A soldier’s journey
Sunday, August 28, 2011 AT 06:50 PM (IST)
I remember my first reporting assignment related to Anna Hazare two decades ago. I had arrived from Aurangabad to Pune to join a national newspaper. One morning, I, another reporter and a photographer rushed to Wadegavhan near Shirur. Three farmers protesting against the power distribution company were killed there in police firing. The farmers agitation was led by Anna Hazare, who had resorted to his first indefinite fast in Ahmednagar. Hazare was hospitalised and called off his fast only after securing an assurance from the authorities.
A couple of years later, I met Hazare for the first time at Ralegan Siddhi, where he had resorted to a "maunvrat" to demand action in some corruption cases. Reporters would ask him questions and he would write the answers on a note pad. Then in mid-20s, I could not suppress my laughter on seeing this exercise was. I remember being admonished by my colleagues. Visits to Ralegan Siddhi became frequent later. I developed a close relationship with the social activist and once camped in his village for couple of days to get acquainted with his development projects. To this date, I have preserved my black and white photographs with Anna and the letters Anna wrote to me, acknowledging receipt of newspaper clips on him or news about some of his new projects.
Hazare has always been media savvy. Ignoring protests from his office staff, he would give journalists complimentary copies of books on success stories of Ralegan Siddhi. For some unknown reasons, most journalists from Ahmednagar used to scoff at Hazare. It was only after some Pune journalists regularly wrote on Hazare in English newspapers that his unique contribution became known in the state and later all over the country.
The fight against corruption has been an issue dear to Anna's heart. For years, he used to launch a fast around the Kranti Din of August 9 and would end it after a token assurance from the authorities. He was criticised and made fun of because of this. Once, about a decade back, Anna teamed up with Mohan Dharia, Baba Adhav and others to take on the issue of corruption. Otherwise, he was always a solitary crusader. Anna had never studied in a college but this former soldier-driver in the army has graduated to becoming a revered leader in the country during the past three decades. Now he is articulate, has clarity of thought and most important, has the moral strength to lead the masses. No wonder, his protests now move the entire country.