Hazare accuses government of cheating, PM denies any role (Intro Roundup)

August 14th, 2011 - 1:34 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) Angry at the Delhi Police restrictions for his upcoming fast, social activist Anna Hazare Saturday accused the government of betraying the nation’s trust, and said if he had known it would cheat, he would not have called off his April fast. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denied any role in the decision and suggested Hazare take up the matter with police.

Addressing the media ahead of his fast from Aug 16, a day after India celebrates its 65th Independence Day, Hazare said because of the government’s misgovernance, the US got the opportunity to pass remarks on the country’s internal matters — a reference to a US State Department official’s call for “restraint” in dealing with the fast.

“We did not know that we will be cheated. If we had known then, we would have told the government to agree to all our demands or the fast will not be broken. But we trusted the government and it cheated us,” Hazare said.

The 72-year-old activist was referring to his fast in April when he went without food for five days - a move that forced the government to agree on a strong Lokpal bill against corruption.

The activist also slammed the restrictions put up by Delhi Police now for his second hunger strike.

Delhi Police have allowed Team Anna to hold the protest for just three days at a park in central Delhi and also asked them to restrict the crowd to 4,000-5,000.

Besides, police have imposed 22 additional restrictions, including no provocative speeches and limiting use of loudspeakers.

Soon after the police order Friday night, Hazare shot off a letter to Manmohan Singh, terming the police move “undemocratic” and a violation of his fundamental rights.

He said despite the restriction, he would go ahead with the fast and if arrested, he would continue it in jail.

“I am writing to you with a hope that you will protect our fundamental right. It is your duty to protect the democracy and the constitution and I am hopeful that you will take some action regarding this,” he said in his two-page letter.

In his reply late Saturday, the prime minister told Hazare that his office was not involved in the decision to restrict Hazare’s fast to three days and suggested he should approach the authorities concerned with his grievances.

“Your grievance that the police has given you permission to protest and go on fast at JP Park only for three days needs to be addressed by the statutory authorities who have taken that decision. My Office does not in any way get involved in the decision-making process,” the prime minister wrote in the letter, made available to media.

“The terms and conditions on which you are entitled to carry on with your protest are decided by the statutory authorities concerned taking into account the prevailing circumstances and other relevant factors,” Manmohan Singh said, adding: “I would request you to address your grievances to the statutory authorities concerned.”

Meanwhile, Lokpal bill drafting committee member and co-chair Shanti Bhushan called the Delhi Police order “unconstitutional”.

“The government is putting restrictions similar to emergency. Requiring such an undertaking is absurd and totally unconstitutional. Therefore, there is no question of giving any such undertaking,” said Bhushan.

However, Delhi Police said that no fast will be allowed without agitators giving an undertaking accepting all restrictions.

Hazare’s fast is to press the government to include in the official draft legislation provisions of their Jan Lokpal bill that puts the prime minister and higher judiciary within the ambit of an ombudsman. The government version of the bill, introduced in parliament on Aug 4, does not include these provisions.

The government had set up a 10-member committee - five cabinet ministers and five social rights activists - after Hazare’s fast in April. The committee met several times amidst acrimony and disagreement over the bill provisions.

The committee finally decided to present before the cabinet two different versions. But it was only the government version that got the official nod.

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