No sooner did policemen cart off Anna Hazare to a Delhi police station than activist Prafulla Samantara’s phone began ringing in Bhubaneswar, 1,700 km away.
“Anna has been arrested. Organise demonstrations in all districts,” an activist from India Against Corruption’s Delhi chapter said into his phone, with Samantara on the other end.
The groundswell of support for Hazare — the anti-corruption icon — may look a spontaneous build-up on television. That is true, in part. On the ground, support is mobilised with precision and by following standard operating procedures.
Behind this is India Against Corruption, an organisation that provides Anna and his team with headcount.
Social media — from Facebook and Twitter — has only played the catalyst.
The anti-corruption NGO’s website gives a glimpse of how the movement is diligently planned. On the events page of its website, a detailed itinerary lists out protest programmes, venues and contact numbers.
“We knew Anna would be arrested. We have been preparing for this,” said organiser Jogindra Dahiya from Narela on Delhi’s outskirts.
As with the Arab spring, social media has allowed India’s uprising against corruption to leap social barriers.
“It’s clear the government today has made Anna Hazare a bigger hero than he already was,” actor Dia Mirza tweeted.
That ordinary Indians swear by Bollywood has helped. Outpouring of support from well-loved actors has aided Anna’s cause. Actor Amitabh Bachchan extended support by writing a poem on his Twitter account. It helps because Bachchan has over one million following him on Twitter.
Technology has been the backbone of this movement. India Against Corruption has a “missed call hotline” for supporters, which one needs to call just briefly to get registered for regular text-message updates. As on August 5, it logged over 10 million calls, according to its website.
The NGO’s Facebook account has a whopping 296,768 fans.
One of them, Ashish Mehra, says: “We want a corruption-free India. That’s all.” But a besieged UPA government is girding up for more than just that.