Report and video impressions of the silent demonstration that took place on August 17th. By Anand Rao
Following Anna Hazare’s arrest on August 16th, the Indian public has been in upheaval over the issue of a stronger Lokpal bill. The youth have notably taken to this issue in a big way, organising protest marches and staging dharnas, forcing members of the general public to sit up and take notice. The student community in IIT Madras, not to be left behind, organised a spontaneous ‘silent march’ on August 17th which saw participation from well over a thousand students. Together with the undergraduates, several post graduates and research scholars turned up in large numbers to protest against recent government actions.
It was a large gathering that assembled at Gajendra Circle – it appeared that a silent march was an unlikely possibility, with slogans being raised vehemently right from the start. The assemblage embarked on a 6km long trek to the entrance and back after which a candle lighting ceremony was organised at the stadium. Though very few were actually aware of the differences between the Lokpal and the Jan Lokpal, everyone joined in for a reason. While Deepak Sahoo did not want to miss out on being a part of what could grow into the biggest post-independence revolution, Sujeet Gholap was doing it for Anna Hazare. “I trust him, he’s the people’s hero in this movement and I know what he’s doing is right,” he said. Florian, an exchange student from Germany, acknowledged that corruption and poverty are the two major problems that India faces and would gladly be a part of any campaign to eradicate them.
While students were more enthusiastic about voicing their opinions on the issue, the faculty were more reserved in their stand. It is said that In India, both charity and corruption begin at home, and Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi reinforced this view: “…Such a march is good for the people who are doing it. A major component of the movement against corruption is about looking into ourselves, rather than blaming some ‘they’ responsible for the problems we are facing.”
With the intellectual community pitching in and doing their bit, the march received coverage in leading dailies, probably justifying that it had some impact. However, regardless of whether such an event made a difference at all at the national level, the participants were clear that this wasn’t a one day protest. The demonstration at some level also represented the corruption and inefficiencies that we, as students, face in our day to day lives.
One issue highlighted by Abhishek, a dual degree student, was the presence of India Against Corruption, a registered civil society organisation, using IIT Madras as a platform to display banners and carry out a protest themselves. He argued that on the same lines, women’s rights groups and other NGOs should also be allowed to stage demonstrations within the campus. This is a question that the administration will have to tackle.
Are Anna Hazare and ‘civil society’ right in taking the law into their own hands through such marches and protests? Does Team Anna actually represent the views of the majority in this country? Or has the entire parliamentary system itself become so corrupt that change simply has to come from elsewhere? These hard-hitting questions will be answered over the coming months.