Anna Hazare leaves jail to start public fast

By AFP
Published: August 19, 2011
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Indian social activist Anna Hazare (C) waves the Indian national flag as he stands on the back of a vehicle outside Tihar Jail in New Delhi on August 19, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

Indian social activist Anna Hazare (C) waves the Indian national flag as he stands on the back of a vehicle outside Tihar Jail in New Delhi on August 19, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: Indian activist Anna Hazare left jail Friday to start a two-week public fast likely to fuel an eruption of angry protests over corruption that has left the government stumbling for a response.

(Read: Crusade against corruption)

Thousands of frenzied, flag-waving supporters cheered the diminutive 74-year-old as he walked from the gates of Delhi’s Tihar jail, his de-facto campaign headquarters since he was taken into police custody three days ago.

Smiling and waving, he led the ecstatic crowds in chants of “Hail Mother India” and vowed to pursue his hunger strike protest “until India is corruption-free”.

He then boarded an open-top truck to carry him through the streets to an open venue in central Delhi where he will stage his fast aimed at forcing the government to bow to his demands for stronger anti-corruption laws.

Once seen as just an annoying thorn in the side of the establishment, Hazare has transformed into a national figure whose popularity has destabilised a government elected in 2009 with an unassailable parliamentary majority.

His campaign has tapped into a deep reservoir of discontent, especially among India’s burgeoning middle-class, with a culture that requires bribes to secure everything from business permits to birth certificates.

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of cities across India in recent days in the most significant display of popular dissent for more than three decades.

The government’s response, especially the initial arrest of Hazare and thousands of his supporters, has been widely criticised as a clumsy knee-jerk reaction from an administration that has lost touch with its electorate.

India’s increasingly vulnerable-looking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denounced Hazare’s campaign as a “totally misconceived” attempt to undermine parliamentary democracy, but his words have gained little public traction.

Although officially released on Tuesday evening, Hazare had refused to leave his cell until the authorities lifted restrictions on what he had originally called an indefinite “fast unto death”.

In an embarrassing climbdown for Singh’s Congress Party-led coalition, he was finally given permission to fast for 15 days in a large open venue normally reserved for religious festivals.

But in a fresh challenge to the authorities, Hazare said he was ready to push beyond that restriction as well.

“My health is fine,” he said in a video message released from his jail cell late Thursday.

“I feel I can fast beyond the 15 days permitted by the government. I shall seek permission to fast for another week. I will not stop fighting,” he said.

With his trademark white cap and large spectacles, and his espousal of fasting as a form of non-violent protest, the veteran activist is seen by many of his followers as a latter-day Mahatma Gandhi.

The timing could not be worse for Singh, 78, who is already under fire over a succession of multi-billion-dollar corruption scandals that have implicated top officials.

The prime minister’s former telecoms minister is currently on trial over a mobile phone licence scam that is thought to have cost the country up to $39 billion in lost revenue.

In an address to parliament on Wednesday, Singh attempted a reasoned argument against Hazare’s campaign to strengthen a new anti-corruption bill, stressing that drafting legislation was the “sole prerogative” of parliament.

But that argument was blown away in a maelstrom of protest that saw tens of thousands march through the streets of New Delhi the same day with the message that corruption, not Hazare, was the problem that needed to be addressed.

“The prime minister misses the point,” the Times of India said in an editorial on Friday.

“Expectations in new, youth-driven India are higher than ever before, on the street, in college campuses, in company boardrooms. The PM must respond, as the reformist he’s known to be,” the newspaper said.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • dude
    Aug 19, 2011 - 12:50PM

    come of Pakistan.. do something.. you can also teach lesson to your politicos and army..

    Recommend

  • priyanka sachan
    Aug 19, 2011 - 12:50PM

    sir,

    you are doing good job.
    we are supporting you because government hide all public problem.
    so thanks.

    thanks regrads,
    priyanka sachan

    Recommend

  • Devika Rani
    Aug 19, 2011 - 1:02PM

    Anna Hazare’s experiment with the truth is the Lokpal Bill. This is not just one man’s effort we all stand by him for a good cause. Corruption occurs because we didnt teach our children the meaning of truth repetetively like we did A B C D. Being honest and having integrity towards every action in our day to day life will pave way to a simple non-corrupt life. Many a times we are forced to bribe others to save time and effort or because we dont understand a simple functioning of a governmental procedure or our ignorance scares us to bribe the authority. We are also a party to this corruption. Let us learn to forget and forgive and put a system in place which is non-corrupt.

    My son is a great thinker and as an environmentalist I didnt get a job in either employment exchanges till date. One day as I encouraged him to understand nature and learn from nature he said “oh by the time, I grow up I am sure all of you would have destroyed every pristine beauty and what would you leave behind for our generation. If I want to watch a lion or a tiger I may have to sit on an email and enjoy a download of what you saw and photographed”. For this I have all of you to thank too.

    What we sow is what we reap!!!!!

    Today let us sow that seed of truth and watch it grow into a tree of trust and leave the fruits of this honesty to our children to enjoy.

    May God be with us.

    Devika

    Recommend

  • Devika Rani
    Aug 19, 2011 - 1:06PM

    Anna Hazare we support your cause. “Fight against corruption” The Lokpal should have an impeccable method of dealing with corruption in the government offices. Life should be simpler for the public who have invested their trust and time in their leaders.

    Attended a one day fast at Freedom Park in Bangalore.

    Devika

    Recommend

  • Manoj
    Aug 19, 2011 - 1:55PM

    As an Indian, I am ready to sacrifice my today for the corruption free India of tommorrow. Long live Anna Gandhi.

    My request to Man Mohan singh is very simple neither you have Man (sense), nor Mohan (Attraction), nor Singh (Lion). Hence, dear singh leave gracefully, as early as possible. Your master (Sonia & Rahul) has lost his creditability.

    Recommend

  • SKChadha
    Aug 19, 2011 - 3:01PM

    It is WE who got our independence from British Rule. It is WE who adopted our Constitution. It is WE who have sent politicians to represent us in that Parliament. It is WE who now feel that our representatives are failing ideals we set for ourselves and for our generations. Now it is WE who have to correct them and bring them on right path.

    The horses we selected to drive our cart (our motherland), on which we all are enjoying our ride, have suddenly started feeling that they are the masters of this journey. Remember, it is WE who have the ‘hunter’ and control the wildest of the wild horse. Our ‘hunter’ is not to give agony or pain to horse but just to bring him on right path. We are the citizens of India. Recommend

  • Devika Rani
    Aug 19, 2011 - 3:30PM

    Mr. Chada’s explanation of our constitutional rights and the rights of our leaders are agreeable. If WE by our knowledge and judgement realize that our one vote can elect a leader we should know how to keep him focused for 5 years on what we want for the public. Demanding for transperancy in governmental offices is our basic right to information. Our life is time bound and our needs are time bound. Every purpose is time bound. Lets keep our aims focused on supporting the Lokpal bill.
    People power can turn the wheels of fortune to work for us.

    Recommend

  • Aashish
    Aug 19, 2011 - 5:11PM

    These political leeches have sucked blood of mother India for too long. It is time to teach them a lesson. Go ahead Annaji, entire India stands behind you.

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  • Irshad Khan
    Aug 19, 2011 - 5:39PM

    Is there any Anna Hazare in Pakistan, the most needed man?

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  • Aug 19, 2011 - 6:03PM

    We need Anna hazare but will our people back him up?No because people are corrupt and like corrupt embers of parliament.they only need people who will do their illegal work.we have annahazare inImrankhan we shall see how many seats he gets.

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  • Aryabhat
    Aug 19, 2011 - 6:45PM

    If cancer that is eating away India today is Corruption, it is Extremism for Pakistan. This is not to say Corrution is not affecting Pakistan. It is. But Extremism is affecting is even more.

    I wish that just like Annaji picked up battle against Corrution and mobilised people of all age, sex, caste, language and religion in India, someone will do the same in Pakistan – a popular movement against Extremism.

    Recommend

  • kasim.lahore
    Aug 19, 2011 - 9:01PM

    @Irshad Khan:
    @Aryabhat:

    Yes… It is Imran Khan..Imran Khan..Imran Khan..Imran Khan..Imran Khan..

    Recommend

  • Irshad Khan
    Aug 19, 2011 - 9:31PM

    To Kasim Lahore
    If Imran Khan is Anna Hazare of Pakistan, than he should start fasting till end and not for few hours and now not later.

    Recommend

  • Observer
    Aug 19, 2011 - 10:09PM

    It is sad that a billion strong country threw out one Anna Hazare in 62 years. We should have had numerous Annas every year. If all Indians came out on the streets, corruption will end tomorrow or could have ended long back. In a way we have lost our original character of bold honest selfless action and have self serving and greedy people. Sure Anna will win the battle for us with the support of good people coming out. But the fact remains that we are deficient in character otherwise there would have been mass protests when a monk died from 40 days of hunger strike to expose stone quarry mafia or when Shehla Masood was killed while collecting information on a corrupt forest officer.

    Recommend

  • Aug 20, 2011 - 12:46AM

    @A.ghaffar dawood:
    Agree! Imraan Khan is your Anna Hazare!

    Recommend

  • Dhirendra sinha
    Aug 20, 2011 - 3:47PM

    A new INDIA is on EDGE…!!!! Lets unite n make our dream come true…!!!

    Recommend

  • himalaya
    Aug 20, 2011 - 4:11PM

    Imran khan is cowboy type Anna Hazare!!! will not do.First they have to understand what democracy is and to know that it is above everything else and to know ghetto mentality has to be shunned.Then only……………..

    Recommend

  • gk
    Aug 20, 2011 - 4:40PM

    if not now, then never,

    Recommend

  • deepak akhade
    Aug 20, 2011 - 5:07PM

    Anna against corruption, India against corruption, students against corruption, aam-aadmi against corruption, BJP against corruption, BSP against corruption, CPM against corruption, Cong against corruption, SP against corruption, NGO’s against corruption – is anyone left!!?? Now tell,when everyone is against corruption then who is doing this CORRUPTION?????? :S

    to kya constitution bhrashtrachar ke sath hai kya? agar nahi to kyun pass nahi ho raha janlokpal bill? anybody tell me the perfect constitutional method for current problem.

    i am with anna hajareRecommend

  • Devika
    Aug 22, 2011 - 12:31PM

    Devika here to support the fast and the will to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill for all us with a smile.

    Praying that God should support this bill too.

    I am sure that each one of us has a Gandhi in you; Vandematram.

    Lets do it together ; awaken the Gandhi in you.

    Devika

    Recommend

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