Volunteers and extended family, apart from police and media persons, made up for the fistful that gathered at Anna Hazare’s pitstop in Hyderabad on Sunday.
The city was one of the stops in Anna’s year and a half long itinerary to mobilise public support for Jan Lokpal ahead of 2014 elections. Notable for their absence were the weekend white collar professionals who were, previously, a major part of the rallies and marches in solidarity of Anna’s fasts in Delhi.
The feud within the ranks of Team Anna based in Hyderabad ensured that few knew of the civil rights activist’s presence in the city, let alone the open public meeting on Sunday at Wesley College grounds, which began at 5 pm instead of 3 pm owing to the scarce turnout.
“Though the crowd is small, I see a wave of enthusiastic youth which gives me hope,” said the septuagenarian, who kept referring to the exceptional turnout in Patna where he launched the non-political outfit ‘Jantantra Morcha’, as opposed to erstwhile comrade Arvind Kejriwal’s political outfit Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The Jantantra Morcha will strengthen the system of governance at village level through empowered Gram Sabhas which will hold the Panchayat accountable. “The battle will not be fought at Ramleela Maidan in Delhi anymore but at village, district and state level through empowerment, accountability and employment generation. The government had agreed to grant more powers to the Gram Sabhas but they have been ‘in talks’ with the opposition for over a year now,” said Anna who held the audience through his hardline stance on corrupt politicians.
Hazare’s speech was interrupted briefly by a call for separate Telangana, following which a student leader from Osmania Unviersity was arrested and taken to Ramgopalpet police station.
Paying little heed to the sloganeering which could not hold its own over the cries of ‘Anna Hazare aagey badho’, Anna went on to highlight the need to implement a Right to Reject in elections as well as debarring candidates with criminal records from contesting elections from 2014.
“Right to reject is important as the public should be given a choice to reject candidates whom they do not like. The same candidates should not be fielded again by the party if the voters reject them through a majority,” said the leader.
“I have taken the wicket of six corrupt ministers, 400 officials and there are more to go. In the next one and half year, I hope to gather the support of at least six crore youth in the country. I will then be at the Ramleela Maidan again for the final call and the youth will be out in support,” said Anna.
The public meeting saw former Army chief Lt. General V.K Singh playing foot soldier to Anna. “We have been divided on the lines of caste, creed and religion all these years.
In 1990, only 50 districts were affected by Naxal movement and at present the number has increased to 272. This has happened due to inequality and exploitation of natural resources by the government,” he said.
Social activist Sarvodaya Prasad also addressed the public apart from chairman of World Sufi Syed Mohammed Jilani.