At 2.15pm on Friday as Anna Hazare climbed up the podium at the Ramlila Ground, took the mike and in a voice that belied his four days of fast greeted the crowd with “Bharat Mata ki jai,” the gathering of around 15,000, men, women, children and even toddlers erupted.
With that, the 73-year-old started his indefinite fast — the one he hopes would be his final act for this cause — to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament. He found with him a mammoth crowd that had left schools, colleges, offices and businesses to give moral and physical support to his struggle, braving the rain and the bed of muck and slush that the Ramlila Ground had become by afternoon.
The crowd had been waiting since Thursday night when news of his imminent release broke. Over 5,000 people were waiting patiently outside Tihar Jail pledging their support to his cause. It was a filmy arrival of the “Hero” when the diminutive Gandhian walked out of the high gates of the prison at around 11.40am.
TV cameras and shutterbugs started taking it in with frenzy; the decibel levels went through the roof and people crowding all the houses opposite the Tihar gate started framing the scene with mobile phone cameras.
Adding to the effect, the skies opened up five minutes later. Somehow, it had an energising effect on the supporters who did not shy away from the downpour. Some started showering petals as he was helped into the truck arranged for a 2.5km procession from Tihar to Mayapuri flyover on the Ring Road.
He went straight to Rajghat where, perhaps, he prayed for more inner strength that has kept him going all through the struggle. Hazare then exited the Samadhi gesturing the obliging crowd to follow him to the Ramlila Ground close by.