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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Lukewarm response to Anna Hazare's call in West Bengal

Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.

When the protest against corruption is fast snowballing across the country, it has surprisingly received a lukewarm response in West Bengal with barely 40-50 people expressing solidarity to Gandhian crusader Anna Hazare's cause in Kolkata.

Only a meagre number of school and college students and some social workers, mostly coming from the city's non-Bengali communities, continued a sit-in demonstration in one of Kolkata's posh locations Park Street area.

Armed with placards, banners and posters that read "Please arrest I am Anna" or "Fight Corruption", the protesters chanted slogans demanding a strong Lokpal Bill to be placed in parliament.

"We are united against corruption. We express solidarity with Anna in his crusade against corruption," said social activist Mukti Gupta of Help Us, Help Them.

Urging people to respond to Anna's call and hit the streets with slogans, she said: "The response to anti-graft movement is not very good in Kolkata. People have not come out in road in multitudes. Only a section of student communities and social activists have come forwards to raise voice against the corruption issue here."

Many of the protesters who gathered at Park Street and City Centre mall, located in the satellite township Salt Lake, were volunteers of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar's Art and Living Foundation (Kolkata chapter).

"We are protesting against the growing corruption in the UPA government. We also condemn the forcible detention of Anna Hazare by the Delhi Police on Tuesday. It was a politically motivated act by the government to gag our democracy," said Rohit Gupta, a third-year (commerce) graduation student of Kolkata-based Bhawanipore Gujarati Education Society.

A member of Art and Living, Rohit said, "We are trying to create some awareness on the LOkpal Bill issue by distributing pamphlets at traffic crossing and in front of colleges. We have not received any spontaneous response from the civil society representatives here as compared to that of other states across the county."

The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in the state also maintained a stiffening silence on the raging Anna Hazare's anti-graft movement.

The Trinamool Congress chief, who had once stepped out of the BJP-led NDA cabinet citing corruption issues, has kept a mum on the corruption charges made on the Congress-led UPA cabinet.

When asked about her reaction on Anna's detention, Banerjee tactfully dodged the pointed question on Tuesday and did not bother to comment on the issue.

Trinamool is the second largest ally to the UPA at the Centre after Congress.

The West Bengal CPM, however, condemned Hazare's detention and the act of sending him to Tihar Jail on Tuesday. CPM's central committee member Md. Salim termed the whole act as an "unfortunate development".


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