Hazare calls for jail bharo after ban orders (Intro Roundup)

August 16th, 2011 - 1:26 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) Team Anna Hazare and the government were Monday night set for a showdown after Delhi Police refused to let them hold a fast from Tuesday for a stronger Lokpal Bill. The social activist declared he was ready to go to jail and called for a “jail bharo” agitation.

Hazare’s call to supporters to fill up jails came as the Delhi Police imposed Section 144 - that bans the gathering of five or more people - at JP Park, the venue of his fast late Monday evening. Police were planning to arrest the civil society activists in the morning if they violate the prohibitory orders, a police official said.

Hazare, who earlier paid a surprise visit to Rajghat and meditated for a while, causing tension to the police, addressed a press conference in the evening. He said there was need for struggle to fight corruption and change the existing “anti-poor system”. He said he would start his fast in jail if arrested.

“We will go to JP Park tomorrow (Tuesday) for our fast. I have learnt that Section 144 (prohibiting gathering of five or more people) has been imposed. If they (police) refuse to allow us to proceed, we will sit there only. We are ready to go to jail. I appeal to people all over the country that when we go to jail, people in villages should also go to jail,” Hazare told mediapersons at an evening press conference.

Earlier, Delhi police said Hazare wouldn’t get the green signal for his fast as the civil society activists had rejected their terms for the protest.

The police announcement came hours after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his Independence Day speech that hunger strikes were avoidable.

Supporters of Hazare, including a large number of youth, held torch processions in many parts of the country in support of his fast.

Hazare had said he would go on hunger strike at the JP Park but refused to accept orders that the crowds must not cross 5,000 and the fast must end in three days.

Delhi Police also laid down other conditions, most of which Hazare’s close aides dismissed as undemocratic.

Special Commissioner of Police Dharmendra Kumar said the police had gone out of its way to accommodate the demands of Hazare, who had originally wanted to stage his protest at Jantar Mantar near parliament, the same spot where his 97-hour fast in April sparked nationwide solidarity protests.

The Congress-led government denied accusations that it was to blame for the hardening of the police stand but insisted that Hazare would not be permitted to have his way.

“Everything has to be within the rule of law… You can’t allow a major gathering in today’s circumstances if it is uncontrolled,” said Law Minister Salman Khurshid, one of the five ministers who earlier held talks with Team Hazare in a bid to reach a consensus on a Lokpal Bill.

Hazare accused the government of abusing its position.

“The government is drunk with power. Humanity and mother nature are being exploited. People all over the world are worried… the government is only concerned about power. We have to fight a battle on all the issues,” he said.

Hazare had also appealed to people to switch off lights at 8 pm Monday.

Referring to the prime minister’s Independence Day speech, where he spoke about supremacy of parliament in legislation making, Hazare said his associates had faith in parliament.

“But the (Lokpal) bill that has been brought before parliament, why is it not proper… The government gave us assurance. It suddenly made an about turn.”

“We have to fight against corruption. Lokpal will be formed,” he said.

Hazare said he regarded the prime minister as an honest, saintly person but said Manmohan Singh had spoken like his minister Kapil Sibal.

Hazare said his anti-corruption movement was not to unseat the government as those who will replace it were no better.

“Only removal of government will mean nothing. The system has to be changed. But if the government does not understand and goes, we will not be worried,” he said.

He accused the government of having policies friendly to industrialists and said that 80 percent of the population was living on Rs.20 per day.

Hazare decided to go on fast Aug 16 after the government presented to parliament a version of Lokpal bill that excluded the prime minister as well as an army of junior government officers from its purview.

Kejriwal, a vocal member of Team Hazare said government conditions for the fast were “unreasonable, unjustified” and betrayed a “dictatorial and arbitrary attitude”.

Earlier Monday, Manmohan Singh said in a speech from the Red Fort: “We want a strong bill in parliament to prevent corruption in high places. We have recently introduced a bill to achieve this. Now only parliament can decide what type of Lokpal legislation should be enacted… Those who don’t agree with this bill can put forward their views to parliament, political parties and even the press. However, I also believe that they should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts unto death.”

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