Which incident can be called ‘historic’ ? What are the elements which make an incident historic? It is easy to bring the word ‘historic’ to our tongue, but there should be historic reasons for historic incidents as well. So, when a senior journalist told me on the evening of 30 January at Patna that he saw new history in the making in reality at Patna, I asked him, how? He answered that forty years ago, during the time of Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan we saw how the poor and the youth went around with their own money, gathered and raised slogans for a change in the system. He also recalled how the Gandhi Maidan would fill with people when Jayaprakash Narayan would come to this venue. He said ‘I am recalling all that today after looking at the rally of Anna Hazare. That is why I say this rally is historic’.
While respecting the words of that journalist friend, I would like to add a few more reasons as to why this rally is historic. The political parties have made it a habit with the people that if there is a meeting somewhere, if there has to be a rally, then money is given to the people on a daily basis, food is provided, and so are vehicles for transportation. Not only this, apart from these facilities, they also provide illegal means to many people. In spite of this, such rallies remain confined to a few thousand people and when people in lakhs have to be brought for a rally, crores of rupees need to be spent. In general, for a rally of around two lakh people at Patna, the political parties spend fifty to sixty crores rupees – this is the estimate of journalists in Patna. The rally of Anna Hazare was historic in this context : not one amongst all the people who came was even served a cup of tea, nobody was even provided with a rickshaw for conveyance. And yet, people in very large numbers came to the meeting — at a rough estimate there were two to two and a half lakh people at the rally. Full of enthusiasm, the poor and approximately ninety per cent of youth had come because they were attracted by the slogans of Anna Hazare for change in the system. They felt that someone had come again who was honest like Jayaprakash Narayan and Mahatma Gandhi and will put in extraordinary efforts to find solutions for their problems.
The problems are not local, the problems are those from which the entire country is suffering, which means the problems of the system. However, a few television channels estimated that the rally had twenty thousand people, some said there were thirty thousand people and one channel said that the magic of Anna Hazare is no longer working. Whose estimates these are we will tell you a little further down, but first, we will enlighten you about the reality of this rally. Anna Hazare is going to start a journey of change in the country. He says this change will be a democratic journey for raising people’s awareness for a complete change in the system : he will go before the people with a definite issue and will prepare them for change. He will say to the people that this entire political system is standing against their interests and so he has made up his mind to challenge the political system. He had hopes from the Gandhi Maidan rally at Patna that Bihar would respond with outspread arms, will accept him and will put the responsibility on his head of starting a fight for a complete change in system in the country. The people of Bihar fulfilled Anna Hazare’s hopes to a large extent. Before the rally, there were discussions in all the districts of Bihar on Anna Hazare’s appeal, and people decided to send their representatives to Gandhi Maidan at Patna. Each and every word of Anna Hazare that was printed in newspapers or the statements made by Anna Hazare on television evoked an amazing response and awakening in Bihar. The appeal was heard the most by the youth. There was hardly any district in Bihar from where people did not come for Anna Hazare’s rally. People from the Ekta Parishad under the chairmanship of P. V. Rajagopal were present at the rally. The people who believe in the leadership of ‘waterman’ Rajendra Singh who fights for provision of water, were also present at the rally. But the majority who formed this rally were the sons, students and youth from the households of the farmers and labourers.
Anna Hazare played a master stroke at the 30 January Patna rally. He said, ‘I will not use the India Against Corruption name now. I announce a new organisation, which will include all those who want complete change’. He made General V. K. Singh read out the charter of this organisation and announced that the name of this organisation would be Jantantra Morcha. For now, only Anna Hazare and General V. K. Singh are the leaders of the Jantantra Morcha, but the associates of this
organisation include not only P. V. Rajagopal, Rajendra Singh and Maulana Sufi Jilani, but those organisations who took part in the rally, and became associate organisations of the Jantantra Morcha. Everyone at the rally welcomed Anna’s announcement enthusiastically. Anna Hazare also announced the e-mail of Jantantra Morcha. The e-mail ID is : jantantramorcha@gmail. com. The phone number is : 09650268680.
Anna Hazare had given the responsibility for organising the rally to General V. K. Singh, who after disucussion with Anna Hazare, finalised two rules for this rally. Firstly, there would be no public donations anywhere, anytime. Questions were raised on this, and especially the workers of Anna Hazare asked how then would they be able to work? General V. K. Singh answered that help should be taken from people not in the form of cash but in kind and gave examples. If someone wants to give money for printing pamphlets then he should give it to the press, if there is a need for a loud speaker then the money should go straight to the person providing loud speakers, if someone wants to give money for transportation then give it straight to the transporter. Cash would not go out to anyone else from the hands of the people who were part of the Movement. There was a lot of opposition to this. The second rule for this rally was that there would be no Central Committee. General V. K. Singh said that it would be not just one leader, but hundred leaders, not just one office, but hundred offices. Whoever wants to open an office at
his/her place could so and who ever makes a group of 20, 25, 50 people would be the leader. He said e-mails and phones would be used to keep in touch and build a relationship with these people. These rules resulted in a loss. Old workers went away from General V. K. Singh because they did not have any faith on this new system : they felt that if they cannot collect funds then how will they work ? Besides, because of the absence of a Central Committee, they also lost the opportunity to project their personalities. In terms of results, many prominent workers and leaders went away, but there was also one benefit. Lakhs of new people took their stand at place after place. They shared their resources between themselves. They made their own Committee, made their own promotions and so on. Overall, it turned out to be a wonderful job in developing local leadership. Till now there have been no reports of public donations. The greatest benefit from the Movement of Anna Hazare and the rally of 30 January was that Anna used a new pattern of democracy. A team was seen on the stage at this rally of Anna Hazare. Leaders fighting for the rights of the tribals and the landless including P. V. Rajagopal, Jharkand’s Adivasi worker Munni Hansda, Karnataka’s Mritunjay Swamiji, waterman Rajendra Singh, Chairman of the Sufi Council Maulana Jilani and many other journalists who came forward, who took on the responsibility of making this rally successful included themselves as a part of a very big group. No one knows those journalists, but they know everyone. They not only wrote new and ran new stories, but they also helped in gathering resources. Many writers and poets attached themselves to Anna Hazare’s rally. Anna Hazare’s Movement also excited Government officials and especially police constables. All of them said to Anna Hazare individually, whenever the opportunity presented itself, we are with you, we cannot come along with you openly, but all of us will give you support.
And this is the most mysterious aspect of the movement of Anna Hazare. Those who are in the Government jobs, may it be of the police or the civil services, every person wants to come before Anna Hazare and want to support him. Government Ministers keep making efforts to speak to General V. K. Singh in secret. Members of Parliament and Bihar legislators wants to speak to Anna Hazare. In the event of not being able to speak to Anna Hazare, they make efforts to try and meet General V. K. Singh. But even more amazing is that the children, women and especially the people from the Muslim community seem impatient to connect with Anna Hazare. It is probably the intrinsic, all encompassing, positive aspect of Anna Hazare that when General V. K. Singh went to meet the chief of Imarat Shariah, Maulana Nizamuddin, he said he agrees with and supports Anna’s objective. After almost one week when Maulana Sufi Jilani went to meet the chief of Imarat Shariah, Maulana Nizamuddin, he openly said I agree with the objective of Anna Hazare, I support him and I make an appeal to the Muslims that they go to the rally. And Muslim youth and Muslim women were part of the rally.
There is a disease in Bihar. Every individual is seen less in terms of his capability, but more in terms of his caste and the rumour spread that as General V. K. Singh is a Rajput, the Rajput community of Bihar has taken a stand with him and Rajputs are seen at all the places. The workers believed this rumour, but the public did not believe this rumour, because it could be seen at Anna’s rally that the poor in large numbers were among them the crowd, weak people were in large numbers among the crowd, the downtrodden were in large numbers and the youth were in large numbers and their behaviour or attitude was in no way based on caste. Anna’s rally broke the myth that caste is seen to be boiling all over Bihar.
Anna Hazare’s rally gave a new message to the country. The message that the ordinary public also has strength. The message that the common people can also stand up for change. The message that a big section of the youth of this country wants change. The message is also that if a laudable objective comes from the heart then it goes straight into the hearts of the people and prepares the mind to fight for it. This is what happened at Anna’s rally. There were claps at each and every word of Anna Hazare. The people also listened with a lot of attention to the speeches of all the people who were on the stage — General V. K. Singh, P. V. Rajagopal, Rajendra Singh and Maulana Sufi Jilani amongst others. Another achievement of this rally is Maulana Sufi Jilani, who infused a lot of enthusiasm among the people was present at the rally. A very special thing about this rally was that holding soil which has the blood of Mahatma Gandhi to his bosom as a ‘witness’, Anna Hazare exhorted the people who had come to the rally to take an oath. An oath to sacrifice everything for the country, to consider the country to be supreme and to safeguard the heritage of Mahatma Gandhi. The whole atmosphere became charged. People felt that Anna Hazare was speaking to them as the ‘face’ of Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan. The newspapers of Patna described the same situation as it was, because all the prominent editors were present at the rally. But a few television channels, among which Zee television is the major one, the second one being Sahara channel, shamelessly tried to belittle the rally. Zee said that the magic of Anna Hazare is fading. Sahara estimated that it was a rally of twenty to thirty thousand people. This was like saying the light of the sun is not the light of the sun or spitting at the sky. In both the situations it becomes an insult to whoever is saying it. The people seated there and the other news channel of the country, among which ABP news, Aaj Tak and NDTV and many other channels were looking at how history is being made and poor people are taking a stand. But the two channels mentioned earlier shamed journalism and its ethics.
The political impact of this rally in practical terms could not be gauged from the reactions of people like Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan but they were all nervous. The political impact of the rally was seen the next day, on 31 January, when the Central Cabinet hurriedly started discussions on the Lokpal bill and passed its draft. The Government probably felt that if it passes the draft of the Lokpal bill then the impact of this rally will be nullified, but what the Government is doing today is not just wrong but against the people.
The day after the rally, that is, 31 January, doubts which were there in the minds of the people about the Lokpal Bill proved to be correct. The coming Lokpal Bill is devoid of strength, Anna Hazare said as much publicly, because even today people still wait for and want to know and understand his reactions to the issue of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Anna Hazare said in Patna and also said on 1 February in Delhi that this Lokpal bill is a ‘fraud with the country’. He said that all the political parties seated in the Parliament were involved in this fraud, because it was Parliament that had passed this proposal with unanimous consent. After this, the Prime Minister had written a letter to him, in which he had made promises, but the Prime Minister retracted from those promises. Whatever Sonia Gandhi wrote to him was also not right and she had not given give any answer to Anna Hazare’s reply to her letter.
Anna Hazare says that he will run a big movement against corruption and for the Jan Lokpal and will speak about fundamental changes to the youth of the country. In the rally on 30 January, General V. K. Singh, at Anna’s request, read out a 25 Point Programme. Anna Hazare is going on a tour across the country with this Programme. Each and every point of this Programme is a challenge for the political parties, because I feel that this 25 Point Programme is going to become a new agenda for the country. Anna Hazare firmly believes that if the political parties do not make clear their stand on this charter then he would ask the public to select their own representatives and send them to the Lok Sabha. It is not possible to bring a change in the system without a good number of supporters who champion change being elected to the Lok Sabha, because, after all, laws are to be made in Parliament.
Anna Hazare played a master stroke at the 30 January rally. He said, ‘I will not use the India Against Corruption name now. I announce a new organisation, which will include all those who want complete change’. He made General V. K. Singh read out the charter of this organisation and announced that the name of this organisation would be Jantantra Morcha. For now, only Anna Hazare and General V. K. Singh are the leaders of the Jantantra Morcha, but the associates of this organisation include not only P. V. Rajagopal, Rajendra Singh and Maulana Sufi Jilani, but those organisations who took part in the rally, and became associate organisations of the Jantantra Morcha. Everyone at the rally welcomed Anna’s announcement enthusiastically. Anna Hazare also announced the e-mail of Jantantra Morcha. The e-mail ID is : jantantramorcha@gmail. com. The phone number is : 09650268680.
Anna Hazare is going to start touring the country from March. General V. K. Singh, P. V. Rajagopal, Rajendra Singh and Maulana Sufi Jilani will be accompanying him. This journey will keep witnessing additions, because Anna Hazare has made an appeal to all those people who want a change in the system — they might be students, they might be the youth, they might writers, they might be poets, they might be journalists, they might be authors or they might be in politics — to come forward and give their support to him in this Movement. If the public responds to Anna Hazare’s appeal then it will be a big warning for the political parties, and those who do not want to listen to his words now, who do not get shaken by the people’s sorrows, who do not feel inflation and corruption are a problem and who criticise Anna Hazare seated in their drawing rooms, far away from the public.
I am writing all this with full certainty that that the country will stand in favour of Anna Hazare in the next three months and sideline political parties. And if I am proven wrong in my estimate, then in the piece which I would be writing in the coming four to five months, I will admit that I could not understand the people of the country and its youth, that my estimate was incorrect. But, like Anna Hazare, I also have full faith that this country will take a stand in the next three months, will challenge the political system and will compel it to start taking decisions in favour of the public.