Indian PM defends arrest of anti-graft activist

August 17th, 2011 - 11:19 pm ICT by BNO News  

NEW DELHI (BNO NEWS) — Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday defended Delhi Police for its action against social activist Anna Hazare who was arrested by police to prevent him from launching an anti-graft fast, the Hindustan Times reported.

The premier told Parliament that the government acknowledges the right of citizens to hold peaceful protests but permission for these is given subject to “appropriate conditions”. Hazare was arrested on Tuesday and later released after he refused to accept six of the 22 conditions set by the Delhi Police for his anti-corruption fast and planned to defy the prohibitory orders.

Hazare’s team had insisted on permission for an indefinite period, but police only gave him permission to fast for no more than three days. He is now refusing to leave jail until he gets permission to hold his protest.

Amid continued chants of “shame shame” by Opposition benches, Singh said that the civil activist had been held as a preventive measure because of apprehension of breach of peace. “Government does not seek any confrontation with any section of the society. But when some sections of society deliberately challenge the authority of government and prerogative of Parliament, it is the bounden duty of the government to maintain peace and tranquility,” he said.

The 74-year-old had planned to start fasting on August 16 against the government’s version of an anti-corruption bill and threatened to continue protesting the exclusion of some recommendations made by civil society representatives from the Lokpal bill. “Hazare may be inspired by high ideals in his campaign to set up a strong and effective lokpal. However, the path that he has chosen to impose his draft of a bill upon Parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our Parliamentary democracy,” Singh said.

Insisting that “the issue” between the government and Anna Hazare is “not one of different attitudes to fighting corruption”, the Prime Minister said the civil society activists “must allow the elected representatives of the people in Parliament to do the job that they were elected for”, the Hindustan Times reported.

“With respect to the events of yesterday, I will only say that a functional democracy must allow multiple voices to be heard. But differences of opinion must be resolved through dialogue and consensus. Those who believe that their voice and their voice alone represents the will of 1.2 billion people should reflect deeply on that position,” he added.

Thousands of protesters were arrested across India on Tuesday after Hazare was sent to prison for seven days of judicial custody. About 1,400 supporters were detained across the capital, while mass detentions were also reported in other cities.

Hazare and one of his associates were arrested as they stepped out of an apartment in east Delhi on their way to Jai Prakash Narayan Park where they were planning to hold their strike. Hundreds of Hazare’s supporters gathered outside the apartment complex and shouted anti-government slogans.

Just before his arrest, Hazare said in a recorded video message: “Don’t let my arrest stop this movement. This is the nation’s second struggle for freedom.” As news of his arrest spread, thousands took to the streets in Delhi, Mumbai, and many other cities across the country. Some reports said as many as 4,400 people were arrested across the country.

Earlier this month, supporters of Hazare burned copies of the government’s version of the Lokpal bill and slammed the legislation for exempting the prime minister, the judiciary and lawmakers. They called it the “anti-poor” law for excluding the office of the Prime Minister from the purview of a new ombudsman.

The bill follows a series of corruption scandals involving government officials. Transparency International ranked India, one of the few countries yet to ratify the United Nations convention against corruption, at 78, placing it below neighboring China.

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