‘People have slept far too long’
Jupinderjit Singh talks to Anna Hazare Social activist
Tribune photo: Pawan SharmaTHE chinks in their organisational structure notwithstanding, Anna Hazare and Gen (retd) VK Singh managed to draw sizeable crowds during their “Jantantra Yatra” in Punjab last week. The yatra began from Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Unlike his previous rallies and agitations, he was not flanked by one-time favourite comrades Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. Instead, VK Singh, who had fought a long battle with the UPA government over his date of birth, brushed shoulders with him. Both leaders attracted fans during the rally. Ex-servicemen made a beeline to meet the General. Women and children were missing at the rallies but some waited for long at the place where Anna had a transit accommodation. Women were seen touching his feet while carefully covering their head with a “dupatta”. Some children supported his “'Mein Anna hoon” cap and shook hands with him.
The motive is not just spreading awareness among the masses about the corrupt system and the need for change. Anna aims to mobilise people for a “mega Jan Sansad” in New Delhi in September. He called upon people to submit their names and phone numbers so they could be incorporated in his battle for change. People did not respond in thousands but some did. People criticised the security ring of his volunteers, bouncers and the police around him, saying his inaccessibility did not make them optimistic about his talk on the common man’s empowerment. Excerpts:
Why did you launch the campaign, which you describe as a second freedom movement, from Punjab? Are you satisfied with the response?
We have got an overwhelming response from Punjab. The people of the state have always been known as fighters. They fought invaders for centuries. Punjab is my “karam bhoomi”. It is here that I fought the 1965 war. It is here that I got my awakening of dedicating my life for the cause of people. I chose Punjab as it was here that I read a book by Swami Vivekananda on devoting one’s life for the welfare of people. I was 26-year-old then. I was unhappy with life and was contemplating suicide when the awakening came about. Punjab has produced many martyrs. I sought their blessings in cleansing the country they had saved while sacrificing their life.
Did you attract anticipated crowds?
I am satisfied. We did not organise big rallies. Our venues were markets and street corners. I could see people waiting for long for our rath yatra to arrive. They cheered us. I told them the yatra was not funded by anyone. The vehicles were running on the personal expenses of the occupants and the open donation given by people.
What is the objective of your campaign?
We have had agitation and hunger strike against corruption in the system and the idea is to empower the common man through the office of the Jan Lok Pal. This nationwide journey is to contact the masses outside their houses and educate them on how politicians and bureaucrats had become their masters instead of their servants. We are inviting people to join us at the “Jan Sansad” in New Delhi in September. People have slept for too long.
Is your aim to change the government or change the system?
I have been saying at my rallies that I am not against any political party or individual. I am against the prevailing corruption in the country. I am against the milling of the common man. I am against price rise. I want a system where people choose their leaders directly. Why do we need political parties or groups with their biases, regionalism and selfish vote banks? People should recommend honest and virtuous persons to Parliament.
Will the Jantantar Morcha contest elections or support any political party or group?
Our present aim is to shake the system with the “Jan Sansad”. After that we will see what has to be done.
Arvind Kejriwal was once your close aide. Is there any possibility of reconciliation?
Kejriwal wanted to float a political party. I had reservations about it. But I am in constant touch with him even now. We spoke two days ago only. I advised him not to go for his proposed hunger strike. The “forces” want to finish us off. They want to divide us. I am with anyone who honestly stands against corruption.
The Morcha does not have much organisational structure. How will it mobilise people to support its agenda?
People will come. They have to realise that tainted persons are dangerous for the country. At present, over 160 MPs are tainted. Over 30 ministers are facing charges. This has to stop.
What kind of model of governance do you have in mind?
I want a system where only deserving people should go to Parliament. I want the common man to have the power to reject the tainted, the greedy, the corrupt and the criminals. It is people who brought freedom. It is people who formed Parliament. Those sent inside Parliament were mere representatives of people. But now they have become masters. I want a system of Parliament where honesty and character of a leader are important, and not his power and money.