The Ramlila Ground is gradually becoming symbolic of secularism. Just as Anna Hazare's seventh day of fast coincides with Ramzan and Janmashtami, devotees had taken time off from flocking to the much-revered ISKCON temple in the city. Instead, most devotees made their way to the Ramlila Ground where, other than expressing solidarity with the movement, they also joined hands in prayer.
In her speech on Sunday, Kiran Bedi had urged supporters to make their way to the Ramlila Ground and carry on their Janmashtami and Ramzan celebrations within the confines of the ground itself.
“I have been going to Ramlila Ground for the last three days and I intend to go as long as the movement goes on. If I have to do my evening prayers, I can do it within the ground itself with other Muslim brothers. What Kiranji said, only further strengthened my belief.
There is no better place than the Ramlila Ground for all of us to pray together for Ramzan and Janmashtami. It should send out an even stronger message to the government,” said Akhlaq Khan, a resident of Okhla, who will be skipping his everyday ritual of reciting the evening Namaz at the Okhla Mosque.
Devotees who make their way every year to the ISKCON temple also made a detour, to first pay a visit to the Ramlila Ground to add support to Anna Hazare's campaign.
People who frequent the temple each year also noted a decline in the number of people who were visiting the temple on Monday. A Janmashtami celebration had also been organised at the venue on Monday afternoon.
“I have been visiting the temple each year. It is very surprising to see lesser crowd this time. The movement has taken limelight away from ISKCON's Janmashtami too this year,” said Suresh Mehta, a software engineer who visits ISKCON every year.
While there were more than 70,000 people at the venue, ISKCON management insists that the movement had in no way taken limelight away from Janmashtami celebrations.
“Anna Hazare's movement has not caused a reduction in the number of people. Despite the fact that there were six lakh people who had visited on Monday, as against 9lakh people last year, it has not effected the celebrations in any way,” said Ramai Nimai Das, coordinator at ISKCON temple.