Anna fast: US hopes for restraint, India says comment needless

August 12th, 2011 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Washington, Aug 12 (IANS) Ahead of activist Anna Hazare’s fast, the US said it counted on a democratic India to “exercise restraint” against peaceful protesters, eliciting a sharp reaction from New Delhi that the comments were “needless.”

“As you know, we support the right of peaceful, non-violent protest around the world,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington when asked if the US was concerned over alleged police brutality against peaceful demonstrators in India.

“That said, India is a democracy, and we count on India to exercise appropriate democratic restraint in the way it deals with peaceful protest,” Nuland said, responding to a question about planned protests against corruption Aug 16.

Team Anna Hazare has declared they will go ahead with an indefinite fast in New Delhi beginning Aug 16 for a stronger Lokpal (ombudsman) bill, and has called for tightening the draft anti-corruption legislation.

The US comments did not go down well with New Delhi.

“We have seen the needless comments by the US State Department spokesperson on handling of peaceful protests in India,” Vishnu Prakash, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry, told reporters here in response to a question.

“Freedoms of speech and expression, as well as of peaceful assembly, are enshrined in the Constitution of India and exercised by citizens of this country of 1.2 billion people,” he said.

However, in her Independence Day message, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held India as a powerful example of what people can achieve through peaceful means.

“India’s independence movement and the inspirational leadership of Mahatma Gandhi still move people to be the change that they want to see in the world,” Clinton said in a message of best wishes on India’s Independence Day.

“At this time of profound change and hope for millions of people, India’s story stands as a powerful example of what people can achieve through the peaceful pursuit of inalienable rights,” she said.

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