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Shot at ‘inclusive’ image

New Delhi, Aug. 21: The Anna Hazare group is striving to dispel the perception that its movement is not socially inclusive and is confined to the urban upper and middle classes and the upper castes.

Yesterday, Hazare had posed for pictures with a group of Muslims who held their iftar at sunset at the Ramlila Maidan. Today, his key strategist Arvind Kejriwal announced that Hindus and Muslims would break their Ramazan and Janmashtami fasts together at the same place on Monday evening.

Sources said that over the past two days, Kejriwal had contacted Muslim community leaders from the Matia Mahal and Jamia Masjid areas near the fast venue and appealed to them to support Hazare.

While no major Muslim religious organisation has come out to express solidarity with the protesters so far, more Muslims were spotted at the packed congregation today compared with last week.

Nasir Akhtar, a motor mechanic from Bettiah in Bihar, said: “Corruption doesn’t recognise religion. We lived under Lalu Prasad’s corrupt government for years and had no option till Nitish Kumar showed a way out.”

Asked what had prompted him to spend a Sunday with Hazare and company, he replied: “Hope, hope for a better life.”

Irshad Ansari, who runs a coaching centre for science and commerce students in south Delhi, has persuaded his students to show up at the Ramlila Maidan. He dismissed the charge that the agitation was sponsored by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP and said everyone must “sacrifice something” to make the campaign a success.

For Shahabuddin, a Delhi government employee, the “scale of corruption” in the state departments was “intolerable”.

He asked: “How do the RSS and the BJP come into the picture when my concern is that the cost of a Rs 10,000 bus tyre is shown as Rs 50,000 in the account books?”

Placards carrying pictures of Babasaheb Ambedkar have been held up at some places to counter the allegation from Dalit academics and activists, such as Kancha Ilaiah and Chandrabhan Prasad, that the campaign is “anti-social justice”.

Ilaiah, however, refused to countenance any comparison of Hazare’s campaign with the movements led by Jaya Prakash Narayan and V.P. Singh in the past. He argued that while JP, a Lohiaite, espoused socialism and Singh advocated the empowerment of the backward castes, Hazare was devoid of a social and political vision.

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