FREEDOM MOVEMENTS SEVENTY YEARS APART
By Chitranjan Sawant
India Gate has been my stage for action as an electronic media commentator on the Republic Day Parade year after year for four decades. To-day it was a different story. I was a protest marcher and had a white khadi Gandhi cap on my head covering my white hair here and there. The words written on my cap in Marathi language and Devnagari script were: Me Anna Hazare. I was declaring to the assembly all around “I am Anna Hazare”. Would Chidambaram’s barbaric police catch me for impersonation? No, never-so said an inner voice. They are down in dumps after losing many boxing bouts to Anna Sena. Moreover there was blood of Swami Ramdev’s devotees on Chidambaram’s hands and “all the perfumes of Arabia would not sweeten those hands”. My apologies to Shakespeare for quoting his lines out of context like the ministers and babus of the Congress led government.
Anna Hazare of Ralegan Siddhi village in Maharashtra is in New Delhi these days leading a peaceful movement to eradicate corruption from India. Following into the footsteps of Gandhi ji and Jai Prakash babu, he announced that he would go on fast to see the Manmohan government ( read Chidambaram and Sibbal) see reason. The issue was the institution of Lokpal and how powerful it should be and who all would be within his jurisdiction. The minister-duo who claim to run the Anna show decided to arrest the diminutive Anna, not realising that this man of the masses would make the ministers bite the dust. So said the inputs from Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police who were dead against arresting the Padma Bhushan awardee, Anna Hazare. In any case the police had burnt its fingers by wielding a lathi too many in chasing away women and children from the Ramlila Maidan on 4th June 11 at past midnight. The world public opinion had chastised India for gross violation of human rights. But the said ministers were bent upon repeating history in the Don Quixote style attacking wind mills with a lance. To avoid the political heat of Delhi, a general secretary of the Congress party dived deep under water to resurface in far off Pune.
THE UNIQUE MARCH
The march for freedom from corruption that afternoon was unique indeed. There were more young men and women in this protest procession than in any other in the recent past. The slogans that dominated the march were patriotic ones like BHARAT MATA KI JAI and VANDE MATARAM. The zeal and the fervour with which motherland was applauded were to be seen to be believed. Just about everyone was holding a Tricolour in hand and marching with chest out and chin in – indeed a military march sans uniform. We marched to Jantar Mantar, a short distance away and generally a place for protests staged with police permission that was denied to Anna for fasting protest.
There was some sort of bon-homie with the escorting police force as they never said a harsh word to protest-marchers. This courteous behaviour of the Delhi Police was unbelievably true. Aftereffects of going into overdrive at Swami Ramdev rally, I guess. Anyway, that softness of police prompted some to coin a new slogan “yeh andar ki baat hai; police hamare saath hai”. I wonder what the reaction of home minister Chidambaram was to this slogan!
Anna Hazare, a veteran of the Indian Army was still at the Tihar jail despite a government order releasing him from custody after the police had withdrawn all cases. Now it was Anna Hazare’s turn to be in the driving seat like in the good old army days. Anna declined to come out of the Tihar jail unless the police, guided by govt, gave him permission to stage a protest fast in a public park. While we were marching in protest from the India Gate to Jantar Mantar we discussed just about every subject under the sun, not forgetting speculations about the end result of the present protest fast of Anna Hazare that had attracted votaries from all walks of society and all regions of the motherland. If the old guard of the Congress from the 19th century days were to be brought to various protest spots in the national capital, they would be pleasantly surprised. Men and women of all faiths shouted patriotic slogans and had no reservations in chanting VANDE MATARAM.
Jantar mantar is a weather observatory that was built by maharajah Jai Singh of Jaipur to study movement of stars and other celestial bodies in the firmament. The King of Jaipur had built a similar but bigger in size, observatory in Jaipur too. Who could tell that the Vedhshala, as the official nomenclature was, would be put to a completely different use – a staging place of protests to air grievances and support causes of sorts.
DOWN THE MEMORY LANE
9th August 1942, it was a momentous day indeed. Mahatma Gandhi had made the clarion call: QUIT INDIA AND CALLED UPON ALL ADMINISTRATORS OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO LEAVE INDIA forthwith. The Englishmen were in no mood to obey Gandhi, the half-naked faqir in their eyes. All Indian men and women were urged by the Congress party leaders to boycott British, be it goods, dress, education, courts of law or anything else that was even remotely connected with the British rulers who came from across the seven seas. The Indian subjects of His Majesty King George VI were exhorted by the political leaders not to enrol in the Indian army or help in the war efforts.
I was in the sub-secondary section of the Government Intermediate College attending the Maths class. Not much interested in the subject. Suddenly there was commotion in the class. Bigger boys from senior classes came into our classroom and asked us to leave classes forthwith and form a procession. They were all shouting slogans in Hindi and waving the Tricolour. I recall now that the most prominent slogan was “ Angrezon, Bharat chhodo, Angrezon, Bharat chhodo”. The scene was exciting to me and I wanted to join forthwith. However, the class monitor sitting next to me said that the class teacher would be angry and so would your father, a British government official, be. His observations placed me between the devil and the deep sea. Soon something in my mind told me to leave the class and move out in a procession like the senior boys were doing.
The Principal came out of his office. He looked angry. His face was red. He had a cane in his hand that he used frequently to punish the disobedient lot. I had never had a taste of his anger and now felt subdued. Out of sheer fright I was about to wet my knickers when senior boys shouted slogans BHARAT MATA KI JAI AND VANDE MATARAM.
NOW NATION IS ABOVE ALL
What a pleasant coincidence that after almost seven decades I was marching in another procession in the national capital fighting for independence from Corruption and shouting same patriotic slogans. The same slogans had given me courage to face the Principal and yet not wet my knickers to form a procession to ask the British rulers to quit our motherland. Now we were moving in a procession deriving courage and inspiration from an army veteran to oppose our own Indian ministers and bureaucrats who were corrupt and stealing our money from treasury and stashing them in foreign banks. Today in 2911, I had the same anger and angst against our people who were becoming richer by using dubious methods as I had in 1942 against the British rulers who did not let India become independent and prosper.
A patriot is a patriot irrespective of age and station in life and society. We must get rid of corrupt men and women in the govt or in the industry so that the poor prosper. The thinking men and women must educate the villagers and less fortunate townsmen how to proceed forward so that our motherland is once again a great country. Now we have to make same sacrifice as we did during the British rule. Those who wish to make our nation great and prosperous must learn the lesson of self-sacrifice. For God’s sake, please never be a grabber but be a giver to make India great. It is only through self sacrifice that we will help our compatriots make progress educationally and economically so that our motherland is great. Thereafter we will all be able to say with pride – MERA BHARAT MAHAN. WE SALUTE OUR MOTHER INDIA AND SAY IN UNISON : VANDE MATARAM VANDE MATARAM.
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