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Truthdigger of the Week: Anna Hazare

Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. You can see past winners here, and make your own nomination for our next awardee here.

This week, a 74-year-old man staging a peaceful hunger strike against government corruption in India has captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands, invoking the methods and practices of Mahatma Gandhi. That man, social activist and anti-corruption proponent Anna Hazare, is our Truthdigger of the Week.

While Hazare made his name as an anti-corruption activist decades ago, this particular battle began back in April, when he first staged a five-day hunger strike to urge the Indian Parliament to consider a bill that would put a lokpal, or ombudsman, in place to investigate and punish political corruption. This week, Hazare attempted to begin his hunger strike anew, and the events that ensued brought him and the bill he is supporting international attention.

On Tuesday, Hazare was jailed after refusing to give up plans he had made for a peaceful public protest. When he was granted freedom from the high-security prison just 12 hours later, he refused to leave — or eat — until police agreed to allow him to protest publicly. On Thursday, with thousands of his supporters protesting on the streets all across India, police gave in and agreed to allow Hazare to stage a 15-day hunger strike against government corruption. On Friday, the hunger strike began at the fairgrounds in New Delhi. And despite monsoon rains turning the grounds to mush, thousands joined Hazare.

And while relatively few across the world can be there in person, many thousands are with him in spirit. As Truthdig reader Mark Lindley said in his nomination of Hazare: “Lots of courageous people speak truth to power under various circumstances, and lots of those who do are thoroughly honest people. But very few honest people speaking truth to power manage to be so widely heard and supported as Anna Hazare.”

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Honorable Mention

Mega-billionaire and investor god Warren Buffett has been speaking out again this week in favor of taxing the super-rich, most notably in his New York Times Op-Ed piece, “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich.” While it’s certainly easier to speak truth to power when you already have so much power (read: money), Buffett’s openness and urgency in the article were refreshing:

“Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”

In his nomination of Buffett, Truthdig reader CJ said: “Someone had better get to raising taxes, and any rich guy who says so is worthy of something. Especially under circumstances of such profound selfishness on the part of elites, and lots of non-elites too.”

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