Thousands gather outside Tihar Jail to hail Hazare

New Delhi: It was a virtual carnival in the area around Tihar Jail here with thousands packing the roads around it with one aim — to see their icon Anna Hazare walk out of the prison.

Spirits ran high on the second day of protests. But there was also visible anger against the government for locking up an ageing Gandhian, who was sent to jail Tuesday afternoon as he prepared to start his fast for a strong Lokpal Bill. He was subsequently released but refused to come out until the government agreed to let him fast without any conditions.

On Wednesday, many of the slogans were directed at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and some cabinet ministers who are particularly seen to be vocally anti-Hazare.

“Being in power for so long has made this government very arrogant. They look at themselves as rulers. It’s high time this misconception gets destroyed,” retired Border Security Force (BSF) soldier Shyam Singh said outside the high security prison.

Although the authorities ordered Hazare freed Tuesday night after mass protests gripped India, he has refused to come out until he is allowed to hold his hunger strike without any conditions.

With police barricading two of the roads around Tihar Jail to keep away traffic, they came under virtual control of about 3,000 people – some said there were more.

There were plenty of Indian flags — in all sizes. Young men mounted on cycles, rickshaws, scooters, bikes and cars went up and down the two roads shouting “Vande Mataram” and “Anna Hazare Zindabad!”

Those passing by joined the demonstrators with impromptu gigs.

Donning Gandhi caps with “I am Anna” printed on them, several school children held up hand written posters and banners denouncing corruption.

Many were in school uniforms, some with their parents or teachers.

One such student, Santoj Sarna, a Class 12 student of the nearby Mira Model School, carried a Gandhi spinning wheel in his hand.

Why was he here, he was asked.

“That a common man is challenging them is not going down well this government,” he answered. “They would have never expected protests on such a large scale.”

Anwar Aalam, from Ambala in Haryana, agreed.

“Junior officers like a traffic constable or a municipality clerk harass us. What’s the point of a Lokpal when they are not under its ambit?”

“The government Lokpal is like our PM, a paper tiger,” added Aalam, who owns a textile business.

Shopkeepers around the jail reported brisk business.

“Our sales have doubled and we are running out of stock. This never happens even on a festive day,” gushed Sunil Kumar of “Brijwasi Namkeen Bhandar” opposite Tihar Jail’s gate number four.

“We have run out of samosas and kachoris. Only a few crates of mineral water and cold drinks are left,” Kumar said.

Shankar Pandey, who sells chole kulchey, had to call his brother from home as it became impossible to cater to the surging crowds.

“Our stock will get over in half hour and it’s only 2.30,” said Pandey. On normal days, he keeps his business open till 6 p.m. By Rahul Vaishnavi