In a staggering show of support for anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal on Sunday, a multitude of people marched on the streets of Mumbai, taking the suburbs by storm.
It was called the ‘One Lakh March’ on the lines of the million-man march staged at Tahrir Square in Cairo. In Mumbai, the sea of humanity that converged for the rally, scheduled for at 4.30 p.m., quickly swelled and could well have crossed the one-lakh target.
Displaying the tricolour and placards, crowds, young and old, men and women, individuals, groups and residents of entire localities walked for about three hours from Bandra to Juhu to boisterous cries and slogans hailing Mr. Hazare.
Eighty-year-old Leelaben, who got out of her car with much difficulty, enthusiastically joined the row of marchers, whose line extended beyond what the naked eye could see. “I will walk as far as I can,” she told The Hindu.
Adding to the andolan cries of Vande Mataram, Bharat Mata ki jai and Inquilab Zindabad were innovative slogans. “Twinkle twinkle little star, Anna is a superstar,” roared a group at one end. At another place, another bunch hollered, “Desh ki beti kaisee ho, Kiran Bedi jaisee ho. [How should the country's daughter be? She should be like Kiran Bedi].”
Many slogans decried Congress leaders. Placards condemning governmental corruption were as ubiquitous as was the trendsetting Gandhi topi declaring, ‘I am Anna Hazare’.
Cynicism on the corruption issue was writ all over as some placards declared, ‘Breaking news: London 2012 Olympics — India won all gold medals in corruption’ and ‘Tihar Jail: Indian Parliament’s extension counter.’ Posters of Rabindranath Tagore and Bhagat Singh were also seen.
Around 70 persons who are on an indefinite fast in Mumbai also participated in the rally, although they moved in a truck. Entire families turned up with little children.
Lt. Manish Kumar of the Navy came with his wife and three-year-old daughter. “This is the right time. We need to support Anna, who is fasting for others; for my daughter’s future,” he told The Hindu. His wife Sneha Kumar said: “It’s not just enough to say ‘we support Anna.’ We have to come out. The government has to bend down.”
Women left their household chores and participated in large numbers. “We are here because of inflation. Everything is so expensive. What do poor people like us do? The government has to agree to the demand [of Team Anna]. We have come with our families. We have to go home and cook, but even if it gets late, it does not matter,” said Nirmala Sohalal Baguria.
Neel Mistry (13), skating with the national flag in hand, said: “I like Anna because he wants to cut out corruption.” Some marchers brought their cycles, scooters and motorbikes.
The sounds of drums, tambourines and conches heightened the energies of the multitude. At places, crowds broke into the song, “We shall overcome.” The massive gathering created an equally massive mass of onlookers who were stunned by the electrifying display of anti-corruption sentiment dunked in a patriotic fervour.
Bystanders watched with awe from buildings, skywalks, stores, shops, traffic signals and from vehicles. Staff at departmental stores stood next to the mannequins and waved at the crowds. Those who did not take to the streets showed their support for the movement by flying the tricolour from balconies and rooftops. The marchers exhorted the onlookers to join them.
The marchers, unmindful of the pouring rain, waded through waterlogged streets without a dent in their enthusiasm. Traffic came to a standstill and one part of the road leading to Juhu was blocked for some time. A lone ambulance made its way through the throngs of people.
Heavy police bandobust was in place. Police vehicles and vans were stationed at intervals and so were batches of police personnel.
Plainclothes men were also taking stock of the event. One of them, who introduced himself to this reporter as an officer of the Criminal Investigation Department, asked if the main leaders of the andolan, Mayank Gandhi and Rubin Mascarenhas, had arrived. He said it was important to note the names for the record.
A person by the name of Suketu Zariwalla reportedly arranged for bottled water and glucose biscuits for the marchers. The march ended at Juhu late in the evening.