| Children of a playschool in Patna don ‘I am Anna’ caps while one dresses up as Gandhi to express solidarity with civil activist Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption, on the institution premises on Wednesday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, Aug. 17: Three-year-old Guddu (name changed), barely out of his nappies and still unable to handle his tiffin box, wobbled as he tried to clutch on to a placard that read, “Gandhi is the greatest, Anna is the latest”.
Guddu was among the 60 and odd kids made to line up outside the premises of a playschool today and protest with the placard — a “plaything” for them — showing solidarity with Anna Hazare.
The children, all from the same playschool, were hardly aware of the “big cause” they were made to champion. But the school management officials, who also run a bookstore nearby, insisted the “protest” was “spontaneous”. “Look, it is a spontaneous movement against corruption… kids and women are hitting the streets,” said a management official.
The “protest”, said sources, was fine-tuned by members of various RSS wings.
Several local news channels were there to capture the “rare scene” of tiny tots coming out “spontaneously” in support of the Hazare-sponsored campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill that is being projected as the “brahmastra (ultimate weapon)” to liberate India from the scourge of corruption.
Razi Ahmad, a Gandhian and secretary of the Gandhi Sangrahalaya here, was furious when some organisations — mostly associated with right wing parties — approached him to “guide” the school kids about the Lokpal Bill and corruption. “I have lived life following the footsteps of Gandhi and JP (Jai Prakash Narayan). I hate the un-Gandhian way of doing things. I am sure Gandhi and JP would have been ashamed to see the way you people are using their name for your politics,” the octogenarian Gandhian told some of the people who claimed to be Hazare’s followers.
Asked the reason for his angst against a campaign sponsored by a fellow Gandhian, the octogenarian Razi told The Telegraph: “Have you ever fathomed the hazard of roping in innocent school kids in such activities? Schoolchildren are the future of India. They should be handled with care. But some people are using the kids to achieve their political goals. Civil society should be aware of such dangerous elements.”
The scenes today resembled those at Kargil Chowk yesterday. Tots from different schools — most of them private ones — wore Anna Hazare masks. Members of the Rashtriya Pragati Party and Chintan, which described themselves as “apolitical” organisations, looked out for Muslim children.
Asked why they were looking for Muslim kids for a movement against corruption, a Pragati Party leader said: “The roza (fast) is on. Kids on fast will generate more sympathy for the cause,” he said.
Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly and a JP movement activist, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, too strongly objected to school kids being roped in for the campaign and accused the organisations doing so of “orchestrating spontaneity”. “The most pernicious thing is they are operating in the karmbhoomi of Gandhi and JP,” said Siddiqui.
Both Razi and Siddiqui, however, said Hazare’s arrest was wrong. “Be it Anna or even RSS or other outfit members, it is the people’s right to stage a dharna or protest. But we should know that the Lokpal or any other law has to be enacted by Parliament and not by any extra-constitutional authority. We can only give our opinion. Parliament stands mandated by the people to make the laws, not us,” said Siddiqui.