The saint of Ralegan Sidhi Gopinath Raina
The nations have a history as well as geography. They grow not by the sun and stars, the wind and rain, but by the creative spirits who, by precept and practice, work toward the establishment of universal brotherhood of man, overcoming the artificial barriers of caste, creed or color.- Radhakrishnan
Since times immemorial, India has been blessed with saints, seers and sages, mystics, yogis and philosophers who have enriched our glorious heritage by their silent as well as active participation in lifting the spirit and ameliorating the lot of the common man.
In recent history, we have had the Saint of Dakshinewhar-Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the seer of Varkala-Shri Narayana Guru, the sage of Tiruvanamalai-Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great yogi of Pondichery-Sri Aurobindo and the saint of Sabarmati-Mahatma Gandhi.
And the one we are talking about in this write-up is the modern, living Karma Yogi, an avowed Gandhian, who has fought many a battle to uplift the lot of the toiling masses He is none other than Kisan Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare who was born into a humble family on June 15, 1937 in Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra.
Family circumstances forced him to take up a petty job, while still in the seventh grade. He then set up his own florist shop. It is said that once he even thought of ending his life out of frustration, for he wanted to know the purpose of human existence. But as fate would have it, one fine day he chanced upon Swami Vivekananda’s book; “Call to the Youth for Nation Building” at the New Delhi railway station. The said book answered his query and Anna realized for good that the purpose of human existence lies in the service of fellow humans.
At the age of 25, he joined the Indian army in the wake of the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. It is his intense desire to live beyond the narrow self interest that finally drove him to seek voluntary retirement from the Army and serve his own village. He strongly felt that the dream of India becoming a strong nation could not be realized without self-reliant, self-sufficient villages, and without the social commitment and involvement of the people at large.
Anna’s tirade against the infirmities suffered by the common man began in 1978 when he voluntarily retired from active service and returned to Ralegan Sidhi where he found his people, farmers in particular, struggling for survival. He pioneered movements that speak of the greatest determination of this simple, committed, honest man. He spent the meager retirement fund to better the lives of his fellow villagers.
Small wonder, Ralegan Siddhi is now looked upon as a model village where alcohol has been banished, primary healthcare centers are functioning, schools are providing the basic education to rural children and rainwater conservation has been carried out successfully. Anna was also responsible for ensuring the setting up of a Grain Bank in 1980 with the sole objective of providing food security to needful farmers during times of drought or crop failure. A school teacher, Thakaram Raut, says, "thanks to Anna's agitations, we got a school, we got electricity, we got development schemes for farmers.''
His 8-year-old campaign resulted in amending the Gram Sabha Act that allows the villagers to have a say in the development works in their village. In the early 2000, Hazare led a movement in Maharashtra state which forced the state government to pass a stronger Maharashtra Right to Information Act. This Act was later considered as the base document for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Union Government
Again, it was Anna Hazare's moral leadership that inspired and motivated the people of Ralegan Siddhi to eliminate social barriers and discrimination against the Dalits who have by now been integrated into the social and economic life of the village. Marriages of Dalits are now held as part of community marriage program together with all others.
Crusade against Corruption
A man so simple, honest and straightforward, whose spotless character comes so close only to Gandhi, wields no political clout, belongs to no party whatsoever, treats the rich and the poor alike without any distinction of caste, creed or color.
With nothing but his own life to offer, in August 2011, he simply worked magic in mobilizing the masses under the tricolor flag at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, the venue of his fast unto death with a view to eradicating the evil of corruption. For 12 days, he took the fight to the corridors of power, aroused the conscience of the entire nation and with every passing day, nay with every passing moment, the numbers swelled in his support from hundreds to thousands, to lakhs from all corners of the country. Today, Anna Hazare is the face of India's fight against corruption.
Jana Lokpal Bill, for which he waged his non-violent struggle, may or may not become a reality the way he wants it, but it certainly has made a mark by changing the psyche of the people who, I am sure, are today feeling more Indian than they were before. Some one has rightly pointed out that “Anna Hazare phenomenon left the government totally out of its depth.”
There are some whose myopic eyes cannot see beyond their nose and they try to deride the man out of sheer prejudice. Some others complain that his methods are dictatorial which forced the villagers to shun alcohol etc. They fail to understand how an unarmed man could make a whole village follow him, unless it was his moral pressure that did the trick.
Detractors of Anna like the Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy claim that he is not the driving force behind the anti-graft movement. While her criticism of Anna’s crusade against corruption is wholly unjustified, dishonest, mischievous, illogical and unfair, to say the least, she did concede that “Certainly Anna Hazare was picked up and propped up as a sort of saint of the masses”.
Let Arundhati Roy know for sure that Anna is a saint in his own right and certainly is not the one propped up, unlike some magician-saints and self-styled gods in recent times. Anna’s past record itself belies Roy’s biased hypothesis that a simple man like him could not be the brain behind a movement that brought the government to its knees. It sounds a bit ironic when she says that Anna Hazare’s means may be Gandhian, but his demands are not.
A man of many causes, he wields great moral authority, for his strength lies in his simplicity and integrity. Living amidst his people in an 8 x 10 ft. room in the village temple, Anna reminds us of the spiritual traditions of love, sacrifice and righteousness followed in India since ages.
The five principles of life set by Anna for himself are:
Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati bhaarata
It seems the promise held out by Sri Krishna has materialized in the form of the great savant, Anna Hazare who is going to deliver us from the predicament our nation is in.
*A journalist by profession, a scholar by temperament and a writer by choice, Gopinath Raina was inclined to the study of religion from his very young age. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic exposition of Hindu thought that fired his imagination while he was still at school, and by the time he entered college, he had been drawn to the writings of Gandhi, Aurobindo, Narayana Guru, Radhakrishnan and Bertrand Russel.
After retiring from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 where he distinguished himself as an editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator in All India Radio, he edited, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90), Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct'95, Sanatana Sandesh,(1997-2005) and KASHEER (2003-2004),
He has been writing profusely on various aspects of Hindu thought. He enjoys writing, particularly on saints and sages, not only of Kashmir, but of the other parts of India as well. Presently he lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.
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Anna movement has really changed the psyche of the Indian people who, for sure, are today feeling more Indian than they were before. Hope elected people sitting in the parliament feel same way. Corruption has blinded them, and they are responsible to turn India in to Nand Nagari of Chanakeya times.
Added By Chandra Ganju
Nice article on this great personality who was instrumental in mobilizing masses for a cause that is so important for India. It will be instrumental in exposing the corrupt UPA government and throwing them out of power.
Added By Dileep Bhat