Anna Hazare – A modern day Gandhi?

Posted: August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

This article was originally published in CNN website… I extracted some of the important news here in my blog.

(CNN) — He wears only khadi, a simple garb of homespun cotton, and lives in a small room off a temple in a remote, drought-prone western Indian village. A veteran of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, he retired from the Indian army and took vows of chastity and public service.

According to public statements in June, the septuagenarian bachelor has $1,500 in his bank account.

“We are tired of the problem of corruption, but he is saying: There is another way,” said Usheer Mohan, a New Delhi business owner who took to the streets to protest Hazare’s arrest this week ahead of a planned anti-corruption demonstration.

“He gives hope for all Indians. There is a feeling he can take us out of these problems. People have started considering him another Gandhi.”

Hazare has been a vocal opponent against corruption for two decades, but only in recent months has he catapulted onto the national stage as the people’s voice against endemic corruption that plagues one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

“If you keep track of Indian news, you know how truly widespread and national this is – it is in every nook and corner of this country today,” Kiran Bedi, a Hazare aide, told CNN.

“One and all have either seen bribes or experienced bribes or suffered from a bribe, so it’s both at bottom and the top, and it’s truly united this country in a wave against corruption.”

Bedi, a former senior police official, is like Hazare himself a Magsaysay Award winner — one of Asia’s biggest accolades for public service leadership. Other activists involved in his anti-corruption crusade — which the Indian media dubs “Team Anna” — have fought for “right to information” laws to make India’s notoriously labyrinthine bureaucracy more transparent.

Kisan Baburao Hazare — known to his admirers as “Anna” or elder brother in his native Marathi — is a former soldier who, after watching compatriots die fighting in the 1965 war with Pakistan, considered suicide until he had a spiritual conversion after reading the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, according to his official biography. Vivekananda, a father of modern Hindu philosophy, emphasized the importance of social service in his teachings.

Hazare first garnered attention for helping to turn his village, Ralegan Siddhi, in the western state of Maharashtra into a model for water use and sustainable development –work for which he received two of India’s highest national prizes in the early 1990s.

He also launched a campaign against the distilling and consumption of liquor in the village, which he believed was leading to widespread alcoholism among men. The anti-alcohol drive was controversial: Drunk men were sometimes tied to posts and flogged, but women supported an effort to impose prohibition on the village.

Hazare began to work against corruption in 1991 in a local campaign against the state forestry agency, resulting in his first hunger strike — a tool he has used repeatedly in his public campaigns over the past 20 years.

Hunger strike as a popular weapon of public protest in India “goes back to the days of Mahatma Gandhi,” said Zoya Hasan, professor of political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “He employed fasting as a weapon of protest, a weapon of struggle. Since then, because of its association with Gandhi and the iconic status of Gandhi, fasts have been a very popular form of protest.”

Hazare conducted a five-day hunger strike in April which ended after India’s prime minister agreed to introduce long-pending legislation meant to crack down on graft.

Read Full Article here

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