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Crowds cheer as Anna breaks fast

Anna’s ground zero at Jantar Mantar saw a major structural change on the big day.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi |
April 10, 2011 3:19:19 am

Anna’s ground zero at Jantar Mantar saw a major structural change on the big day. Volunteers assembled themselves in two human chains,keeping the sea of spectators on one side and the people on hunger strike on the other to create a pavilion for victory marches. It was a space that thousands of people began using to the optimum in the wee hours of Saturday,long before the finale scheduled for 10.30 am.

The crowd,which had been lauded for its disciplined behaviour till Friday night,grew by three times its size by 9 am. The victory pavilion,strategically aligned to ensure a complete show for the shutterbugs,saw one group after the other walking in,holding up their placards,shouting slogans and waiving the Tricolour and pausing,if only for the slightest moment before the cameras,flashing victory signs.

A havan had been organised nearby,and the protesters were marked with tikkas in anticipation of the magic moment. A sindoor bowl was handed out for the audience,and every effort made by volunteers to seat them proved futile. Mothers squabbled among each other to establish vantage points for their young ones,so they could be assured a proper “Anna Darshan”. The latecomers,who sauntered in by 9.30 am,could not get past the chai shops.

A little boy could be seen yelling at his mother for making him guard her spot in the crowd for over an hour. “I just had to go and take up the flag and march once,” she explained patiently to her sobbing son.

The countdown began as a smiling Kiran Bedi waved a giant flag minutes before 10.30 am,in tune with patriotic songs being performed live. Hazare’s onstage entry,which happened precisely at 10.25 am,was the tipping point. The separation between the observers and participants dissipated as people tumbled over each other,into the victory pavilion and onto the space for the “anshankaris”.

A smiling Hazare,with a saffron cloth wrapped around his shoulders,greeted the ocean of humanity before him. By the time the notification regarding the appointment of the joint committee for redrafting the bill was held up by his aides,the sloganeering had given way to hysteria.

“I am breaking my fast as the government has given us an official notification,” announced Hazare. Even as the crowd stood on their toes to catch a glimpse of their idol,Swami Agnivesh announced that the leader would break his fast only after the others on hunger strike had ended theirs.

Around 10.45 am,Holi colours were thrown into the skies as the crowd rose in jubilation. “We sleep here,please don’t walk here with your shoes,” said Kaveri Dutt to the people who had been pushed into the enclosure by the swelling crowds. Dutt had been fasting since the first day of Hazare’s crusade for the Jan Lokpal Bill.

As the celebrations continued,74-year-old Omkar Razdan,a retired director general of the Air Force who had been fasting along with Hazare,called one of the anshankaris from his hospital bed at Escorts Heart Institute. “I just saw on TV that Annaji has broken his fast. What are his plans now?” he asked.

After fasting with Hazare for 30 hours,Razdan had fainted in a urinal at Jantar Mantar around 1.30 am on Wednesday. Though he returned after being treated,he started feeling sick again. He has been in Escorts since then,undergoing medical investigations for cardiac problems. “I do not feel sad that my absence was not noticed,” he said,“I am happy that we have emerged victorious.”

Meanwhile,Dr Praveen Sharma,Hazare’s personal physician,told Newsline that the septuagenarian complained of dizziness after his speech. “The excitement was a little too much for him. The first thing we gave him was a bowl of rice water. He is stable now,” he added.

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