India supports Team Anna

Nationwide protests against anti-corruption crusaders arrest, many detained

According to reports from the state capitals, hundreds of people were detained by police in different cities and towns after they gathered in the main thoroughfares, shouting slogans against the UPA government protesting the arrest. They were later released. The protests were peaceful and no violence was reported from any part of the country, the reports said.

The 73-year-old Gandhian’s native village Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra observed a bandh. Protesting farmers came out on the roads along with their cattle and blocked the traffic. “The entire village is observing a bundh today,” said Hazare’s associate Datta Awari, adding that villagers have decided to observe a fast to express solidarity with him.

A section of the demonstrators in several cities observed fast while several others sang patriotic songs. In the Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad, some of the agitators got their heads shaved to protest the arrest of Hazare in an early morning crackdown in Delhi.

Mumbai

Thousands of Anna supporters and anti-corruption activists gathered at the historical Azad Maidan to express solidarity with the Gandhian.

It is estimated that over 1,000 people courted arrest there. Reports trickling in from the hinterland revealed that preventive detentions were carried out in almost all districts including Ralegan Siddhi-Hazare’s native village in Ahmednagar.

The state-expressways and highways also witnessed blockades at various points and till late Tuesday, over 3,000 people were detained for causing traffic disruption. Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik told reporters that between 2,000-3,000 people were detained during the day and released.

Later in the day, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil held an emergency meeting with top state police officials to discuss a strategy on how to circumscribe the “cascading and escalating protest demonstrations in Mumbai and state.”

At Azad Maidan, almost all supporters sported the traditional Gandhi cap, inscribed with slogans like “Mee Anna Hazare Ahaaye,” (I am Anna Hazare) and “Malapan Atak Kara,” (Arrest me.)  The congregation also heard spit fire speeches by noted social activist Medha Patkar and other environmental activists from Konkan region.

Chennai

Several NGOs and civil society groups took to the streets, even as sections of civil society launched a relay hunger strike protesting the arrest of Anna and demanding his immediate release.

NGOs, including the Tamil Nadu Consumer Protection Organisation and All India Civil Rights Protection Movement, staged protests in different parts of the city.

Hundreds of youths from various colleges also expressed solidarity with Hazare’s movement.

People from different walks of life, including 85-year-old Venkat Kalyanam who had worked as secretary to Mahatma Gandhi, and veteran freedom fighter Lakshmikanthan Bharathi kick-started a relay hunger strike at a private premises in Adyar in South Chennai.

By Tuesday evening, lots of young professionals including architects and software engineers came to the venue to express their solidarity with Anna Hazare and participate in the relay strike.

Several social organisations organised a Peace March on the Marina Beach here, the second largest beach in the world, followed by a candlelight vigil. A group of volunteers from Kumbakonam are already in Delhi to back Hazare.

Kolkata

Activists and supporters were angry and disgusted over the “uncalled for” arrest of the septuagenarian Gandhian on Tuesday and packing him of to the Tihar Jail.

The Trinamool Congress, an ally, declined to join the Congress in condemning Anna’s proposed fast. “It was a matter of the UPA government and a central affair and we don’t have anything to comment on the situation. Already, the TMC-Congress alliance government in Bengal is hard-pressed with flood and a legacy of fiscal drought bequethed to us by the previous Left Front regime,” a close aide of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Poets and writers including Magsaysay winner Mahasweta Devi too objected to the manner of the detention of Anna and felt that it would not help improve the image of India abroad. “It amounts to ruthless gagging of the voice of democracy; you have every right to differ with his views . But how can you take away his right to protest and restrict the number of people to his meeting. It looks so funny and a lame excuse,” observed an activist of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights.

APDR and SUCI, an ally of Trinamool Congress and a hardcore baiter of the Congress, have called for protest rallies on Wednesday.

Jaipur

People in large numbers took to the street at many places braving the heavy rain during the day. The biggest protest was held at the Udyog Madian near Statue Circle where people raised slogans against the Central government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemning the arrest.

The Youth against Corruption has called for a half-day bundh in Jaipur on August 18.There were reports that dharna and demonstrations were held in Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Ajmer in support of Anna under the banner of India against Corruption.

Orissa

The ruling Biju Janata Dal strongly criticised the UPA government for its decision to arrest Anna Hazare and his associates.

“The Central government should not have arrested Anna Hazare who wanted to have a peaceful protest. The move is highly undemocratic. The incident reminds us about the ugly things that had happened during emergency”, the BJD president and state chief minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters here.

About 50 people were arrested near PMG square for picketing on the street. In Berhampur in Ganjam district, several trains were stranded for more than an hour as protestors resorted to rail roko.

Chandigarh

Support for Team Anna gathered some momentum in parts of Punjab, Haryana and its capital Chandigarh.

Anna’s supporters protested outside private residences of three union ministers in Chandigarh after his arrest.

The residence of Union HRD and Telecom minister Kapil Sibal in Sector 5, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s residence in Sector 28 and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni’s residence in Sector 9 saw some bleak protest.

Elsewhere in Haryana, lawyers protested in Sonipat. There were reports from Bhiwani in Haryana that shopkeepers in certain parts of the town were forced to down shutters.

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