Ralegan Siddhi was fuming on Tuesday. This small village in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district is the hometown of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.
“What has Anna done? Has he stolen anything or committed any crime?” asked Baban Bhalekar, sitting in front of the Yadavbaba temple, where Hazare lives.
“The government is acting with vengeance. They cheated him first, then arrested him and have now sent to Tihar jail.”
Villagers, including women and children, gathered on the main road as soon as news of Haraze’s arrest reached here at 8am. When they heard he was taken to Tihar Jail, their fury knew no bounds.
A group of 15 from Ralegan Siddhi had gone to Delhi to participate in the agitation. Two of them — Sanjay Pathare and Dadasaheb Pathare — were arrested along with Hazare in the morning.
Meanwhile, all shops and schools here were closed for the day and farmers suspended farming. Several others went on hunger strike, raising slogans against the government.
The state police deployed its personnel in the village and all roads leading to it from Pune, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad and Nashik.
When the protesters did not leave the main road, the police took more than 600 people to the nearby police station. They were, however, released immediately.
Another villager, Chandrakant Mandale, said he was not able to understand why the government was treating Hazare with contempt.
“Are there no places other than Tihar jail in New Delhi?” he asked. Sham Jadhav, a college student, said it was unfortunate that Hazare had to agitate for the same issue again and again.
“What is problem with the government? Anna is not fighting for any personal cause. It is a big issue involving the entire nation,” Jadhav said.
Hazare had received a hero’s welcome on his return to his native village in April to the accompaniment of the “Jai Ho” number, after he ended his 98-hour fast against corruption at Delhi’s Jantar mantar. “We are prepared for a long battle,” said Dnyandeo Mapari, a farmer.