New Delhi, Aug 19: Thousands of Anna Hazare's supporters piled onto the streets, some perched on electric poles, traffic lights and parked cars, to catch a glimpse of the Gandhian as he moved to Ramlila grounds today to launch his fast after he emerged out of Tihar jail.
As the white dhoti-kurta-clad 73-year-old anti-corruption crusader stepped slowly out of the prison gate at about 11:30 AM, the air reverberated with the nationalistic slogans chanted by hundreds who had gathered since dawn to welcome the person spearheading a movement for a stronger Lokpal Bill after he spend three nights at Asia's largest prison.
A smiling Hazare climbed on to a newly erected podium and announced that the “second freedom struggle” has started, a statement which was greeted with a deafening roar from the assembled people which included women, senior citizens and even children.
“The fight against corruption will continue whether I am alive or not,” he said, flanked by his aides, who it seems were soaking in the glory spawned by the huge support that Hazare had garnered.
After his short speech, he climbed on to a mini open-top truck which had wide cushions, mattress and a large olive-green umbrella and set in motion his procession to Mayapuri, a short distance from the jail.
The truck was forced to stop a few times as the crowds surged forward to throw flowered garlands up at Hazare. Hazare's supporters accompanied him on cars, bikes and jeeps waving the national flag and playing loud patriotic songs even as heavy rains lashed the city.
Many pulled out their mobile phones and clicked his pictures. A seemingly satisfied Anna led the people in shouting ‘Vande Mataram' and waved the tri-colour to his supporters, which included youths and school students.
People carried all kinds of banners but the most eye catching one was ‘Main bhi Anna, Tu bhi Anna, Ab to Saara Desh Hai Anna' (You are Anna, I am Anna, now the entire country is Anna).
Hazare, who showed no signs of fatigue, exuded tremendous enthusiasm as he was greeted by his supporters with garlands and bouquets at various intersections en-route to Ramlila maidan.
Children, housewives and others were seen standing on their balconies and rooftops to have a glimpse of Hazare and the procession.
He got off at the Mayapuri junction and then drove down to the Rajghat, the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi, with his followers in tow.
Present to welcome him there were over 5,000 supporters. Hazare entered from the rear gate at about 1:50 PM and paid homage at the samadhi by sprinkling rose petals and bowing his forehead, touching the black marble slab.
He then sat with his eyes closed for about three minutes before making his way out. But alas, Hazare had to sprint as the sky once again opened up leading to heavy showers. Incidentally, people picked up the flower petals kept on the samadhi and sprinkled it on Hazare even as many jostled to touch his feet.
He then made his way to the Ramlila Grounds, skipping a scheduled stop-over at the iconic India Gate. Songs like ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram' and slogans welcomed Hazare at Ramlila Grounds where the atmosphere of was electrifying as thousands converged there to show solidarity with him.
Over 10,000 people were present at the site, who were not deterred by the heavy rainfall and a slushy ground.
Songs, speeches and slogans rent the air as people from different walks of life including students, housewives, government servants and businessmen made a beeline to the ground to be part of the movement led-by this ex-Army jawan, demanding a strong anti-corruption Lokpal bill.
“We will stay here with Anna till government accepts all his demands,” said Ramesh Gohate, who had come here from Nanded (Maharashtra) along with 60 other residents.
Delhi Police has made elaborate security arrangements inside and outside the venue with about 400 personnel being deployed to ensure security of people. The Police set up several gates and frisked people before letting them in. PTI