Fasting Anna sets Aug 30 deadline for anti-graft law (Intro Roundup)

August 20th, 2011 - 12:59 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Riding on a groundswell of support, social activist Anna Hazare Friday vowed to continue his fast till a strong anti-graft law is enacted and gave an ultimatum of Aug 30 for parliament nod to the Lokpal Bill, even as he began his protest at Ramlila Ground here.

He also announced that his supporters nationwide will begin a ‘jail bharo’ (courting arrest) protest after Aug 30 if a stronger Lokpal Bill with the prime minister and judiciary under its purview was not passed by parliament.

Faced with this fresh challenge, a beleaguered Congress Party, which is heading the coalition government at the centre, held its core committee meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to assess the political fall-out.

The 74-year-old Hazare, who reached the rain-drenched Ramlila Ground after a nearly three-hour journey from the Tihar Jail where he had been since Tuesday, showed no signs of fatigue and was his usual energetic self.

“We will not leave this place till a (stronger) Lokpal bill is passed,” the soldier-turned-reformer said, urging the youth not to abandon the fight against corruption.

“The parliament should pass the Lokpal Bill by Aug 30. If not, activists all over the country will start a jail bharo agitation,” he told supporters.

“This is the start of a new revolution, of a new freedom struggle,” declared Hazare, whose arrest Tuesday had sparked off popular anger and put the government in a political fix.

“This torch of revolution should always remain lit. It is not just about Lokpal. We have to bring about a transformation in this country,” he said in chaste Hindi, comparing the present-day government with the colonial British Raj.

People, he added, would not tolerate any more the loot of national wealth.

The crowds at the Ramlila Ground continued to swell, despite lashing rains, late into the night, and most of them preferred to stay back in the ground rather than go back home.

Elsewhere, in towns and cities across the nation, protests continued for the fourth day in his support.

Hazare’s team member and senior advocate Prashant Bhusan dismissed rumours of the social activists surrendering to the government, saying: “No compromise has been agreed to.”

Another Hazare associate, Arvind Kejriwal, said all their demands on the Lokpal Bill were non-negotiable, but denied there was division in Team Anna’s ranks.

He also said if the government wanted to have a separate anti-graft law for judiciary, then the civil society activists will draft it for parliament to pass.

Slamming the government for saying Parliament was supreme as far as law-making was concerned, Kejriwal thundered: “The people are supreme, parliament is not.”

To demands for Team Anna activists to contest elections, Hazare refused to take the bait, saying he will never ever enter an electoral battle.

Before reaching the sprawling Ramlila Ground, Hazare visited Rajghat, where a large crowd gathered to support him. He also paid homage at the India Gate memorial to the Unknown Soldier.

Hazare was arrested Tuesday and sent to Tihar Jail ahead of his scheduled hunger strike. As mass protests erupted nationwide, the government backed off and ordered him released.

But Hazare refused to leave the prison until he was allowed to fast without fetters. Eventually, the authorities agreed to let him use the Ramlila Ground that can accommodate thousands of people.

As he stepped out of Tihar Jail Friday morning, hundreds of people, many of whom had been camping outside the prison for days, cheered.

With a protective ring thrown by police and activists of India Against Corruption (IAC), Hazare started his journey to Ramlila Ground in an open truck decorated with the national flag that negotiated its way through massive crowds.

At one point, the procession was two kilometres long. The crowd, made up of people from all ages and varying socio-economic backgrounds, appeared upbeat and quite unmindful of the rain.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |

Subscribe