A soldier of the Indian Army has shot from obscurity to global fame, gathering growing support from Indians in India and overseas in his crusade against corruption that has been eating into the vitals of the world’s largest democracy.
Kisan Baburao Hazare, popularly known as ‘Anna’ (brother), has become a nemesis for the ruling United Progressive Alliance in general and the Congress Party in particular and its less than enthusiastic response to calls for legislative action against corruption.
Following his fast-unto-death and unheard of support from a cross-section of the economy and the society, both houses of Parliament in New Delhi agreed to enforce the ‘Lokpal’ Bill, subjecting every Indian citizen, irrespective of political, economic and social status to prosecution on proven charges of graft.
The Bill obliges all Government offices to display a ‘Citizens’ Charter’ and creation of Lokayuktas (Anti-Corruption Ombudsmen) to handle complaints.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced his Government’s decision on August 28, following which Anna ended his 12-day fast. Any further delay would have had an impact on the 74-year old crusader, leading to widespread violence and dire consequences.
Anna received wide accolades for his tenacious struggle against corruption which included the fast-unto death campaign at Jantar Mantar in April, a one-day protest in June, arrest and imprisonment in Delhi’s notorious Tihar jail – all culminating in the hunger protest in Ramlila Grounds beginning ironically on August 15, India’s Independence Day.
He has become the real-time version of the elderly role played by famous Indian actor Kamal Hassan in Hindustani.
Anna’s movement galvanised Indians settled in many parts of the world including Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the Middle East to organise protest rallies, sympathetic fasting and public meetings, calling for an immediate end to graft in their land of birth.
In New Zealand, leaders of a few community organisations and students expressed their support for Anna, saying that they were victims of corruption ‘sometime or the other.’
According to several complainants, many public officials in India routinely seek money for rendering services ranging from issue of birth certificate, issue of passports, immigration clearance, police clearance certificates and so on.
The Congress Party was firing from the shoulders of a civil society activist until Anna started firing from the shoulders of politicians in the battle against corruption. His determination and pursuit of non-violence created a stir, encouraging film actors and celebrities to support the movement.
Massey University student Hardik Patel organised a peaceful procession in the Central Business District on August 28. Although announced at the nick of time, he and his friends were able to enlist more than 100 supporters who marched from the Aotea Square to Customs Street and returned along the shopping arcades, watched by thousands of people.
“We believe that the peace march not only symbolised the victory achieved by Anna but also sent a strong message to the officials in India that even Indians living overseas will not tolerate corruption any more. Enough is enough,” he said.
Indian Newslink understands that a few other associations including the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin had organised similar processions but despite repeated requests, no reports were received until press time.