Mumbai’s historic Azad Maidan was packed to the hilt on Tuesday, with thousands of supporters of social crusader Anna Hazare staging demonstrations for a powerful Lokpal Bill and just as many protesting the activist’s arrest in Delhi in the morning.
The day began with slogans, speeches, songs and prayers. By afternoon, however, thousands of volunteers thronged the Maidan to court arrest. By late evening, 2,200 people had been detained at Azad Maidan, the centre of action in the city.
Another 47 people were detained in Dadar, and 30 in Malad.
Young Mumbaiites, especially students, participated in large numbers. “If a 73-year-old can go to jail for our better future, how long will we sit home and watch it? I have been following this agitation in the media but after Anna’s arrest I decided to join it,” said Sumita Rao, 21, student and Parel resident.
By 2pm, hundreds of supporters seeking arrest left Azad Maidan and blocked the Mahanagar Palika Road for more than 20 minutes after which the police started detaining them. Many were asked to walk to the nearby Azad Maidan police station as the 10 police vans were already full.
“They have been detained but will be released in some time. We are not scared about the law-and-order situation as we are prepared. Also, these protestors are co-operative and not violent,” said Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik who went to the Maidan.
Protestors were also detained at LT Marg, Lamington Road and Naigaon police stations as well as the Parel police headquarters’ ground.
Many people took the day off to take part in the stir. “I have taken off from office to support the fight for Jan Lokpal bill. If today such steps are not taken, the future will be bad,” Rajeev Sharma, 24, a central government employee.
Harish Payer, 30, an accountant with a private firm in Opera House, also skipped work. “I have given my employer the true reason. If someone is doing good for the nation, what’s the harm in supporting him? We can do our bit by being present here. I am ready to go to jail for public good,” said the Nerul resident.
There were a large number of women too. “All women should support Anna as he is fighting for a law that will help making the government accountable,” said Himali Karekar, 36, actor and Vikhroli resident.
Heena Khan, a post-graduate student from the Institute of Science, Colaba, said: “Hazare’s arrest has instigated me to participate in the movement. This is like dictatorship, we can’t even protest in our own country. Anna is protesting for our future so we should be part of it,” said the 23-year old.