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'It is a do or die struggle'

As Anna Hazare contemplates another agitation beginning with a one-day fast on Dec 11 in Delhi, Mumbai gears up for a demonstration at Azad Maidan on the same day

It looks like Chalo Azad Maidan once again as Anna Hazare looks set to hold a token one-day protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar. This, says Anna, is only a dress rehearsal for the real thing which would be a a fast in Delhi on December 27, to protest against the government's backtracking on the Lokpal Bill.


At last: Anna Hazare breaks his fast on the 13th day of his hunger
strike at the Ram Lila grounds in New Delhi, in August this year. PIC/AFP


The hotbed of yet another Annagitation would be in the Capital but Mumbai is going to be part of the action. The India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, the one-year-old mouthpiece of the Anna movement, IAC volunteer Praful Vora calls it the Team India, "not just Team Anna" movement, is confident that thousands of Mumbaikars would flood Azad Maidan on that Sunday, where they would protest the Govt's backtracking on its promises.

Vora says rather grandiosely that despite controversies, there is no giving up for this mammoth movement which Vora dubs as the, "second freedom struggle."    
 
An interview with IAC's Praful Vora
Anna Hazare plans to mobilise a meeting at the Jantar Mantar grounds in New Delhi on December 11. Are there any similar plans in Mumbai? Also, has Hazare got permission for the same? There are conflicting reports about the permissions.

Intimations-permissions are under process for Jantar Mantar.  IAC always abides by the basic 'rules for common good' even though we offer 'satyagrah' against systems, which were designed by the English about 100 years back.  Yes, there are similar plans for Mumbai too.


City is stirred: Anna Hazare's India Against Corruption supporters
outside the BMC headquarters

Do you have permission to demonstrate at Azad Maidan? What form would this gathering in Mumbai take?
Yes, the IAC,Mumbai chapter is planning a 'dharna' at Azad Maidan in the Public Demonstration Zone on Sunday, December 11. Intimation to the relevant Police Station has been made and as has been usual, we do not expect any objection, since this is a Common Demonstration Zone. Our volunteers, wearing Anna caps, will gather there at about 10 am, to inform the citizens and the media about the 'breach of faith' the 'dhoka' that the Government has given the whole nation.  Full details of the points on which promises have again been broken will be offered. Banners, posters, leaflets, badges proclaiming the above will be offered to the IAC Nagarik Samitis and citizens from our Citizen Centres at Andheri East, Byculla East and Kurla West. The crowd will disperse in the evening, about 7 pm after dark. We expect tens of thousands, more than last time. 

What is the program exactly for the Mumbai demonstration? 
I have explained the timings and our agenda above. One day fasting will be encouraged by all volunteers, except those who are managing the actual event. As has been usual, we expect the police and CID to continue to offer guidance to IAC. We also expect some groups associated with IAC Mumbai chapter to conduct similar events in far flung areas of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), though these may be on a
smaller scale.


Annather controversy: After the attack on Nationalist Congress Party
(NCP) president and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in Delhi,
now dubbed as Slapgate, NCP party's student wing protest against the
attack and burn an effigy of Anna Hazare at Dadar TT. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar

Your one day protest in Mumbai is on Sunday, December 11. Is it a deliberate decision to stage this protest on Sunday, since it is a non-working day?
The presence of citizens on a non-working day is an advantage since they do not have to forego working day salary and wages. The Government of India is forcing citizens to upset their routine lives by forcing our hand and we have to accommodate the needs and restrictions on the lives of citizens, their families and work. 

What kind of crowd are you expecting on December 11?
IAC-Mumbai expects tens of thousands to visit and participate in our day-long satyagrah-dharna-fasting.

Why are you holding this protest once again, after mammoth demonstrations earlier? 
We are now sure that the Standing Committee and the Indian government have purposefully broken all the promises made to the nation.  The Lokpal Bill to be put before Parliament for debate and passing is so weak that, again, the citizens will be left with a toothless institution and more pain. The following issues are not resolved, even though promises, 'sense of the house', commitment by INC spokesperson, UPA-2, were made:

>> PM to be covered by the Lokpal
>> CBI and CVC to be merged with Lokpal
>> Citizens Charter for all Federal and State departments, covering all services, costs, time lines and regular revision after feedback from all stake holders. 
>> Lower division Officers not covered by Lokpal, but NGOs (registered and unregistered) to be covered.  The talk of need of extra staff for the former, is therefore a lie since there are lakhs of NGOs who will need much processing.  
>> Judiciary corrupt practices not covered by Judiciary Bill or the Lokpal. 
>> Lokpal not independent since it has to work through CBI, etc who continue to report to the PMO.


Pandal platform: With Anna Hazare being the flavour of the season,
the Thanawala family decorates their home pandal at Fanaswadi,
Girgaon


Do you think that the public will respond again?
We, at IAC are certain that the citizens of our glorious nation will respond with greater fervour than before. The disgust and rage is palpable. Our meetings at Nagpur, Amraviti, Pune, Nashik, weekly meetings in Mumbai, the eagerness to join our Mumbai IAC Nagrik Samitis (INS), support this expectation. We have confirmed 85 INS for Mumbai, and the number keeps rising. 

Hasn't the Anna Hazare movement lost some of its steam and sheen?
This is really unbelievable. A simple chat with the people on the street in any town, village, city will confirm otherwise. Our movement based on Ahimsa, Satyagrah, avoidance of 3D and confirmation of PAT (Participation, Accountability & Transparency) does not allow goondaism, hooliganism and rabid tactics. We do not instigate common breach of law and order, as can be seen every week, by some political parties and their supporters. We do not call for 'bandhs' and harassment of citizens. We do not call for flash strikes and hurt the nation and citizens. In our one year of street activity, there has not been even ONE incident of violence or 'situation' for which the security and police have had to act. The satyagrah has been more peaceful and is the first in the whole world.  The constant mis-management of the nation and its economy, the leakage of development funds in lakhs of crores, the humungous scams are not forgotten by the citizens. We know they will respond to Anna's and IAC's call... now it is a 'do or die' struggle. The second freedom struggle is certainly on.


On the Anna brandwagon: Actor Vivek Oberoi with Anna Hazare at
Ralegan Siddhi earlier this year

First, it was Prashant Bhushan accused of making alleged anti-India remarks, then the Kiran Bedi controversy?People are now saying that even Hazare's team is accused of corruption. It has lost the moral high ground of this movement
The high or low moral ground of individuals has never been the issue on the table.  The one and only item which, has been troubling the nation has been a 'strong law against corruption and black money'. This cause is greater than the individual, whosoever it is. This is the principle of the IAC movement. The tainted amongst the government are busy trying to 'divert' the public from the main agenda. The whole nation is reduced to becoming victims of corruption and some projects have reduced the nation to beggary.  So, who is to choose who will be 'the great deliverer'? The logic that an alleged accused cannot suggest or work for public good is ridiculous. 

Is the Anna Hazare team riddled with infighting and controversy?
Any national movement will have persons coming in and going out.  This is so for all times. Each capable person will have their own strengths, but they all believe in the common public cause. Only those who want the 3D effect (Deny, Divide & Divert) will emphasize the alleged weakness of one or more of the IAC teams. Does the fact that some in the team have different opinions, change the main agenda or the need for a strong law? Is the possibility that one person being wrong today, mean that the nation should not consider something pending for over 43 years? What have the political parties being doing, except passing bills to improve their own benefits? Witness the fact that each MP costs the citizens at least Rs 62 lakh per year. They do not even take feedback from the citizens of their constituency as our common referendums have shown time and again.  


Waxing Eloquent? A life-size Wax statue of Anna Hazare (l) with the
real Hazare made by South Indian sculptor Sunil Kandlur (sitting in the
middle). Kandlur has a wax studio at Lonavala

 
History has shown that movements like the support Anna movement start off with a bang but gradually fizzle out. People do not have the strength or the time to continue. Would this one be different? 
It is only when armchair activism overtakes grassroots action, that the above happens. IAC has found the right cause affecting each and every citizen of this great nation. Even the politicians agree in private that they support a strong law against corruption since urgent reforms do not work anymore due to the constant bleeding of resources. The same support has been expressed by the police and their branches and officers. The peaceful nature of each and every activity speaks of the sincere purpose; never has any activity been hijacked by self-seekers or troublemakers, though attempts have been made to bring ridicule on the movement and its key supporters.  None of such attempts have succeeded.
 
The last time Anna Hazare held his demonstration and a similar movement happened in Mumbai, there were actors, performers etcetera who supported him. I think a choreographer even did some kind of dance at the Azad Maidan. Was all this for publicity? Or do you think what he said, resonated with everyone?
The IAC movement does not promote: netas, abhinetas and any self-seekers. Like any citizen, they are welcome to visit and promote the national IAC cause.  IAC has never hired choreographers professionally, however some came and offered to bring in talent to promote the INDIA TEAM public cause led by Annaji. Even some Bollywood personalities came in support as did senior advocates of the Mumbai High Court. We have not stopped politicians from openly supporting the IAC cause, however they have not brought their party culture or ideology to our stage and platform. After all, they too are citizens of India. In each case, they have avidly supported the public cause of, 'strong law against corruption'. IAC does not support publicity stunts and stings. This movement is too serious. India's existence is at stake.

Why do you think NGOs (like yours) and the media (like this one) should not come under the ambit of Lokpal?
These are mostly not working with public taxes or public money. They are anyway required to file elaborate annual statements and undergo regular audit. Peer pressure exposes any wrongdoing. This is not found with low level government officials and public servants who have been kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal. With the media, its independence and episodic misdeeds, hardly require any special treatment, the current laws and the media overseeing is sufficient. The common citizens are not affected by any episodic event of the media. Focus on making the law, citizen centric needs to be maintained.

Do you see the second round in Mumbai growing into a mass movement like the first?
Sorry... this is the fifth round: the first was at Nare Park, Lalbaug, on April 3, when over 8,000 citizens sat for three hours peacefully and listened to five 'dharma gurus' and many IAC key volunteers. The second was the 'fasting' from April 5 onwards at Azad Maidan when over 10,000 visited daily and which culminated in a victory car rally attended by over 150 vehicles on April 9. The third was again the unbroken fasting from August 16 at Azad Maidan when over 2,400 offered themselves for arrest on the first day, and daily 15,000 visited the maidan and where over one hundred groups, schools, unions and associations signed in. There was also the Maharally from Bandra (W) Railway Station via Juhu Beach ending at the Juhu Circle (over 10 km)on August 27, attended by over TWO LAKH citizens, without any incident or 'situation' and with hardly any police presence. Every time, the movement has grown and the constant 3D, which seems to be the only weapon of the Government has stopped working.

What is IAC based on?
The India Against Corruption (IAC) movement is based on ...
1. Ahimsa in Thought, Word and Deed.
2. Satyagrah against existing systems and processes of the Government (at all levels) which are based or copies of what the extortionist English left behind and which do not reflect the current and future needs and wants of the citizens of India. 
3. Avoidance of the trap of 3D (which is Deny, Divide & Divert) which has been practiced by all invading powers and adopted by the democratically elected Government at all levels in the nation.
4. Persistent and consistent use of PAT (Participation, Accountability & Transparency) in all social transactions, such as meetings, activities and agitations.

What are the key issues?
>> Anna Hazare says December 11 will be a curtain raiser for December 27 when he threatens to go on yet another indefinite fast. He plans to sit on a one-day fast on December 11 at Delhi's Jantar Mantar.   
>> He says the Government has ditched him and made a fool of countrymen on the Lokpal bill. He says that a strong Lokpal bill not a watered version needs to be passed during the winter session of Parliament.  
>> Why should Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the media come under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill? asks Anna
>> Hazare is against the exclusion of the judiciary and lower bureaucracy besides the CBI under the ambit of Lokpal.

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