New Delhi/Mumbai: His
diminutive stature hides his steely resolve. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he
uses hunger strike as a weapon to hit out at the mighty. Now, Anna Hazare, a crusader against corruption, is making waves in a country
where hunger for easy money has become a way of life.
The modern day Mahatma, as his supporters fondly describe him, is on
a fast in the heart of the capital, drawing tens of thousands from
all walks of life who are sick and tired of India's cancerous
It is a remarkable achievement for a 72-year-old man who dropped out
of school at Class 7 due to poverty, sold flowers for a while and
then became a driver in the army to feed his family in a rural part
Much like Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare -- born Kisan Baburao Hazare
-- began his activist life in a humble way.
His first target was his own village, Ralegan-Siddhi in Ahmednagar
district. It was a miserable and barren place with insufficient
rainfall and lacking any economy. It also suffered from frequent
The year was 1975. Launching watershed development programmes, he
persuaded people to change their ways and managed to transform the
barely breathing village to one Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud
India recognised his work by awarding him a Padma Vibhushan and a
Padma Bhushan. But, unlike many, he would not rest on his laurels.
He unleashed a war on corruption, launching the Bhrashtachar Virodhi
His first victims in politics were three ministers in the Shiv
Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Maharashtra:
Shashikant Sutar, Mahadeo Shivankar and Baban Gholap. This was in
In 2003, when Maharashtra had a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party
(NCP) government, he went on fast against four ministers, Sureshdada
Jain, Nawab Malik, Vijay Kumar Gavit and Padamsinh Patiln, who he
said were corrupt.
Anna Hazare's reputation as a man of integrity gave him clout that
the corrupt found difficult to battle.
He is a self-made man with no air whose father was an unskilled
labourer. Out of school, Anna Hazare sold flowers and set up a
floral shop in Mumbai before the Chinese attack of 1962 led him into
It was while in the army that he was exposed to the works of Swami
Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave, leaders who
captured his imagination.
As an activist, Anna Hazare battled many corrupt officials. He also
fought for the rights of tribals, the lowliest of the lowliest.
But he realised that nothing could be achieved until people were
empowered. And so he campaigned extensively for right to
information, travelling for more than 12,000 km in Maharashtra,
creating awareness about the legislation.
Now, Anna Hazare has again embraced the weapon of hunger strike to
create a mass movement that he hopes will force politicians to enact
a stringent anti-corruption law.