Will Indian protests end corruption?
By Prerna Suri in Asia on April 8th, 2011
It is being called India's version of Tahrir Square after Egypt's protests that toppled the president. Jantar mantar, the country's historic stretch, is flooded with thousands of Indians. They're singing, chanting, dancing, painting, holding up placards in 45 degrees heat - all for one cause: corruption.
"Politicians are getting richer and we're paying the price for it. We don't have jobs and while we're suffering they're living it up," says 22-year-old Swati, a university graduate. She's supposed to be the face of 'shining India', where opportunities are available in plenty, but her presence in these protests is defying that image.
In the last few months, ordinary Indians have had enough. A barrage of corruption scandals revealed how billions, not millions, of dollars were pocketed by politicians in collusion with businessmen and beauracrats. From favouring contractors in the Commonwealth games to selling under-priced telecommunication licences to favoured companies - Indians have seen it all. Until now, people had no outlet to vent their anger or frustration.
Then came Anna Hazare, a 72-year-old former army soldier. He turned to social activism after seeing firsthand how corrupt officials exploited people in his village in the 1960s. Since then he's been seen as one of those activists who actually walk the talk. Now he's become the face of this rising anger.
He's pledged to 'fast until death' (this is the land of Gandhi, after all) until the government accepts a new anti-graft piece of legislation. And his resolve seems to be working. An entire nation's collective conscience seems to have been pricked with this man's actions.
"Anna is an inspiration for all of us. We need less talk and more action before our country is completely ruined. This is not the freedom we fought for," 52-year-old Raj Shekhar tells me.