Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jan Lokpal Bill: Police relax conditions for Anna Hazare's fast

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police on Wednesday relaxed conditions for Anna Hazare's fast, including giving him permission for seven days that could be extended.

Delhi Police agreed to relax six of the 22 conditions for the social activist to hold his indefinite fast against the government version of the Lokpal bill.

"We have relaxed six conditions on which Team Anna had objected. We have given permission for seven days which can be extended," said Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat.

He said the venue of the fast has been shifted from J.P. Park to Ramlila Ground in central Delhi.

There would also be no limit on the number of people gathering at the venue in support of Hazare or the number of vehicles parked at the site, the police said.

Hazare, who is in the Tihar Jail, has refused to leave the jail unless he is allowed to continue with his indefinite fast, and the curbs are lifted.

Nationwide protests continued for the second consecutive day today against the arrest of Anna Hazare, with political parties holding rallies in various states to press their demands that included a strong Lokpal Bill.

Protests were held in Mumbai as supporters of the Gandhian thronged the Azad Maidan in the southern part of the city, protesting the "undemocratic" manner in which the 73-year-old was taken into custody.

TDP supporters demonstrated across Andhra Pradesh against his arrest with the party chief former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu leading a dharna at a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Secunderabad.

Thousands of students in Karnataka skipped classes as they thronged Freedom Park in Bangalore at a rally, with former Supreme Court judge Santosh N Hegde, also joining the dharna.

In Indore, BJP workers staged a sit-in waving placards against the police action against Hazare.

Lawyers observed a one-day token strike in all the six district courts in Delhi protesting non-inclusion of judiciary in the Lokpal Bill among other issues, interrupting the proceedings in the 2G case.

The Orissa Assembly was adjourned twice amid uproar as BJP and ruling BJD MLAs condemned the police action.

In Tamil Nadu, a large number of people observed fast and more than 300 activists assembled at Adyar in Chennai under the banner of "India Against Corruption", an umbrella body of the citizen's movement fighting for a powerful Lokpal Bill.


Countrywide protests continue as Anna Hazare fasts in Tihar

NEW DELHI: Protests swelled across the nation on Wednesday in support of Gandhian Anna Hazare's fast-unto-death in Tihar Jail.

The 74-year-old Anna fasted on Wednesday as thousands of his followers gathered outside the jail, the latest development in a crisis that saw him arrested on Tuesday and then refuse to leave jail after the government ordered his release.

Thousands of Anna supporters on Wednesday also took out a march from India Gate to Jantar Mantar to express solidarity with the Gandhian in his fight against corruption.

Protesters, some of them dressed in T-shirts and Gandhi caps with slogans "I am Anna", gathered at the war memorial at around 4 pm and began marching towards Jantar Mantar, where Hazare had sat on a fast in April which forced the government to expedite the introduction of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament.

The march choked the roads in and around India Gate and brought traffic in Lutyen's Delhi to a halt putting commuters to inconvenience.

Anna Hazare, who has struck a nerve with millions of Indians by demanding tougher laws against rampant corruption, insists he wants the right to return to JP Park where he had originally planned to publicly fast, before he leaves jail.

The arrest and sudden about-turn to release him appeared to confirm a widespread feeling that Manmohan Singh's government is cornered, clumsy and too riddled with corruption scandals to govern Asia's third-largest economy effectively.

"We don't have faith in our government," said Sujeet, a young software engineer from the IT city of Gurgaon, as he protested at the popular tourist site of India Gate in the capital. "We are living in a democracy but only in letter, not in spirit."

In Assam, thousands of farmers, students and lawyers marched. In the financial capital of Mumbai, 500 people carrying the Indian flag and wearing Gandhi caps chanted "I am Anna".

"I was forced to pay a bribe while getting my passport approved and I felt helpless," said student Rahul Acharya, 21. "This is the time all youngsters should join the movement so that the future would be corruption-free."

In the IT hub of Hyderabad, lawyers boycotted courts, students skipped class and hundreds took to the streets.

Across Andhra Pradesh, a Congress party stronghold, thousands went on snap fasts, staged sit-ins, blocked roads and formed human chains.

Demonstrations are part of daily life in the towns and cities of India, a country of 1.2 billion people made up of a myriad of castes, religions and classes. But spontaneous and widespread protests are rare and the scale of this week's outpouring of public fury has taken the government by surprise.


Police use Gandhian methods to tackle Hazare supporters

New Delhi: It was not just Gandhian Anna Hazare urging his supporters to use non-violent methods of protest, Delhi Police were also resorting to 'Gandhian' ways to manage the thousands of Hazare supporters gathered outside Tihar Jail and Chhatrasal Stadium here Wednesday.

"The anti-riot force and police deputed are unarmed. We have also asked them to handle protesters politely," Deputy Commissioner of Police BS Jaiswal told IANS.

The police personnel, numbering in thousands, have been deployed unarmed and told to exercise maximum restraint in handling supporters of Hazare who is in Tihar Jail.

The cops have also taken several measures to keep at bay a 'Ramlila Maidan-like situation'.

The reference is to a June 5 swoop by Delhi Police on the supporters of Baba Ramdev a little past midnight when the cops fired tear gas shells and resorted to lathicharge on the people to end the yoga guru's day-old hunger strike on the black money issue.

The supporters of Hazare, who were detained from Jai Prakash Naryan Park, Raj Ghat and Pragati Maidan, were requested politely to make a queue and board the police vans. Then they were dropped off at Chhatrasal Stadium and Burari in north Delhi.

Anna Hazare still in Tihar Jail, driving a hard bargain with police

New Delhi: As evening fell upon Delhi, rush hour saw hundreds of people gathering in different parts of the Capital in support of Anna Hazare, the activist who is still in Tihar Jail after being arrested last morning.

At India Gate, nearly 5,000 marched in the second candelight vigil at this location in 24 hours, stating simply "Anna, hum tumhaara saath hain (we are with you, Anna)." The crowd of hundreds of people outside Tihar Jail was more boisterous, roaring each time word spread that the government was negotiating new terms for the mass-protest against corruption that Mr Hazare wants to hold in Delhi. As the hours passed, the police conceded more ground. Mr Hazare knows his arrest and the overwhelming public support for him has given him considerable leverage. So when the police offered him Ramlila Maidan as a new venue, he accepted; when he was asked to limit his protest's duration to 15 days, he did not. Sources say Team Anna wants the right to protest for a month.

"We are not worried, we will find a way out of this", said the Prime Minister outside his home this afternoon. However, the decision to have Mr Hazare arrested has proved to be near-catastrophic for the government. Dr Manmohan Singh's statement in Parliament this morning explaining the background to the arrest failed to placate either the Opposition or the public. The consensus is that Mr Hazare's right to hold a peaceful protest was violated.

Mr Hazare was allowed by the Delhi Police to leave jail last night, about 12 hours after he was arrested. But he turned down the offer to head out of Tihar, insisting that he wants the government to first agree that his hunger strike will not be interrupted or his protest checked as long as it remains peaceful.

Through the day, the 74-year-old who has become the totem of a people's movement against corruption consulted with his closest aides within prison. Among his visitors were spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and civil rights activist Swami Agnivesh. Outside, among the crowd, popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev, was seen standing atop a car.

Mr Hazare's hunger strike began last morning. Since then, he has had only water. Doctors have been examining him in prison.

The war between the government and Mr Hazare centres on the Lokpal Bill introduced in Parliament last week. The bill is meant to provide an antidote to the seemingly limitless corruption among politicians, bureaucrats and judges. Mr Hazare says the government has betrayed India by drafting a bill that has no intention of seriously and objectively investigating charges of venality. The BJP's Arun Jaitley stressed in Parliament that while his party has vast differences with Mr Hazare's suggestions for the bill, it does not agree with the "government-appointed Lokpal" that the current bill provides for.

Like yesterday, the public support for Mr Hazare played out in different cities. In Bangalore, Freedom Park saw thousands of protestors. Mumbai's Azad Maidan was also filled during the day with supporters of Anna.