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Caps, face painting, drums... Anna carnival is on

Monday August 22, 2011 06:28:53 PM, M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS

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New Delhi: Ramlila ground has turned into a carnival against corruption.

Bananas and water sachets are for the asking, flung from mini trucks. Young men paint Indian flags on the cheeks for Rs.10. Also on sale are 'I Am Anna' caps, T-shirts, caps and varying sizes of Indian flags.

Even as thousands sit on the ground hearing speeches delivered from the giant stage where Anna Hazare is fasting, demanding a strong Lokpal Bill, there is plenty of action all over the ground.

There are entire families, children perched on shoulders; young couples watching with keen interest; the mass of audience cheers and claps loudly each time someone on the stage makes a point they appreciate.

Many listen, quietly, as if they are analysing every sentence. Slogans are aplenty. If Hazare manages to get up and wave his hands, the response is a huge roar.

After Hazare, the most popular speakers are his associates Swami Agnivesh, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal.

Television reporters attract hordes of young and the not so young, eager to pour out their views on Anna and corruption. Young and old stroll with eye-catching handwritten posters -- and caricatures.

On Janmashtami day Monday, one man gets maximum attention - he is dressed like Kansa, the demon king who was slayed by Lord Krishna.

There is music too. One group of young men and women from Uttarakhand performs a folk dance, going round in circles, to synchronised clapping and the beating of traditional drums.

There are plenty of cloth banners. And scores of Indian flags.

A young man is busy reading a book, unmindful of the cacophony. At the back of the ground, some are lazing away while some others are huddled in small groups, discussing the cancer of corruption.

Notwithstanding the crowds, the ground is clean, thanks to the India Against Corruption (IAC) activists who go around collecting banana peels, empty water sachets and any trash.

At another corner of the ground, parallel to Asaf Ali Road, organisers accept donations and issue receipts. Those who don't have the patience to queue up can thrust their money in the white donation box.

Simple food is available -- gratis. So are biscuits, 'namkeen' and tea.

Volunteers hand out pamphlets in Hindi and English on Jan Lokpal Bill, which Team Anna insists can meet the challenge of government corruption, as opposed to the officially-backed Lokpal bill now with parliament.

If the crowds at the Ramlila ground were not enough, there is a mass floating on the roads around it. More keep coming, through the day. Delhi Metro has made reaching Ramlila ground easy.

Policemen have set up watch towers at the edges of the ground - to keep an eye for trouble. So far there has been none.

"It is one of the biggest ever crowds I have seen coming to Ramlila ground voluntarily," said a middle aged man who gave his name as Shakeel, a resident of nearby Turkman Gate.

Policemen admit that for all the emotions raised over corruption, the crowds have been remarkably restrained.

The audience is dominantly young -- teenagers and up to the age of 35. They are also the most boisterous. But there are others too. And there is strong participation from women.

Not everyone knows the nitty gritty of the Lokpal bill and the Jan Lokpal bill. But everyone is passionate that India should stamp out corruption. And in the 74-year-old Hazare they have found a new hero.

(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be contacted at




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