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Wednesday 28 December 2011

Low turn out at Anna Hazare's fast in Mumbai on day 1

Aditi Raja Mumbai, December 28, 2011 | UPDATED 08:57 IST
Low turn out at Anna Hazare's fast in Mumbai on day 1

The numbers were almost embarrassing for Anna Hazare on Tuesday.

The much-hyped Day One of his fast for a strong ombudsman kicked off
with a sparse crowd of people in Mumbai's MMRDA ground.

Team Anna had bargained for the huge MMRDA ground, instead of the
smaller Azad Maidan, expecting a crowd of 60,000 to one lakh people.
But only a few thousand gathered to show their support.

In the face of disappointment, Hazare's team apparently started
resorting to tricks to get attention.

Kiran Bedi, the first to address the crowd, asked the public to come
forward and stop Hazare from fasting as his health was deteriorating.
She said he had been down with fever and had not eaten for two days.

Bedi next started to narrate anecdotes from the Lokpal protest and how
she got involved with it. But, she said, she was dividing the story
into two parts.

Asking people to gather on Wednesday too, she added: "I am telling you
only one part of the story. I will narrate the second part tomorrow.
You'll come to show support, won't you?"

Bedi expressed gratitude on Team Anna's behalf and said: "Even those
who stood by the road waving at Hazare as he was passing by… we
thank you. Even those who have not made it to the ground have given
their support."

About an hour later, after the public had lunched on puri- bhaji
available at the ground, Bedi's colleague Arvind Kejriwal took the
mike. He too requested the people to persuade Hazare to break his

After frequent discussions between Team Anna on the dais, he said:
"Anna will announce his decision when he addresses the crowd."

He proceeded to speak on the graft that had permeated all spheres of
government activity. But even as he was talking, people started
trickling out of the venue.

A collegian at the ground said: "The event looks forced rather than
heartfelt. So I don't feel like waiting here." Most youth had, in
fact, stayed away from the venue.

Meanwhile, the suspense continued on whether or not Hazare would carry
on with his fast. After a team of four doctors pronounced the Gandhian
"fit to fast", Hazare finally addressed the people and declared " I am
prepared to sacrifice my life for India". The 74-year-old activist
stayed firm on fasting and said he had not married so he could serve

Hazare exhorted the youth, clearly missing in action from the ground,
to join him in the fight for the second independence. On the dais,
Hazare was joined by former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, Anupam
Kher and Pritish Nandy.

Earlier in the day, Hazare started his fast after paying respects at
Mahatma Gandhi's statue. His cavalcade, complete with a posse of
policemen, was interrupted by Republican Party of India activists, who
waved black flags and shouted " Anna Hazare murdabad ". Team Anna
hoped the numbers would go up, but by evening, it was clear Mumbaikars
had decided to give the agitation a miss.

Reports from Pune (considered a bigger bastion of Hazare) suggested a
turnout of just 100 people.

The protest at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, where almost a lakh people had
turned up for the August fast, also proved to be a damp squib. "
People have not come because of the cold and because Hazare himself is
not here. Still, there are around 8,000 people," Team Anna member
Prashant Bhushan said.

--Inputs from Hakeem Irfan in New Delhi

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