Fasting Anna won’t budge on anti-graft law (Roundup)

August 19th, 2011 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Engergised by swelling support, social activist Anna Hazare Friday vowed to remain on a fast till a strong anti-graft law was enacted as he resumed his protest at the Ramlila Ground after first paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial at Rajghat

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 declared before thousands of cheering supporters that there would be no budging on the Jan Lokpal Bill.

“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.

“This is the start of a new revolution, of a new freedom struggle,” declared Hazare, whose arrest Tuesday sparked off a nationwide outpouring of 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 brief speech heralded Hazare’s indefinite protest demanding a strong anti-corruption law, four days after he had originally scheduled it in the national capital.

The crowds at the Ramlila Ground continued to swell, despite lashing rains. 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.”

Before reaching the sprawling Ramlila Ground, Hazare visited Rajghat, where an unusually 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.

The Gandhian enthusiastically shouted slogans of “Inquilab zindabad”, “Jai Hind” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” despite the fact that he had lost three kilograms since beginning his fast Tuesday.

“The fight against corruption should continue whether or not I am alive. It’s a people’s movement and you should fight on even after I am gone,” he said to loud cheers.

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.

Team Hazare is bitterly opposed to the government-sponsored Lokpal Bill, which excludes from its ambit the prime minister, the judiciary and the mass of government officials.

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