Text: Atul Bharadwaj
Photos: Abhishek Shrivastava, Joe Athialy and Kumar Sundaram
The television announced Anna’s arrival in Delhi on 23 February. The next day, along with the Parliamentary debates on the Land Acquisition Bill, the pictures of Anna Hazare’s protest against the Bill at Jantar Mantar were telecast live. The Television images gave an impression that Anna’s movement was building up like the Lok Pal agitation. I decided to go on the spot and participate in this historic upsurge.
On entering the protest site, I witnessed huge camera cranes and OB vans focussing on a stage filled with not-so-well known politicians and activists. They were addressing a motely crowd of hundred odd people. Alongside was an empty stage with Anna Hazare’s picture in the background and his vacant baithak. The bunch of protestors claimed that they were waiting for Annaji to arrive. The entire protest seemed to be orchestrated for the televisions cameras.
In between, the speeches would stop and patriotic songs would start with the organizers waving national flags and urging the crowd to get up and sing along facing the cameras. A little ahead one witnessed another protest group. This one had a few more people than the one on which the cameras were focussed. The supporters here were wearing t-shirts and waving flags imprinted with VM Singh’s picture. VM Singh an erstwhile Congressman had managed to gather 200 to 250 odd people mainly from Uttar Pradesh. And the issues that they were raising were also of the poor and marginalised farmers and workers. The third agitation at the Jantar Mantar road was that of the CITU, the trade Union wing of the CPI (M). This agitation arena had largest number of people, mostly women. This crowd was well organized and orderly, and had congregated to ask the government to enhance the budgetary provisions for mid-day meal scheme.
The main agitation was nowhere in sight on the Jantar Mantar Road. I then went on the parallel road and saw a huge crowd shouting Inquilaab Zindabad and Bharat Mata ki Jai. They were certainly protesting against Modi government’s draconian Land acquisition bill that has been tabled in the parliament. On stage I found Medha Patkar, Yogendra Yadav, Anna Hazare and also Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The atmosphere was charged, people were interested in the deliberations and appeared informed about the reason for which h they were protesting. Speaker after speaker, representing the grassroots protests against land-acquisition from across India, brought out the dubious connections between the Modi government and big business.
What was so clearly visible on the ground as well as on the stage was a need to forge a robust unity for the ensuing class war in the country. Modi’s blatant pro-corporate policies are making the workers and farmers alienated and deprived rights. What came out was that this time the peasants’ are willing to wage a battle against any attack on their livelihood. Around 4.30 in the evening Arvind Kejriwal came to the podium to address and in his usual style declared that central government wanted to act like property dealer and Dalal on behalf of few capitalists.