Anna’s backstage helpers who oversee the Ramlila show

August 21st, 2011 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) Scores of youngsters look busy and hassled, a few are working on their laptops. A short young woman instructs a fellow volunteer to get food for all of them. It is a small band busy managing the Anna Hazare show at the Ramlila ground here.

From food, ambulance, security, crowd management, maintaining links with the media, and transcribing speeches — the 100 plus volunteers from India Against Corruption (IAC) group are the lifeline behind the 74-year-old Gandhian activist’s fast that has gripped the world’s attention.

With the hunger strike entering the sixth day Sunday, the volunteers say they have a lot to tackle. And with thousands of young and old packing the Ramlila ground, some go without sleep at night.

“We are ready to run from pillar to post. Our leader Hazareji is not 74, he is 14 years old and the battery of this movement,” IAC’s media manager Aswathi Muralidharan, who has not gone home for many days, told IANS.

Agrees her colleague Sneha Kothwale, a 23-year old graduate of journalism from Delhi University who prepares power point presentation and other inputs for the media.

“It is like connecting the dots. We have the task of pooling in all the resources, coordinating with the media, people, even those who do not know anything about the movement,” she explained.

The face of the Hazare campaign for a Jan Lokpal Bill — as opposed to the government-sponsored one — is of course a group of half a dozen who are the Gandhian’s closest aides.

This includes RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, former police officer Kiran Bedi, lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, and social activist Swami Agnivesh.

But with most of them detained or jailed Aug 16 along with Hazare, it was left to the younger lot to keep the flag flying.

Kejriwal said it was this team that provides oxygen to the campaign against corruption. “It is the volunteers who have been managing it from the scratch.”

Almost all volunteers are in their 20s. Many have been associated with Kejriwal, a Magsaysay award winner.

Some volunteers admit they strayed into the campaign only because of Hazare.

“Earlier my parents used to ask me to choose a stable career as this (activism) would not get me a salary or name,” Sneha told IANS.

“But the April fast by Hazareji was a life changing moment. My parents never said a single word to me about this work after that,” she said.

Her reference was to the five-day hunger strike by Hazare here that ignited nationwide passions and forced the government to talk to him about an anti-corruption legislation.

There is plenty of work to be done — day and night.

All developments related to the Lokpal Bill is monitored. The media is regularly briefed. Hazare’s health needs to be checked.

There are logistic issues to be tackled — managing the sprawling Ramlila ground, arranging food for the thousands who throng the venue, providing security, accepting donations, and so on.

The IAC relies a lot on other volunteers to provide security to Hazare. Police frisk everyone entering the ground, even people like Kejriwal.

Kumar Vishwas, who said he is a poet by profession, addresses the crowds.

“My job is to write speeches. Throughout the day, I address the people and motivate them to support the movement in every possible way,” he said.

Hazare began his fast Tuesday when he was taken to the Tihar Jail. He was in prison until Friday when he shifted to the Ramlila ground.

“This is going to be our home for the next 15 days. The leader is younger than us,” quipped Sneha.

(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at madhulika.s@ians.in)

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