'The support of youth for our struggle makes me hopeful'

'The support of youth for our struggle makes me hopeful'

 Everyday hundreds of people visit the village to catch a glimpse of the former Army truck driver known simply as ‘Anna’, including residents of villages in Ahmednagar district, local politicians, retired bureaucrats and judges, farmers with families in tow, shopkeepers, and of course, the ubiquitous mediapersons. They wait for long hours at a temple where the short, dumpy ‘Anna’ dressed in sparkling white khadi kurta, dhoti and the Gandhi cap covering his head lives in a simple, unfurnished room that has no fan even. K V Ramesh of Deccan Herald was able to engage Hazare with snatches of conversations in between his meetings with the visitors. Excerpts:

What made you take up the case of corruption as an issue now?

It is not a new issue I am taking up. I have been fighting against corruption because it is a disease that is eating into the vitals of our nation. We have had successes in the past (getting Maharashtra minister Suresh Jain to resign over corruption charges).

What is the significance of the timing for the fast at Jantar Mantar? Was there a long preparation?

I had announced two months ago that I am launching a fast. I don’t know why it was such a surprise. As for preparation, we just had to wait till enough people were with us. Not that people were not with us in the past, but we needed to get the civil society behind us. Besides (smiles), now we have the technology — computers, SMS, email, Facebook… That helped.

There is a view that this is a middle class revolution? A Facebook revolution…
The middle class is important. So far, the middle class was not joining any struggles. It is not only the middle class, but the youth, they have come in large numbers. It is they who are the inspiration. I could not believe that it could inspire the youth. That is what makes me hopeful. The struggle is long, but with the youth with us, there is no stopping. Now, of course, we have to take the struggle forward.

How will you sustain it? It obviously will require money. How do you propose to raise the funds?

We will now have to go to the masses, to educate them. This means I and others will have to tour the states. It will cost money, much money. I am a Fakir (a mendicant). I eat once a day. I have no property nor money. Whatever savings I had, I have spent in the village. I will have to consult friends who were with us at the Jantar Mantar; how much will we need, how to raise it, who to raise it from… It will involve a lot of travel. We have to take flights. It is very costly. May be, we will talk to some airline for a discount…

Is the Lokpal bill the sole focus of the struggle?

We have other issues to consider — poverty, unemployment, water, food and sources of livelihood... But corruption encompasses all these issues. Right now corruption alone is the focus. We have to take up the other issues too, because these are rozi-roti (livelihood and food) questions. But only Anna cannot do it. We will go to states and find good people and work with them.

There has been criticism from politicians for your remarks against them...
Who are politicians? They are servants of people. People must tell them that they are servants, not masters. In 41 years, the Lokpal Bill came up for discussion eight times, and was never passed. What were these politicians doing? Those who call themselves politicians — they should be ashamed.

There is a feeling articulated in many quarters that you are close to the RSS and the BJP...

If you see me through a lens that you have chosen, you see what you want to see. I have never associated with any political party. All parties are the same. All they want is money for power, and power for money. How long can this continue? One day, you will have to die. What will you do with the money and power?

Two police officers came to see you and they told us they had come to offer you security. What did you tell them?

They have been saying there could be threat to my life. But, how does that matter? I told them I don’t need security.

Agar marna hai to marna hai’ (If I have to die, then I have to die). Nobody lives forever. ‘Dil diya hai, jaan bhi denge, ye watan tere liye’ (I have given you my heart, oh my country, I will give my life for you too). Did Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev have security men guarding their lives. I told the officers I want no police around me, no obvious security, no one carrying arms…

In 1965 war with Pakistan, a column of trucks — I was driving one — was bombed by enemy Sabre jets. Most in my detail died. I got a splinter in my forehead. I told myself, God has saved me for a purpose. If God wants me now, I will go.

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