Anna Hazare may not be a household name in North America; however, he is a prolific Indian activist and his arrest on Tuesday morning caused an outcry on the streets as well as on social networks in India.
Anna Hazare is a 74-year old activist who is one of India’s most well known and respected campaigners. Known as an “old-school” Indian activist who wears an all white wardrobe and avoids tobacco, meat and cable TV, Hazare – real name Kisan Baburao – has a long history of campaigning. This includes a hunger strike in April 2011. This week, he planned to undertake an indefinite hunger strike to demand new laws against graft. However, Hazare never got the chance to protest; he was detained by police Tuesday morning, August 16th 2011.
If the government was hoping to avoid controversy with the arrest, it backfired.
By night fall, approximately 1,200 of his supporters had been detained in Delhi, according to local media. Several demonstrations were organized throughout the country. In a pre-recorded video recorded by Hazare to be released in case he was arrested, he notes: “Unless there is change, there is no freedom, there is no actual democracy, there is no true republic, there is no true people’s rule. The protests should not stop. The time has come for no jail in the country to have a free space.”
It is fitting that his words were broadcast on YouTube. While some of Hazare’s supporters took to the streets, others reacted on social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The Mumbai chapter of the “India Corruption” movement supported Hazare on their Facebook Group. They encouraged people to change their profiles to black squares to signal their protest of the government’s decision to take Hazare into preventative custody. The Facebook Groups wall post read: “A HUMBLE REQUEST: Democracy can’t be murdered so brutally. Please change your profile pic to ‘Black’ at least for a day to oppose the arrest of team ‘Anna’. Co-operation expected !!!.”
On Twitter, Hazare’s arrest caused even more commotion: 8/10 trending items in India were related to his fast. Of these the hashtag #isupportannahazare was the most highly ranked. Tweets were generally angry and frustrated with the Indian government. Some examples include:
“U may not agree wt Anna’s ideology or his methods. That’s fine. BUT U CANNOT TAKE AWAY HIS RIGHT TO PEACEFUL PROTEST! #isupportAnnaHazare”
“On 15th Aug, we got our independence and on 16th Aug the Indian Government took it away x-( #isupportannahazare”.
On Facebook, user Abdul Akthar wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of India and urged his fans to copy the message and send it to the court from the own email accounts. The message requests the government recognize the freedom to protest peacefully.
As for the YouTube video posted on several channels, the comments are equally as outraged. One user notes: “Today Indian Democracy has been thrown into the gutter by the protectors of the corrupt looters on my Nation. Anna Hazare, we are behind you !!! God Bless you!”