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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Anna’s message travels on ‘Jan Lok Pal Express’

Supporters of Anna Hazare at Borivali Railway Station in Mumbai on Saturday.

What constitutes civil society? What is the meaning of ‘civil’? What is Lok Pal? These were just some of the questions passengers of the 10.57 a.m. local train posed hundreds of Anna Hazare’s supporters, who swarmed the ‘Jan Lok Pal Express’ on Saturday in a bid to spread awareness about the Bill on Saturday.

The mundane train commute turned into an educational ride for commuters as volunteers of the India Against Corruption campaign distributed fliers explaining the differences between the Jan Lok Pal and the government Bill. Volunteers, who divided themselves into small teams and boarded the 12 compartments of the train, invited doubts from people and exhorted them to support the andolan.

Volunteers enter with ticket

Befitting the anti-corruption fervour perhaps, one team leader was seen conscientiously directing volunteers to enter the first class coaches only with a valid ticket. Women volunteers campaigned in the ladies’ coaches.

Forgetting their daily stress, commuters took an active interest in what was being said and even joined the campaigners in raising the slogans ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’. Bogie after bogie resounded with uproarious cries packing the moderately-crowded train with much energy.

The Indian tricolours flying from each of the 12 coaches made for a spectacular sight and as the train gained momentum it seemed to have grown wings.

'People have matured'

“People have become matured and we are moving to a better democracy. I think we have been suppressing our anger against corruption for long,” Medha Shah, who asked the query about civil society, told The Hindu.

Another commuter Geeta K. Gandhi, a retired professor, said, “It is imperative that everyone participates in this andolan. If we don’t, the future generations will not forgive us. The people are not slaves. They can think for themselves. As per our culture, even the king is liable to punishment. What Anna Hazare is demanding is as per our ‘sanskriti’ [culture]. All, even the Prime Minister should come under the Lok Pal.”

Anna power

Sabishi Shankar, a first class commuter, said she had boarded a train after about a year. “I got text messages about the Jan Lok Pal Express. I am tired of simply reading about this movement sitting at home. I don’t want to play couch politics. It is easy to say on Facebook or Twitter that I don’t believe in Anna Hazare, but I am against corruption. Look at this energy! I want to see the mood at Azad Maidan. I have not told anyone at home I am going. I feel it is people like us, the educated, who can make a difference. The poor are suffering. I am privileged and not affected in anyway, but we must think of others. What Anna Hazare is saying makes sense. The government Bill is just an eyewash,” she said.

Although some commuters stayed aloof, the campaign had reached a cross section of society. Saumya Naidu, a transgender person, from a community who is routinely seen asking for money on the trains, said, “You go anywhere they ask for money, for giving the ration card, for instance. They enter politics to make money and the poor don’t get anything. Public me revolution ana chahiye [There should be a revolution among the people]. Anna Hazare is so old, but he is doing so much for the country. We should not let him fight alone.”

The lone partially-dissenting voice came from an Arts student who did not wish to be named. “It’s a good cause, but I also feel there is some merit in what the government saying. You cannot sit for a fast for everything. One person doing it does not make it a fight. We must resolve not to give or take a bribe. If those protesting still pay a bribe at the end of the day to get work done quickly, then it beats the purpose. We have to be responsible citizens. But if feels good that people have supported this issue in such large numbers.”


Police bandobast was put in place on platform 7, from where the train began its southward journey. As it roared into Churchgate station, the crowd of supporter had touched around one thousand. The strong gathering raised slogans and sang the national anthem at the station before proceeding to the Azad Maidan.


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