As govt closes doors, Anna finds an opening

Geeta Gupta

Posted: Aug 16, 2011 at 0104 hrs IST

New Delhi
On way to Constitutional Club, Hazare stops at Rajghat to meditate at Gandhi’s memorial, supporters pour in too

“Annaji samaadhi mein hain, koi awaaz na karein (Anna is meditating, do not make any noise)!”

With this instruction, Anna Hazare and his team marched into the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Rajghat at around 4 pm on Monday, taking the Delhi Police and his own supporters by surprise. It was an unscheduled stop on a day when he and the government headed towards a showdown, and Hazare dropped in while on his way to a press conference at the Constitution Club.

“Anna suddenly said he wanted to go to Rajghat, so we all came here. He wanted to meditate. We’ll do as he says, not sure about what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said social activist Manish Sisodia, who sat next to Arvind Kejriwal, watching over Anna together with the increasingly swelling crowd.

From around 50 at 4 pm, there were close to 3,000 gathered by 7 pm as people came in from around Delhi hearing about Hazare’s “impromptu” stopover at Rajghat.

As they formed a circle around him, Hazare himself sat still, “meditating” — a picture in white in the middle of lush-green grounds, but for a blue mat peeping out from under the sheet he sat on.

Kejriwal seemed unsure of Hazare’s next move as some reports said he had taken a three-hour vow of silence. At the end of it, Hazare was reminded by close aides of the scheduled press conference at Constitution Club and left.

Shanti Devi, 55, said she was proud to be at Rajghat with her husband. “We live at Sitaram Bazaar. I saw Anna sitting at Rajghat on TV and came rushing here to see the great man with our own eyes. It seems the government wants to repeat the 1975 Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi,” Shanti said.

Supporters like her struggled to keep their enthusiasm in check, and when a few started shouting slogans, they were hushed by volunteers sporting ‘India Against Corruption’ T-shirts.

“There is no need for us to shout slogans. Anna Hazare is practising silence. Look at the people’s support, togetherness is the loudest slogan,” said Sanjay Bansal, who had come along with 15 family members all the way from Dwarka after seeing Hazare on television.

There was no restraining the TV cameramen though. Not far from the assembly of activists swearing by the Mahatma, some could be seen perched atop Gandhi’s samadhi, in a bid to get the “right angle”.

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