New Delhi: People have started gathering in large number today at Rajghat to participate in the day-long hunger strike called by Anna Hazare to protest against police crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his supporters on late Saturday night.
A number of youths wearing Gandhi caps and elderly people were seen at the spot waving the tricolour amidst a heavy posse of security personnel. A man dressed like Mahatma Gandhi was the centre of attraction as he sang Gandhi’s favourite bhajan ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram.’
After paying floral tributes at Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi, the Gandhian leader reached the protest site at around 10.20 am to a thunderous applause from around a thousand supporters who assembled there amid a large police presence.
Hazare chanted “Vande Mataram,” “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Inqilab Zindabad,” prompting the crowd to echo him. Civil society activists like Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal joined the protest.
With the Delhi Police refusing permission for the day-long hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, Hazare had decided to shift the venue to Rajghat to avoid a confrontation.
Civil rights activists had contended that denial of permission to hold peaceful protest was against the basic Constitutional rights of citizens.
The Hazare-led protest will be accompanied by an all-religion prayer meeting and a debate on Lokpal Bill.
Addressing the gathering former IPS Kiran Bedi termed the protest “second war of independence against corruption, extortion and bribery.”
“I called Anna ‘Gandhi’ yesterday. It made some people very angry but large number of the people very happy. Why we have to sit here today? We did not raise our voices against corruption earlier so we landed up here. We are not against politicians. We approached them, but they did not take up the struggle, so Anna had to take up the fight,” she said.
Earlier, before the protest started, Hazare said that the government was trying to “scare” people off the protest. The organisers claimed action on Ramdev supporters had created a “fear psychosis” among the people.
Earlier in the morning, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal said: “It is an assertion of our fundamental rights to assemble peacefully and protest. We will do it and we are ready to face the consequences. In a democracy, it is extremely important that whenever there is injustice, people should protest,” he said.
He said everyone is angry about the “kind of atrocities” committed on Saturday night on the supporters of Baba Ramdev. “It was almost an assault on democracy.”