Activist Anna Hazare returned to his village, Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmadnagar district, to a hero’s welcome on Monday. He announced he would soon undertake a nationwide tour to spread awareness about the lokpal bill.
A festive mood prevailed in the village. Its residents welcomed Hazare with rangoli in their courtyards. Youths danced to patriotic songs while the traditional dhol-tasha played on. Camels and horses were brought in for Hazare’s procession and sweets were distributed. When Hazare arrived almost three hours behind schedule, shouts of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ rented the air.
Other than the villagers, his family too was waiting for a glimpse of the leader, whom they otherwise do not get to meet often.
“Anna doesn’t belong only to our family anymore. He belongs to the entire nation now. How can we expect him to do anything for us? It’s our duty to stand behind him,” said Hazare’s younger brother, Maruti.
Anna’s relatives, spread across Pune and Ahmednagar districts, started pouring into Maruti’s home, hours before the activist was expected to arrive.
Maruti said Anna has never stepped into any relative’s house. “Anna has not visited us in the past 35 years. He has devoted himself to social service. We meet him only at Yadavbaba temple. Whenever he wants to see us, he sends us a message and we meet at the temple. But he never comes home,” said Maruti.
Hazare, however, attends family functions. “Whenever we have a family problem, we seek his advice...” Maruti said. The Gandhian has three brothers and two sisters. His sisters have accepted that their brother will not visit them even for Bhau Beej. The duo visits the Yadavbaba temple on the day.
Anna’s cousin, Draupadabai Kalap, who stays at Wadegavan, a few kilometres from Ralegan Siddhi, recalled that Anna politely refused to visit her house when he was in her village for some public work.
Anna’s family has come to terms with this. “He was always different. Since childhood, he preferred being alone...” said Maruti.