Austere warrior, Anna Hazare, hits the bull’s eye

Austere warrior, Anna Hazare, hits the bull’s eye
Aneeta Chakrabarty

The ”venerable” congress headed by a department of the odd couple, one old and blind, the other foreign and wily, have run out of gimmicks.   Their tricks of dividing, looting, and torpedoing of truth again and again, has roused the furies of a billion people who have woken up to the sordid saga of their lives doomed to despair  and their dreams turning to dust.

“We must dare,” they willed collectively and under the piercing glare of the media, they marched to Jantar Mantar to support the revered social activist Anna Hazare‘s (Anna) fight against corruption.    Simple and austere, 73 year old Anna Hazare’s speech of defiance against a rigid, tin-eared government rejuvenated a frustrated and cynical India to action.  The people listened to the stirring sounds of an old culture of pre-independence India, challenged the status-quo and clamored relentlessly for implementing the anti-corruption Jan-Lok pal bill.    For months, the bill which had sat still on the government’s lap even when Anna wrote to Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister, suddenly found its legs, as the ignited debate on corruption exploded all over the county.    The fury of the nation simmered and simmered and finally boiled over on April 5th when he announced a fast unto death.   This time, Anna Hazare, the warrior activist fought a different kind of battle where fasting replaced the guns of war.

As usual the government did not respond.   Like the great Pharaoh, their unyielding stance stood like a fortress against the rabble.  Besides, grasping reality was never their strong point.   But this time it was different.  From the snow capped peaks of Kashmir to the seas of Kerala, the people stood as one in silent solidarity with the selfless Gandhian.  The skies of India were alight with hope.  For the first time since the white man left its destitute shores, the vast, diverse nation, irrespective of caste, state, color, religion, spoke with a single voice.  And the tremendous synergy of millions and millions of people from all the major cities in India lifted the haze out of the government’s eyes and the proud rulers with cold sneers reluctantly conceded to the anti corruption Jan-Lok-Pal bill endorsed by Anna Hazare.  The people prevailed and the people won.

“Now scams like 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games and Adarsh housing are being exposed but the corrupt are not going to jail.  We want a Lok Pal bill to jail the corrupt and get them hanged,” said the activist.  True, he is a Gandhian but he has an explanation.  “The situation today is such that we should follow not only Gandhi but also Chhatrapati Shivaji.”  And like Shivaji, the warrior in him fought the liquor mafia, battled corruption in government offices, campaigned against the Mumbai underworld, and unleashed the power of the shackled farmer with his crusade for a RTI in Maharashtra.

While politicians of all hues called him a fascist and a blackmailer and the indifferent elites continued their rampant looting, the angry people revered him as a hero.  Steeped in the Gandhian tradition of giving a high place to the growers of grain, he started the process of sustainable development in his village of Ralegaon Siddhi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.  Nearly forty years ago, Ralegaon Siddhi, was an obscure village mired in poverty with liquor dens dominating the bleak landscape.  Water was scarce and making a living was almost impossible.   Anna Hazare took voluntary retirement from the army and returned to his village.  He stood in the Yadavbaba temple and spoke to the villagers.  He gave them their five commandments – prohibition, family planning, voluntary labor, no open grazing and no felling of trees.  They swore to stand by his commandments and the journey began.   There were threats, there was danger at times but Anna, the fearless street fighter, mowed down all opposition and continued the march to prosperity.  His unique watershed development ensured water and crops for the village.  Today the village, a self reliant model of sustainable development, grows jawar and onions, has a milk bank, a grain bank, a school, a hostel, gymnasium, credit societies and a renovated temple.  Anna continues to live in the same village in a small two room house with wife Kanta.  As a tribute to Anna, the Maharashtra Government implemented Anna’s watershed development in its “Model village” scheme.

“I was always a troublemaker.  I used to have a temper.  I could not see someone doing something wrong that makes others suffer.  I would end up opening my mouth and get into trouble,” says Hazare as he put his superiors on notice for corruption in ration supplies.  They took their revenge and sent him off to the war with China in 1962.   He survived 1962 and also survived an attack on his convoy by Pakistani Air Force in 1965.  Several of his colleagues died and he was left all alone sad and ruminating philosophically on the enigma that kept him alive.  When he decided to transform his village, he found the answer .

“Cometh the hour and cometh the man,” and there’s little doubt that the man of the hour is Anna Hazare.   But the road to renown started with a significant event.   Once upon a time, he saw no purpose to life and contemplated suicide.  He even wrote a two page article as to why he was opting out of life.   And then by chance in New Delhi railway station, Swami Vivekananda’s face beamed from the pages of a book.  It could be the telepathy of the great spiritual genius or his own soul responding to the subconscious divinity, that made him pick up the book and from the divine light of the book, he read his mission – to serve his fellowmen.  Armed with an honest thought and a simple truth, he marched on and never looked back.

 

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