Exactly two years, four months and five days after thousands turned up with candles after the 26/11 terror attacks, the Gateway of India once again witnessed large crowds and a similar protest. This time, it was a protest against politicians and to support the demand for the Jan Lokpal Bill to curb corruption. The crowd was spurred on by the news that the government had accepted Anna Hazare’s demands and that the Gandhian was likely to end his fast on Saturday morning.
Hundreds gathered at the Gateway with candles in their hands, shouting slogans and demanding a stringent anti-corruption mechanism.
Similar protests were staged across the city, mostly outside railway stations.
The atmosphere at the Gateway was charged. Citizens, many of them youngsters, gathered in the evening, carrying banners with messages such as ‘Let’s fight for our future’, ‘Together we will make it happen’ and ‘Wake up, India’.
Most of the people got to know of the protests through social networking sites and text messages. “This seems to be a second freedom struggle and I want to be part of it,” said Zomi Irani, Cuffe Parade resident.
Emma Sciantarelli, an American, also joined the protests. “I believe the best way of eradicating corruption is getting the right legislation in. I have come here to support the Bill and the movement,” said Sciantarelli, a freelance writer.
Taking the protest beyond of slogans and candles, India Against Corruption (IAC) volunteers explained the Bill to the crowd in detail.
It was no different outside Bandra station. A group of IAC activists distributed candles and ‘safed patti’— a white ribbon that symbolis the movement. They educated more than 100 people who had gathered there on how paying bribes was a crime.
According IAC, 50,000 white ribbons were distributed across Mumbai on Friday.
Similar protests were staged outside stations at Santacruz, Vile Parle and Churchgate.
“This government is bringing nothing but shame to our country. This battle will continue,” said Father Warner of Mount Carmel Church, who was one of the protestors.
The IAC has come up with www.safedpatti.org, a website dedicated to fighting corruption even after the Jan Lokpal Bill is passed. “We got messages from across India that even after Anna Hazare achieves his dream we should keep the campaign alive. This website is a tool to fight corruption,” said Akshay Asthana, 22, co-committee member of IAC.
MOTORMEN back ANNA
A group of 30-odd motormen wen to Azad Maidan and announced their support for Hazare. They said they would drive trains on empty stomachs from 6am to 6pm on April 10. “We will announce our next step if the government doesn’t act soon on Hazare’s demands,” said S Gurav, a Western Railway (WR) motorman, before the government announced it was accepting Hazare’s demands.
The motormen were confident that all the 440-odd WR motormen would join them. “We won’t stall services,” said Devendra Yadav, a member of the Joint Action Forum of motormen.
Railway officials said driving trains on an empty stomach isn’t safe. “What if something goes wrong?” said an official on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.