From sporting rebellious T-shirts to shaven heads and organising poetry recitals, protesters of all hues took to the streets across urban India seeking the release of anti-graft activist Anna Hazare. Most governments chose to take a soft stand while some termed his arrest a throwback to the Emergency era.
Responding to Hazare's call to fill jails, some 1,100 people were detained in Mumbai. “There was no law and order problem as the protesters were courting arrest themselves,” said Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik, adding they were released a few hours later. But NGO India Against Corruption said some 10,000 people had turned up for the rally and 2,500 of them had courted arrest.Social activist Medha Patkar led the protests at Azad Maidan. Actor Shabana Azmi said, "We condemn the arrest and the ban on the proposed fast. Right to protest peacefully is a democratic right."
Lawyers abstained from judicial work to lead the protests in Jammu. The day, though, was marked by some animosity after police evicted students from a rally venue in the Satwari area.
Gujarat and Haryana
The protest began with two Hazare supporters shaving their heads. BJP-ruled Gujarat carried out a series of rallies and candle protests. In Surat, thousands of diamond workers took to the streets forcing the factories to shut down. Protesters in Ambala, Haryana, also resorted to blockade of railway tracks. In Punjab, protesters converged in strategic spots across urban areas.
Fast in Lucknow
Five persons undertook a fast unto death. Mohd Aslam from Deva in Barabanki, came all the way on his wheelchair carrying the tricolour.
Some 500 techies and students took a break from work and studies to rally behind Hazare. They sported T-shirts with the underlying theme ‘India Against Corruption’. One of the T-shirts read: Alt+Ctrl+Del Corruption.
In Hyderabad, Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu joined protesters in a 10-km march to condemn the “arbitrary and unconstitutional” arrest of Hazare and his supporters.
Nitish nod in Patna
More than 7,000 pro-Hazare protesters in Bihar found an ally in chief minister Nitish Kumar. “It seems that people at Centre don’t value democracy. The Central government is afraid of the mass support the movement has,” he said.
Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik aired his support for the anti-corruption movement and condemned Hazare’s arrest. “These incidents remind one about what used to happen during Emergency,” he said.
Northeast pitches in
The eight-state Northeast pitched in with Assam leading the way. Some 200 advocates, students, peasants and senior citizens took part in a jail bharo programme in Guwahati.
Used to michils (rallies), Kolkata was unusually subdued. Some 600 protesters gathered together on a sunny day seeking Hazare’s release. One of the organisers, Jago Swabhimani, even staged a kavi sammelan for a poetic twist to the protest.