“Today, if we don’t take care, then what will be our future?”-Anna Hazare

"I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might." -Gandhi

In October, Morgan Reynolds author Kem Sawyer and her husband, Jon Sawyer, traveled to India on behalf of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, for which Jon is the director. Their goal: to learn more about and report on Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption movement in his home country.

Hazare’s campaign is what the Pulitzer Center’s editor, Tom Hundley, calls “Occupy New Delhi.” It’s focus is on the economic gap between classes in India, and the need for “an independent anti-corruption body with real powers,” according to the Sawyers.

Hazare, a veteran Indian soldier with little education, believes that this can be achieved through non-violent protests and revitalizing India’s villages, much like the renowned Mohandas Gandhi. And much like Gandhi, he has fast become an inspiration to many Indians.

Hazare has adopted Gandhi’s practice of ahimsa (non-violence)  in order to push India’s government into giving the Lokpal, or India’s anti-corruption agency, more power. And, according to the Sawyers, “In response to earlier Hazare fasts, the government has already blinked twice.” Now, Hazare once more threatens to starve himself in the name of his fellow Indians.

The Sawyers wrote in a round of dispatches to the Pulitzer Center, “Like Gandhi [Hazare] calls on his ‘inner strength’ to achieve great things.” Hazare is not only working to change India’s government, but also its villages. “After serving 12 years in the army, Hazare returned to [the village of] Ralegan Siddhi. . . There he set about to transform a village rife with problems. . . .  He didn’t set out to merely improve Ralegan Siddhi–he planned to make it a model village.” He helped repair the Hindu temple, banned alcohol and smoking in the village (which had had a problem with over-indulgence for many years), helped install plumbing, and fasted for the government to improve the state of the village’s education.

Kem Sawyer wrote in her book Champion of Freedom: Mohandas Gandhi (a Morgan Reynolds title, “[Gandhi] was convinced he could only find [truth] through selflessness and service for others. As a follower of ahimsa, he believed he must ‘hate the sin and not the sinner’ and he taught others to do the same.” The Sawyers say that Hazare believes the same. He once told a crowd, “If you want happiness, then make others happy first.”

Hazare said that his dream is for inequality among people to be reduced. To do that, the people of India need to learn to be self-sufficient and to band together. Hazare has left his listeners with this message: “Now the struggle has started. Together we have to fight this struggle until the country is free of corruption.”

For more information on Hazare’s inspiration, Mohandas Gandhi, check out Morgan Reynolds’s Champion of Freedom: Mohandas Gandhi (ISBN 9781599354667). For more information on India’s history, look for Classical Civilizations: India (ISBN 9781599351759).

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

Published in: on December 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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