“I will go and tell friends that Anna Hazare is a very good person. He wants a corruption-free India with no fighting and no violence,” said 10-year-old Mayank Jaswal, who helped distribute pamphlets among the crowd at the Ramlila Maidan here on Sunday in the scorching heat, along with his mother and six-year-old sister.
The excitement in the air was palpable even before one actually entered the grounds where the social activist continued his indefinite fast to bring in the Jan Lokpal Bill. Revellers and supporters marked the way to the site, beginning at the New Delhi metro station, where hundreds of young people were seen wearing “Main Anna Hu” Gandhi caps, holding the tricolour, wearing badges with Mr. Hazare's picture, and faces streaked with the colours of the tricolour. “Anna tum aage badho, hum tumhaare saath hain [Anna you move forward, we are with you]”, was the resounding cry leading right up to the entry of the Maidan.
Volunteers ensured disciplined movement of the throng waiting to enter the ground, offering food and water to the needy. The volunteer desk offered plain paper to people to write down their personal messages to Mr. Hazare.
Inside the Maidan, the crowd that included a considerable number of families, seemed to converge towards one focal point — the stage — waiting to catch a glimpse of the septuagenarian.
Several parents suggested that the present struggle by Team Anna was the “second freedom struggle.” “The children need to see this. They need to see, as well as we do, how the fight for freedom was fought,” said Ghaziabad resident Rajneesh Suri, even as his wife and three sons stood clutching the tricolour and craning their necks to see Mr. Hazare behind the speaker on stage.
“Anna is the second Mahatma Gandhi,” said Mayapuri resident Rajinder Sharma, an idea that was shared by most people, especially children.
Speaker boxes and loudspeakers put up at the Maidan continued to carry voices and music supporting the Bill and Mr. Hazare's stand against corruption. A rendition of “Raghu pati Raghav” caught the mood of the crowd, reaching a crescendo as it neared the end, even as people, as diverse as university professors, doctors, volunteers and 11-year-olds reciting poetry spoke in support of Anna's stand.
“While I support the Bill, I am personally not with [all] the speakers. This platform should not be misused by people for their personal ends,” said Atul Gupta, who is the vice president of a travel company.
The Jan Lokpal Bill, which lies at the heart of the protest, came up several times during the speeches on stage, on the slogan-bearing placards, and in idle conversations in and around the venue. The Commonwealth Games, the accused Suresh Kalmadi, and inflation were among the other ideas people associated with Mr. Hazare's “fight against corruption.”
“It is great to see the huge numbers here, but I do not think most people here understand the implications of the Jan Lokpal Bill and the government's version of the Lokpal Bill. The volunteers and speakers are trying to get it across through speeches, but there has got to be a better way to educate people about the Bill so that we can make an informed choice,” said 22-year-old Delhi University student Priyanka Sharma.
“The people involved in drafting the Jan Lokpal are all educated, experienced people — Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi. We have read and understood the Bill, and fully agree with it,” said Madhu Nitin Bhalla, who has supported Team Anna's campaign since April.
Though most supporters agreed that discussing the Bill with the government was important, Ms. Bhalla raised the question, “But why is the government not coming forward for discussion?”