Thursday, September 15, 2011

Anna Hazare

I realised I missed out on a huge news event in my last entry, and I had meant to include it there since it was in Mumbai that I had seen my first set of Anna Hazare demonstrators from my hotel room. You may have already seen the pictures and wondered who he is.

I hadn't heard and of the news about him until I actually arrived in India. My uncle told me that many Indians consider him to be the new Gandhi as he leads a movement against corruption in India. All the news channels were covering his campaign 24/7. He threatened to go on a hunger strike if the government didn't pass a bill he had proposed that would see to it that those in positions or authority would become responsible for their actions and could even be prosecuted. At best, the government had said they would consider his proposal, but this wasn't good enough for Hazare, and his hunger strike threat continued. The drama heightened when he ended up getting arrested right before his strike occurred. If there hadn't already been thousands of people supporting him across the country, this only seemed to stir up more support for him as the demonstrations so far and all the way until the end had been peaceful. I didn't hear one incident of someone being killed or injured during the entire event.

While in jail, Hazare decided to start his hunger strike, and within a few days, the government decided to give him some space in a park in New Delhi to sit and strike. Interestingly, he was only allowed to do this for 15 days as apparently another group had rented the space after that two-week period for their own protest of some sort. In any case, if I remember right, it was about 11 days after he went on hunger strike that the government finally acquiesced to his proposal, and the process has already begun. One judge was already impeached before I left the country.

Quite honestly, I was surprised that this movement was successful. Corruption in India is so rife that it's almost its own institution. It was exciting to be there during one of India's most significant moments in history, and I was hoping to pick up some paraphernalia, namely the Gandhi-style hats that people were wearing that had Hazare's name written on them, but I hadn't a clue where to get one. I would have even loved to just go to one of the demonstrations to get photos and say I was there (which I'm sure made my cousins think I was crazy), but then I wasn't about to just head out there on my own and find one. Still, it was an amazing experience to be in India at that time. I encourage you to read the Times of India to get a more accurate overview of Anna Hazare's plight.

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