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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


1,600 Detained As Mumbaikars Come Out In Strength To Slam Anna's Arrest

Linah Baliga | TNN 

Thousands of ordinary citizens swamped Azad Maidan on Tuesday to lend their support for Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption campaign. Waving the tricolour and wearing Gandhi caps, masses of professionals, housewives and students converged at the south Mumbai ground soon after the news broke of the activist's arrest in New Delhi. 
    From late morning, slogans like "Anna nahin aandhi hain, dusre Mahatma Gandhi hain" rang in the air at Azad Maidan as citizens answered Hazare's call for a 'jail bharo' agitation. They came sporting 'Arrest Me' stickers on their clothes and 'I am Anna Hazare' stencilled on their Gandhi caps. They came by trains, buses, cars, on foot. Far away, more people held rallies in Vashi, Nerul, Koparkhairane, Rabale, Kharghar and Panvel. 
    By day's end, more than 1,600 people across Mumbai had been detained under sections 68 and 69 of the Bombay Police Act. Of these, 1,527 were detained at Azad Maidan and D B Marg police stations; 47 in Matunga and Dadar; 30 in Dindoshi. All of them were released within a few hours. No detentions or arrests were made in Thane, Kalyan and Bhiwandi. 
    While the police said that no one was detained in Navi Mumbai since the rallies were peaceful, some Hazare supporters alleged that 30 were detained for half an hour in Nerul. 
    Hazare's supporters had proposed peaceful protests in the city in view of the Gandhian's planned indefinite strike. But those plans were dropped after Haz
are's arrest. Azad Maidan, as a result, became the protest venue. 
    "We are ashamed of the government. It arrested a man, who has no family, no assets, no house of his own and is fighting for us," said Sharvari Gupta, a housewife from Borivli who came to Azad Maidan to pledge her support to Hazare. "We were let down by the PM's Independence Day speech, where he said that there was no magic wand to solve the issue of corruption." 
    Sameer Chaturvedi, a 17-year-old K C College student, bunked on Tuesday to be a part of the movement. "Skipping college is no big deal. Someone has to end this rot of corruption." 
    The situation got tense at Azad Maidan for a while when BJP workers tried to enter, waving saffron flags and shouting, "Hum tumhare saath hai (We are with you)." They were stopped at the gate by citizens and told to swap their saffron flags for the tricolour. The workers, after mulling the demand, acquiesced. 
    Inside, activist Medha Patkar belted out a fiery speech, asking the protesters: "Raise your hands if you've never been to jail. How many would like to go to jail?" A sea of hands went up in reply. 
    Mayank Gandhi, chief co-ordinator for India Against Corruption, said, "Every time, Congressmen Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari open their mouths, we get 10,000 more protesters. Our movement is gaining momentum due to them." 
    Later, Team Anna in Mumbai, which includes Gandhi, and some women and senior citizens courted arrest by spilling out onto Mahaplika Marg from Azad Maidan. Twenty police vans were called to spot, each of which ferried away 35-40 protesters. Traffic in the area came to a standstill despite the police's decision to divert vehicles to M G Road and L T Marg. 
    Some protesters demanded that they be locked up on being taken to the Azad Maidan police station. Nawal Bajaj, additional commissioner (south region), explained to them that "arrest does not mean being in a lock-up. You are technically arrested under section 68 of the Bombay Police Act. Give your details and you can leave in a few hours." Once released, protesters returned to the streets, singing songs and preparing for a similar protest on Wednesday.

FOREIGN CONNECTION: Activists try to win over the support of a French couple at Thane railway station


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