March 4, 2009 12:39:07 am
Muntadhir al-Zaidi,famous for throwing his shoes at George Bush when he was visiting Baghdad in December last year,was not Machindra Naths inspiration. Or so says the man who launched his very own Joota Maro Andolan in October last year after he was frustrated with official apathy.
Nath has been on dharna at the famous protest street near Jantar Mantar for almost three years now denouncing leaders for rampant corruption.
A resident of Latur in Maharashtra,Nath was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 10,000 when he applied for the ownership of his house in a slum. He decided against it and camped at Mumbais Azad Maidan to protest.
But nobody stopped by or even listened to what I had to say, he says. Then I came to Delhi to get justice.
In 2006,when he started his protest near the famous observatory,it didnt have the same tone as it has now. For months,nothing happened.
He went to meet officials and political leaders asking them to look into complaints of corruption,but was shown the door every time. Then in 2008,he got a poster made which shows him hurling shoes in the air.
The poster says Nath denounces all those who take bribes and dont serve the public and he wouldnt be shy of hitting them with shoes. I was just too angry, he says. And then I thought of this campaign.
At a point of time,Nath was even close to committing suicide out of frustration. But then his death wouldnt have made much of a difference,he says.
Since then,Nath has attracted around 50 followers,most of them victims of corruption. Among them is Fateh Singh,a Trilokpuri resident,who was asked to pay a bribe as well.
Naths group say their fight is against corruption,where the common man has to go through hell to get things done. If they cant give me justice,I have the right to hit them with shoes, Nath says,picking up a heavy boot to make his point.
Sitting in his jhuggi,Nath admits he doesnt quite enjoy the life here. He has been away from his family for years now,but he cant go back without getting his due. Life as a small grocery shop owner in Latur wasnt too comfortable either. But on Protest Street,money has been short and it is not easy sleeping on the footpath.
But if the common man doesnt fight for himself,who else will,he asks. Nothing short of a revolution will rid the society of corruption plaguing the government,Nath says.
I will sit here until I die, Nath says.
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