After taking a vow at the martyrs' memorial in the historical Jallianwala Bagh to cleanse the country's political system, social activist Anna Hazare launched his 'Jantantra Yatra' on Sunday with the aim to mobilise six-crore people for his second crusade against the corrupt and inefficient.
Despite the lukewarm public response, Anna chose to describe this as the beginning of the 'second war of Independence' and sought the support of the 'janata' (people) for his campaign against corruption.
"If we get the backing of six-crore people, the government will be forced to bow before this 'jan shakti' (people's power). It is the 'jan shakti', which governments fear the most," he said while addressing a gathering outside Jallianwala Bagh just minutes before the start of the 'yatra', which will take Anna and his team to every nook and cranny of India in the next 18 months.
Standing atop the mini-bus in which he will be travelling, Anna asked those joining him to be prepared to go to jail. "It is a privilege to go to jail for a just cause," he said as some of those present raised their hands in support of Anna.
Referring to the Independence struggle, he said the British had gone but had left India in the hands of the corrupt and 'goondas' (anti-social elements). Now the time has come to launch another battle for freeing the country from such elements, he said, while asking for the people's support to ensure that the sacrifices made by the martyrs during the freedom struggle do not go in vain.
Alongside former army chief Gen VK Singh, journalist Santosh Bharatiya and Syed Ghulam Jalani Kartal from Ajmer, Anna said there will be no scope for violence during the 'yatra' as he was a firm believer in Mahatma Gandhi's doctrine of non-violence. In this context, he referred to the peaceful nature of his first battle against corruption at New Delhi's Ram Lila Maidan, which, he claimed, shook the government in the national capital, though it may not have achieved the desired results.
Amid the chants of 'Vande Mataram', 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Inquilab Zindabad', Anna along with his colleagues of the Jantantra Morcha commenced the 'yatra' with a silent prayer on his lips and a determination in his mind and soul. The Jantantra Morcha, which is organising the 'yatra', is the brainchild of Gen Singh and it will have no office-bearers as all its members will be 'sevaks' (servants).
"The 'janata' needs no magic wand to bring about the Inquilab (revolution), it will come once we have the people's power behind us," Gen Singh said after paying homage to the martyrs at Jallianwala Bagh along with Anna and others.
Prior to start of the 'yatra', Anna and his colleagues with a 100-strong group of supporters paid obeisance at Durgiana Mandir. The Mandir management committee honoured Anna, Gen Singh, Jalani, Santosh Bharatiya and a few others. Later, they paid obeisance at Golden Temple and sought Waheguru's blessings and strength for the success of their mission. Anna, Gen Singh, Jalani and Bharatiya were honoured with 'siropas' at the information office of the shrine by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials.
Barring 100-odd 'yatris' who had come along with Anna, there was little or no support for the Jantantra Morcha in Amritsar. Apart from a couple of local social activists, none from the city could be seen in the Anna 'yatra' as it commenced its long journey. There was no enthusiasm among the youth to join the 'yatra' despite the fact that a large number of youngsters had come forward to lend their support to Anna at Ram Lila Maidan. This probably could be due to the fact that the annual university examinations have just begun.
No prominent political figure, from any party, came forward to extend support to the 'yatra', probably due to the fact that Anna has constantly declared that the Morcha is not a political organisation and that they would not support any political party or individual as they have no political ambition.
A virtual stampede took place in Jallianwala Bagh due to the presence of tourists, who were present there in large numbers. They either wanted to catch a glimpse of the 75-year-old former army jawan or were keen to capture his image on their mobile phones.
Motive behind 'yatra'
Once again Anna reiterated the motive of the 'yatra' by saying he proposes to seek the verdict of the 'janata' on the future course of action he and his anti-corruption campaigners should adopt for instilling the fear of 'jan shakti' in governments' mind. For this, he has targeted six crore people out of the country's population of 120 crore.
"There is a need for a 'Jan Kranti' (people's revolution) and people as well as politicians should be made to realise that 'janata' has the 'shakti' to pull down governments," he reiterated in his address.
Exactly five months from now, the Morcha's future line of action will be decided by the people at a Jansansad (parliament of people) at New Delhi's Ram Lila Maidan. The 'yatra' would continue after 'Jansansad'.
First phase to end on April 17
The first phase of the 'yatra' will end on April 17 with a rally at Hardwar. During its course, the yatra will traverse through different cities and towns of Punjab, Haryana, parts of west Uttar Pradesh and parts of Uttarakhand.
During the course of the 'yatra', roadside public meetings and rallies have been planned. Arrangements for the night stay of the 'yatris' have been made at different places by well wishers of Anna and his team.
The 'yatris' will not accept any monetary assistance from anyone. Whatever help is to be given it will be in kind.