaign for an anti-corruption agency. An Indian citizen says, “On the third day of Anna’s fast, my friends and I decided to go and protest at the Indian Embassy. We called other Indians in Tokyo, and within two hours, about fifty people gathered at the embassy with either the Indian flag painted on their cheeks, or posters that said ‘No to corruption.’ This action induced the Indian embassy to listen, and Japanese media reporters broadcast the news that Tokyoites were also part of this historic movement.”
On the eleventh day of the fast, the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, spoke, “Anna has become an embodiment of our people’s disgust and concern about tackling corruption. I applaud him and salute him. His life is much too precious. I would urge Sri Anna Hazare to end his fast.” After twelve days of fasting, the government finally amended three of the laws he wanted to alter, and Hazare broke his fast from a glass of juice a five-year-old gave him. Once he became healthy and fit enough to give a speech, he asserted, “I want to tell the youth of this country that this fight should not be stopped with Lokpal alone. We have to fight for removing the faults of the present electoral reforms. Because of the fault in electoral system, 150 criminals have reached Parliament.”
With the anti-corruption agency established, many corrupt politicians, public officials, and bureaucrats in India are being scrutinized. Social activist, Kiran Bedi, Hazare’s ally and orator during the fast says, “If the billions of dollars were to be retrieved from corrupt people, there will be enough schools for every child to attend, no lack of dispensaries, infrastructure, vocational training colleges, or ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes). Once corrupt money is returned, and corrupt people are punished, there will be an immense world-recognizing change in Bharat.”
Photo of Anna applauding his success, from Flickr.
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