Archive for August, 2011

August 30, 2011

Bodyguard – Movie Review Wanted and Dabangg, Salman Khan is back with yet another release this Eid festive season. His latest movie Bodyguard is his usual masala entertainer film, but director Siddique seems to have grown beyond Salman’s limits. The film is sure to rock the family audience with its simple and captivating story.

Bodyguard is remake of Malayalam movie with the same name, which is a romantic-action film. Salman Khan’s rocking performance is the main attraction of the movie. Rajat Rawail’s comedy timings, Himesh Reshammiya and Pritam’s music, Sejal Shah’s cinematography, Vijayan’s action sequences and beautiful costumes and act direction are the other highlights of the film.

he movie Bodyguard has simple and engaging story that is relatable. Nothing much happens in the first half of the film and it runs with a routine Bollywood masala. But the movie turns serious with a twist at the end of the first half. Siddique has shown the best part of the film in the second half. The film has an unexpected twist in the pre-climax, which is completely shocking.

Lovely Singh [Salman Khan] is very punctual and perfect guy in his duties. He is becomes a bodyguard for Divya [Kareena Kapoor], who is the daughter of a business tycoon named Sartaj Rana [Raj Babbar]. He follows her to her college campus, but soon he becomes a menace for her with his over-protective nature. In bid to avoid him, Divya makes up a fake lover, who falls in love with ‘private number’. Who is that girl? Is she really in love with him? Will he gets his true love in her? All these questions are answered in the climax.

With Bodyguard, Salman Khan has returned to a genre he started out with love story. He emotes well in sentimental sequences and he surely rocks the viewers in action, music and comedy sequences. Kareena Kapoor has a tailor-made role and she has really used it to show her acting skills. Rajat Rawail provides perfect comedy timings. Aditya Pancholi, Raj Babbar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Hazel Keech, Asrani and Vidya Sinha have delivered their best to suit their respective roles.

Himesh Reshammiya and Pritam’s soundtracks are major highlights in the technical front and they fit well with the genre. The title track and ‘Teri Meri…’ are sure to rock the audience. Sandeep Shirodkar’s background score is also good. Sejal Shah’s camera work is the other attraction in the technical stuff. Vijayan’s stunts are stylish and Sanjay Sankla’s editing is also commendable.

Overall, Bodyguard is a good masala entertainer and it can be a perfect time-passer for this Eid and Ganesh festive seasons. Salman’s fans should not miss to watch this movie.

Producer: Atul Agnihotri, Alvira Agnihotri, Reliance Entertainment


Cast: Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Raj Babbar, Hazel Keech, Mahesh Manjrekar, Asrani and Vidya Sinha

Music: Himesh Reshammiya, Pritam and Sandeep Shirodkar


August 23, 2011

I’d rather not be Anna

If what we’re watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you’re likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind.

For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people. (In this one, the Government collaborates by doing everything it possibly can to overthrow itself.)

In April 2011, a few days into Anna Hazare’s first “fast unto death,” searching for some way of distracting attention from the massive corruption scams which had battered its credibility, the Government invited Team Anna, the brand name chosen by this “civil society” group, to be part of a joint drafting committee for a new anti-corruption law. A few months down the line it abandoned that effort and tabled its own bill in Parliament, a bill so flawed that it was impossible to take seriously.

Then, on August 16th, the morning of his second “fast unto death,” before he had begun his fast or committed any legal offence, Anna Hazare was arrested and jailed. The struggle for the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill now coalesced into a struggle for the right to protest, the struggle for democracy itself. Within hours of this ‘Second Freedom Struggle,’ Anna was released. Cannily, he refused to leave prison, but remained in Tihar jail as an honoured guest, where he began a fast, demanding the right to fast in a public place. For three days, while crowds and television vans gathered outside, members of Team Anna whizzed in and out of the high security prison, carrying out his video messages, to be broadcast on national TV on all channels. (Which other person would be granted this luxury?) Meanwhile 250 employees of the Municipal Commission of Delhi, 15 trucks, and six earth movers worked around the clock to ready the slushy Ramlila grounds for the grand weekend spectacle. Now, waited upon hand and foot, watched over by chanting crowds and crane-mounted cameras, attended to by India’s most expensive doctors, the third phase of Anna’s fast to the death has begun. “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India is One,” the TV anchors tell us.

While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are certainly not. Contrary to Gandhiji’s ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister, the judiciary, members of Parliament, and all of the bureaucracy, down to the lowest government official. The Lokpal will have the powers of investigation, surveillance, and prosecution. Except for the fact that it won’t have its own prisons, it will function as an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.

Whether it works or not depends on how we view corruption. Is corruption just a matter of legality, of financial irregularity and bribery, or is it the currency of a social transaction in an egregiously unequal society, in which power continues to be concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority? Imagine, for example, a city of shopping malls, on whose streets hawking has been banned. A hawker pays the local beat cop and the man from the municipality a small bribe to break the law and sell her wares to those who cannot afford the prices in the malls. Is that such a terrible thing? In future will she have to pay the Lokpal representative too? Does the solution to the problems faced by ordinary people lie in addressing the structural inequality, or in creating yet another power structure that people will have to defer to?

Meanwhile the props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna’s Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the celebration of the nuclear tests. They signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not ‘true Indians.’ The 24-hour channels have decided that there is no other news in the country worth reporting.

‘The Fast’ of course doesn’t mean Irom Sharmila’s fast that has lasted for more than ten years (she’s being force fed now) against the AFSPA, which allows soldiers in Manipur to kill merely on suspicion. It does not mean the relay hunger fast that is going on right now by ten thousand villagers in Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear power plant. ‘The People’ does not mean the Manipuris who support Irom Sharmila’s fast. Nor does it mean the thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur. Nor do we mean the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley. Nor do we mean the farmers in NOIDA, or Pune or Haryana or elsewhere in the country, resisting the takeover of the land.

‘The People’ only means the audience that has gathered to watch the spectacle of a 74-year-old man threatening to starve himself to death if his Jan Lokpal Bill is not tabled and passed by Parliament. ‘The People’ are the tens of thousands who have been miraculously multiplied into millions by our TV channels, like Christ multiplied the fishes and loaves to feed the hungry. “A billion voices have spoken,” we’re told. “India is Anna.”

Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we’ve heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer’s suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer’s agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn’t seem to have a view about the Government’s plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.

He does however support Raj Thackeray’s Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the ‘development model’ of Gujarat’s Chief Minister who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims. (Anna withdrew that statement after a public outcry, but presumably not his admiration.)

Despite the din, sober journalists have gone about doing what journalists do. We now have the back-story about Anna’s old relationship with the RSS. We have heard from Mukul Sharma who has studied Anna’s village community in Ralegan Siddhi, where there have been no Gram Panchayat or Co-operative society elections in the last 25 years. We know about Anna’s attitude to ‘harijans’: “It was Mahatma Gandhi’s vision that every village should have one chamar, one sunar, one kumhar and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way, a village will be self-dependant. This is what we are practicing in Ralegan Siddhi.” Is it surprising that members of Team Anna have also been associated with Youth for Equality, the anti-reservation (pro-“merit”) movement? The campaign is being handled by people who run a clutch of generously funded NGOs whose donors include Coca-Cola and the Lehman Brothers. Kabir, run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, key figures in Team Anna, has received $400,000 from the Ford Foundation in the last three years. Among contributors to the India Against Corruption campaign there are Indian companies and foundations that own aluminum plants, build ports and SEZs, and run Real Estate businesses and are closely connected to politicians who run financial empires that run into thousands of crores of rupees. Some of them are currently being investigated for corruption and other crimes. Why are they all so enthusiastic?

Remember the campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill gathered steam around the same time as embarrassing revelations by Wikileaks and a series of scams, including the 2G spectrum scam, broke, in which major corporations, senior journalists, and government ministers and politicians from the Congress as well as the BJP seem to have colluded in various ways as hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees were being siphoned off from the public exchequer. For the first time in years, journalist-lobbyists were disgraced and it seemed as if some major Captains of Corporate India could actually end up in prison. Perfect timing for a people’s anti-corruption agitation. Or was it?

At a time when the State is withdrawing from its traditional duties and Corporations and NGOs are taking over government functions (water supply, electricity, transport, telecommunication, mining, health, education); at a time when the terrifying power and reach of the corporate owned media is trying to control the public imagination, one would think that these institutions — the corporations, the media, and NGOs — would be included in the jurisdiction of a Lokpal bill. Instead, the proposed bill leaves them out completely.

Now, by shouting louder than everyone else, by pushing a campaign that is hammering away at the theme of evil politicians and government corruption, they have very cleverly let themselves off the hook. Worse, by demonising only the Government they have built themselves a pulpit from which to call for the further withdrawal of the State from the public sphere and for a second round of reforms — more privatisation, more access to public infrastructure and India’s natural resources. It may not be long before Corporate Corruption is made legal and renamed a Lobbying Fee.

Will the 830 million people living on Rs.20 a day really benefit from the strengthening of a set of policies that is impoverishing them and driving this country to civil war?

This awful crisis has been forged out of the utter failure of India’s representative democracy, in which the legislatures are made up of criminals and millionaire politicians who have ceased to represent its people. In which not a single democratic institution is accessible to ordinary people. Do not be fooled by the flag waving. We’re watching India being carved up in war for suzerainty that is as deadly as any battle being waged by the warlords of Afghanistan, only with much, much more at stake.


August 20, 2011

Govt blinks, ready to talk to Anna

New Delhi: At a time when the UPA is on backfoot over Gandhian Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast, pressing for a stronger Lokpal Bill, government has hinted that it was ready to talk to Team Anna to find a midway, if approached formally.

The indications came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired an hour-long meeting of Congress core group late last night, to take stock of the situation arising out of Anna’s fast at Ramlila Ground.

The meeting was attended by senior Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and AK Antony. Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel was also present in the meeting.

“The government has no problem in holding talks with the civil society group led by Hazare if they express readiness,” highly placed sources in the Congress party informed.

A number of Congress leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity said the government should re-engage Team Anna in talks.

Govt blinks, ready to talk to Anna The meeting came against the backdrop of Hazare setting a deadline of August 30 for the government to get the Janlokpal Bill passed in Parliament, failing which he decided to continue his fast “till his last breath”.

Meanwhile, Congress launched damage control exercise over handling of Anna issue with East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit stating that the Gandhian should not have been arrested and adverse comments made against him could have been avoided.

The civil society led by Anna Hazare have been demanding inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament under the ambit of Lokpal.

The Hazare team is also demanding a strong public grievance redressal mechanism, lokayuktas at state-level and independent selection, funding and removal mechanism to ensure autonomy of function.

The Lokpal Bill cleared by the cabinet seeks to keep the office of the Prime Minister outside the purview of the ombudsman during his term in office and also exclude higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament.

The Lokpal, consisting of chairperson and eight members, half of them judicial, will have its own prosecution and investigation wing with officers and staff necessary to carry out its functions.


August 20, 2011

West Bengal is now Paschim Banga

Kolkata: The West Bengal government and the opposition parties on Friday unanimously decided to rename the state Paschim Banga, state Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee announced.

“It has been unanimously decided by all the parties under the leadership of our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that from now onwards West Bengal will be called Paschim Banga. From now onwards, in English also, the name of our state will be written as Paschim Banga,” Chatterjee said while addressing a media conference here.

“We have agreed with the state government regarding the renaming of West Bengal into Paschim Banga,” opposition leader Surya Kanta Mishra of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPi-M) said after the meeting.

“While considering the name, we considered all the aspects including administrative, historical and social aspects,” said Chatterjee.

A committee on Friday proposed the “shortlisted new names” for West Bengal at an all-party meeting.

The committee comprised of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee and opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra. On Thursday, the Left Front shortlisted four names – Bangla, Paschim Banga, Banga Pradesh and Bangabhumi.

“The new name will now be passed in the state assembly then it will be sent to the union ministry of home affairs. From there, it will go to the parliament and then to the president for assent,” Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Manoj Bhattacharjee who was present in the meeting, said.

West Bengal is now Paschim Banga “We felt that due to historical and administrative reasons, all of us wanted to rename the state. After lot of discussion we found that it is better to have a name which is closer to the alphabet ‘A’. We may not be very closer to ‘A’ but we have upgraded ourselves from ‘W’ to ‘P’ which is much closer to ‘A’,” Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee said at a media conference here.


August 20, 2011

Sallu says he is Katrina’s bodyguard!

Mumbai: Recently Salman and ex- girlfriend Katrina Kaif came together for an item number for Bodyguard’s title track. Apparently Kat did not charge any fee for it either.

With this item number the two will be seen together for the first time after their break–up. The last time they worked together was in ‘Yuvraaj’ back in the year 2008.

Their coming together after break-up has obviously built up a lot of hype around Sallu’s forthcoming film but Salman thinks there is nothing to react, he told a daily.

“What’s there to react? Katrina and I are also doing Ek Tha Tiger together. Likhne waale likhenge jo unka man karega (those who have to write will write whatever they want); they have time to write such things. Why should I waste my energy on it? We would rather work harder on our films.”

A few days back, a tabloid had quoted Katrina as saying thus: ‘I can’t deny my equation with him (Salman) has changed.’

To that Salman retorted, “What equation? I really don’t know what she said. As far as I am concerned, our equation is absolutely the same as earlier.”

The two are also working together for Kabir Khan’s ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ and they seem to be getting along absolutely fine and enjoying it.

Kat recently stated to a daily that she’s comfortable working with him.

“Yes, she is very comfortable with me and my entire family. In fact, she is a part of the family. We have known her for the longest time now,” said Salman.

He also added, “Like in the movie, I play Kareena’s character’s bodyguard, like that I am Katrina’s bodyguard.”

Well, we are amazed at their friendship and we can’t wait to see them in ‘Bodyguard’ now!


August 19, 2011

Anna Hazare leaves Tihar, heads to Ramlila Maidan

New Delhi:  A spontaneous roar of welcome from the huge crowd that has waited long hours for the leader to walk out of that gate. After almost four days in prison, Anna Hazare emerged out of Tihar Jail on Friday morning and is headed to Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan to continue his fast.

Mr Hazare has been fasting in Tihar since Tuesday.

The anti-corruption crusader is addressing the large number of supporters gathered outside Tihar Jail before he moves in a procession till Mayapuri. Thereafter, Mr Hazare will go to Amar Jyoti at India Gate, visit Rajghat and finally reach Ramlila Maidan in a small convoy of two or three cars. Supporters have been requested to go to the venue directly from Mayapuri.

Though an agreement was reached on Wednesday evening between Team Anna and the Delhi Police over the contours of his indefinite fast – with both sides climbing down from their rigid positions, the government a little more than Anna Hazare – the activist leader crusader chose to extend his stay in prison while the massive Ramlila Maidan was cleaned and prepared for his mass protest.

On Friday morning, his close associate Kiran Bedi, who inspected the grounds, announced the preparations there satisfactory for the Gandhian to take his fast there. She said Anna Hazare would leave the jail at 11 am and go to the Ramlila Maidan through Mayapuri, India Gate and Rajghat.

A former cop, Ms Bedi appealed to Mr Hazare’s supporters not to disrupt traffic and to reach the venue straight and in an orderly manner.

Another key advisor Arvind Kejriwal told NDTV that the movement would be “non-violent because of the leader’s message”, but that “no undertaking has been signed on allowing prosecution if rules are broken”.

Mr Kejriwal made clear that it was the responsibility of the administration to prevent anti-social elements from creating trouble.   Team Anna has also made clear that his is an “indefinite fast and dharna” and not “a fast unto death.” He will receive round-the-clock medical attention at the venue of his fast.

On Wednesday, Anna was with his aides in a conference room at Tihar while they negotiated with the Delhi Police the terms of the mass protest they had planned.  Anna, powered by public support, won hands down. An agreement was reached, after a 36-hour standoff, on using Ramlila Maidan and not Jaiprakash Narain Park as planned earlier. Anna Hazare agreed to limit his fast to a 15-day period, with the police reviewing the situation. The police agreed to let more people gather at the venue of the fast – it had initially sought to limit the gathering to less than 5000. Team Anna has signed off on a list of prerequisites from the Delhi Police. Among them, that the crowd will not exceed the official capacity of the ground, which is around 25,000 people. The permission for the fast has been given till September 2, 2011.

The government, realising that it cannot fight the overwhelmingly popular perception that Anna Hazare is the symbol of the fight against corruption, is expected not to interfere with his mass protest at the Ramlila Maidan, though the authorities will keep a watchful eye.

The government approach, sources say, will now be to engage with people who are associated with Mr Hazare in Maharashtra, to keep a channel of communication open. There have also been suggestions that the government send the Janlokpal Bill drafted by Team Anna to the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PAC).  As of now, sources say, the government is not open to this, but the the PAC might invite Anna Hazare to place the draft Bill before it.

In a video message from inside Tihar, Anna Hazare said on Thursday, “I won’t stop until we get Lokpal Bill passed. I am not tired after three days of fast.” Mr Hazare added that he will speak to his supporters on Friday.

During the Gandhian’s almost four days in jail, there have been huge protests across India. “I am Anna”, is the popular war-cry as people take to the streets. There have been overnight vigils at Tihar Jail as people wait for Anna to emerge from prison.

Upto 20,000 people marched in groups from India Gate to Jantar Mantar in the capital on Wednesday evening. Candlelight vigils were held in Mumbai, Guwahati, Chennai. And Bangalore continues to be one of Anna’s staunchest supporters – for three days in a row, Freedom Park was packed with students and techies, wearing “I am Anna” t-shirts and caps.
“I have skipped classes,” said a young college student.  “I will not get this opportunity again.”
It is Anna’s focus on fighting corruption that has served as a lightning rod for a country exposed to unprecedented corruption since September. Many of those who are participating in his movement admit they don’t know the details of his agenda.

What Anna has been pushing is his team’s version of a new anti-corruption law that Parliament plans to debate during its current session. The Lokpal Bill which provides for an ombudsman committee is weak, says Anna, and provides too many loopholes for politicians and bureaucrats who may need cover when accused of corruption.  The government, Anna’s critics, and other activists say that Anna’s own version would create an authoritarian panel with few checks and balances.

For middle class India, though, the India Against Corruption campaign fronted by Anna is both an outlet to vent its frustration, and a channel to demand change.  So far, the government has proven itself hopelessly out of sync with the public.

Anna’s arrest, his move to Tihar Jail (associated with hard-core criminals and home recently to politicians charged with corruption), and the Prime Minister’s statement on Wednesday in Parliament on these developments exposed that the UPA government’s political instincts are failing it when they are most needed.  The Opposition has found in Anna a uniting force, and it has launched a strong and effective attack on the government for violating Anna’s right to peaceful protest, as well as the alleged “lack of political will” in combating corruption.


August 19, 2011

I don’t have to impress a woman

As a person, have you changed since the day you started out in Bollywood?

I have not changed a bit. I have seen more life. So there might be things that I agreed with earlier and do not agree to now. If you are saying fame or power could change somebody, I don’t believe that. I think that money, fame and power make you the person you are.  Before that the person is a jhuka hua aadmi. He is a humble man.

Did you never feel like attempting serious cinema?

If you look at my characters Radhe in Tere Naam and Inspector Arjun Ranavat in Garv: Pride and Honour, you’ll realise that I have done serious cinema. But why would I want to do a French film when I am doing Hindi films? People go to a theatre to watch a film because they want to have fun. Why would I want to give them a rona-dhona film? For me movies are real life enlarged and enhanced. I can do stuff in movies which I can’t do in real life. It’s like taking real life to a different level.

Considering you’ve had several romantic relationships, what according to you is the one thing that women want from a man?

A woman would want her man to be charming, lovable, and sweet. She would want flowers, chocolates and candlelit dinners.

But a lot of women today prefer to be practical and may not want their man to present them with all those things…

Oh do you know any woman like that? No…it’s not true. It’s all in theory. In reality they love to have all of the above.

If you have to impress a woman, how would you go about it?

I don’t have to impress a woman. If you try to impress a woman you are being the man you are not. It is bound to turn around and whack you in the face. Be yourself. Don’t do things that you will not be able to do in your relationship after a point of time.

Moving on… Salman’s body has always been drooled over. How do you maintain it? Do you avoid any kind of food?

I exercise a little more than I eat. And I eat a lot. I don’t avoid oil or fried food. I eat everything except pork and beef.

Are friendships in the film industry fickle?

It depends on the kind of bond you have formed with a person. If it’s not work related, it generally lasts long. If it’s work related, it can go either way. Mohnish Behl, Sanjay Dutt, Aamir Khan, Sajid Nadidwala…all are good friends. Shah Rukh Khan used to be friend.

Was that friendship (SRK) work related?

I have no idea buddy…you ask him that question.

Are relationships fickle too?

No, relationships are not fickle. If that thing is meant to be, that person will be there. If its not meant to be, it won’t.

How do you rate yourself as a lover, actor and friend?

(Looks puzzled) How can I rate myself?  You ask this question to my lovers, audience and friends.

Your new movie Bodyguard is going to release soon. Your bodyguard Shera has been with you for more than 15 years. How much of the film is inspired by Shera. What kind of an equation do you share with him?

(Salman chooses not to answer the question. Instead he shouts out for Shera, cursing him). Sheraa…Sheraaa.. joota phenk ke maarunga tujhe. (Then he turns slowly with a telling look about him. He is waiting to see if we have understood the ‘equation’. Yes, we have. Very well, in fact). The most important thing about a bodyguard is trust. I have spent more time with him than with my family. He knows how I am. I trust him. Shera calls me ‘maalik’. So I have taken that from him for the film. I call my boss ‘maalik’ in the film.

Has he (Shera) ever got you in a spot?

Lots of times. Once at an event, there was a huge crowd. Shera was trying to get me through. A cop, who was wearing civil clothes and was there along with his family, got pushed. And then it became an ego issue. The cop created a big ruckus. Nobody got seriously hurt and I didn’t blame Shera for it because he was just doing his job.


August 19, 2011

Anna to begin epic battle for Lokpal today Delhi: Country’s biggest anti-corruption icon Anna Hazare will on Friday proceed to Ramlila Maidan to launch a 15-day protest against to press for a stronger Lokpal Bill.

As per reports, Anna will leave Tihar Jail for Ramlila ground around 11 am where he will continue his fast for a stronger anti-corruption bill, his aide Arvind Kejriwal said.

Anna is also expected to visit Rajghat to pay his respect to the Father of the Nation Mahatama Gandhi before reaching his fast venue.

“He’ll (Hazare) address the gathering once he comes out of jail and leave for Ramlila ground. He should leave Tihar jail around 11 am,” Kejriwal told reporters.

“The crowds gathered to support Anna Hazare are spiritual, and there have been no incidents of violence so far in the country where political rallies turn violent easily,” Kejriwal said.

“We’ve asked all our supporters that if they see anyone indulging in unsocial behaviour, they should immediately report to police,” he added.

Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements have been put in place by Delhi Police to avoid any untoward incidents and last minute preparations are still on at the Ramlila Ground under the supervision of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for Anna’s agitation.

A breakthrough in the deadlock over conditions imposed on Hazare’s protest fast was achieved yesterday after two days of intense bargaining. Anna finally got the spacious Ramlila Ground for his fast instead of the smaller JP Park, the venue initially given by Delhi Police with a restriction of 5,000 supporters.

Significantly, Team Hazare made it clear that his fast would not be a fast-unto-death and he will be on hunger strike only till his health permits.

Hazare’s close associate Kiran Bedi said the moment Dr Naresh Trehan’s team is of the view that he needs medical attention, he will get medical attention.

Close on the heels of the deal, Team Hazare also hinted that it may not insist on inclusion of higher judiciary in the Lokpal Bill if government brings a “good” Judicial Accountability Bill.

The activists also pleaded that the Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by them should at least be brought to Parliament for its consideration.

The deal was reached in discussions between his associates including Bedi and Prashant Bhushan and Delhi Police Commissioner BK Gupta.

In a sort of give-and-take, Team Hazare won a number of concessions but came down on the duration of the protest restricting it to 15 days. Yesterday, the activists were insisting on a longer period of at least a month for the protest.

Home Secretary RK Singh maintained that the permission given for the fast is conditional and is upto September 2.

“The Delhi Police discussed with Team Anna and, thereafter, they have come to a decision. What the Delhi Police conveyed to the Ministry of Home Affairs is that the permission was given till September two on the usual sort of conditions,” he told reporters.

Singh said it was not proper to say the agreement was a victory for one side and defeat for the other “but the basic issue was that permission for certain ground and certain period was given with some sort of conditions.”

Anna to begin epic battle for Lokpal today Apparently referring to the conditions put for fast earlier proposed in JP Park, the Home Secretary said conditions of a particular ground mandated a certain size of crowd as well as of available parking.

In return, Team Anna has given a two-page undertaking to Delhi Police in which it agreed to abide by existing rules and regulations and the crowd will not exceed the capacity of the ground, which is around 25,000 people.

In the undertaking signed by Anna Hazare himself and his associates — Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Shanti Bhushan, they also said that if any clause of it was violated, they would be liable to be prosecuted under law.

The clauses of the undertaking include — no damage to public property; gathering will not exceed the limit of the ground; the crowd will not spill over to the nearby roads; the protesters will cooperate with traffic police; loud speaker use within the ambit of a Supreme Court order (10 PM limit).

Other clauses are: Arrangements of drinking water, medical aid, mobile toilets, proper lighting; no carrying of lathi or any weapon; no provocative slogans/ speeches; no inflammatory slogans within 200 meters of religious or worship places; public safety will be taken care of; no use of crackers.

Medical examination of Hazare and those who will keep fast along with him will be conducted by government doctors three times a day while Team Anna promised to abide by the April 16, 2009 order of the Supreme Court which stipulated rules and regulations for public protests.


August 18, 2011

Lokpal Bill row: Anna Hazare relents; accepts police permission for 15-day fast

New Delhi:  More than 36 hours after he was brought to the Tihar Jail, Anna Hazare relented and accepted a police offer of staging a 15-day protest hunger- strike at the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi. Mr Hazare is expected to be at the venue at 3 pm today, tweeted his close associate Kiran Bedi.

The breakthrough was reached  after Anna Hazare’s close associates Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan met Delhi Police Commissioner BK Gupta late on Wednesday night to iron out differences. The meeting took place at Commissioner Gupta’s residence in Chanakyapuri’s Satya Marg after midnight. Team Anna then went back to Tihar Jail to brief Mr Hazare about their talks.

Reports suggest there will be no limits on how many people can gather at this base camp in support of Anna, though the police will review security and safety conditions continuously to ensure that those at the protest site do not disrupt traffic or in other ways breach upon normal life for the rest of the capital.

Anna had vowed not to leave Tihar till he was guaranteed that the Government would not impose any conditions upon the mass-protest he wants to hold in Delhi. The police first said the protest would be illegal if it drew more than 5000 people or if the 74-year-old Anna’s hunger strike extended beyond three days. Anna and his supporters said they’d defy police instructions and were on their way to launch their demonstration on Tuesday when they were arrested.

The Government has learnt to regret that decision. In Parliament and outside, the consensus has been that the arrests violated the fundamental right to peaceful protest.  And India reacted with massive shows of support for Anna.

As evening fell upon Delhi on Wednesday, rush hour saw thousands of people gathering in different parts of the capital. A total of 10,000 people marched in groups between 4 and 6 pm from India Gate to Jantar Mantar, stating simply “Anna, hum tumhaare saath hain (we are with you, Anna).”

The crowd of nearly 2000 people outside Tihar Jail at 6 pm was more boisterous, roaring each time word spread that Anna and his aides had moved onto the next point in their lengthy negotiations with the Delhi Police. (Top surfer comments on Anna Hazare)

Mr Hazare knows his arrest and the overwhelming public support for him has given him considerable leverage. So when the police offered him Ramlila Maidan as a new venue Wednesday, he accepted; when he was asked to limit his protest’s duration to 15 days, he did not.

Through the early evening, there were reports that Anna would wrap up his talks with the police and emerge from jail. But shortly after 6 pm, Ms Bedi told the crowd outside Tihar, “The talks with the Delhi Police are continuing…we’ve agreed on the venue but not the duration (of the protest).”

“We are not worried, we will find a way out of this”, said the Prime Minister outside his home on Wednesday afternoon. However, the decision to have Mr Hazare arrested has proved to be near-catastrophic for the Government. Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement in Parliament on Wednesday morning explaining the background to the arrest was described as disappointing by the Opposition.

In a powerful attack, the BJP’s Arun Jaitley charged the government of arrogance and of being advised by “too many lawyers” (a quick swipe at those like senior minister Kapil Sibal who have been countering Mr Hazare), Mr Jaitley said, “You have a serious political issue which is being debated for the last few months and climaxes in last few days…and we find that the political leadership of this country is hiding behind men in uniform…and telling us that the entire crisis was being handled by policemen.”

Mr Hazare was actually allowed by the Delhi Police to leave jail on Tuesday night, about 12 hours after he was arrested. But he turned down the offer to head out of Tihar, insisting that he wants the government to first agree that his hunger strike will not be interrupted or his protest checked as long as it remains peaceful.

Among his visitors were spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and civil rights activist Swami Agnivesh. Outside, among the crowd, popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev, was seen standing atop a car.

Mr Hazare’s hunger strike began on Tuesday morning. Since then, he has had only water. Doctors have been examining him in prison.

The war between the government and Mr Hazare centres on the Lokpal Bill introduced in Parliament last week. The Bill is meant to provide an antidote to the seemingly limitless corruption among politicians, bureaucrats and judges. Mr Hazare says the government has betrayed India by drafting a Bill that has no intention of seriously and objectively investigating charges of venality. The BJP’s Arun Jaitley stressed in Parliament that while his party has vast differences with Mr Hazare’s suggestions for the Bill, it does not agree with the “government-appointed Lokpal” that the current bill provides for.

Like Tuesday, the public support for Mr Hazare played out in different cities on Wednesday too. In Bangalore, Freedom Park saw thousands of protestors. Mumbai’s Azad Maidan was also filled during the day with supporters of Anna.


August 16, 2011

After Hazare’s detention, Manmohan Singh calls cabinet meet

New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has scheduled an emergency meeting of the cabinet Committee on Political Affairs in Parliament House at 10.15 a.m. Tuesday following the detention of Gandhian activist Anna Hazare in the morning.

The meeting will take stock of the situation arising out of Hazare’s detention by the Delhi Police early morning, hours before he was set to proceed on an indefinite fast demanding a stronger Lokpal Bill to deal with the corrupt.

Others scheduled to attend the meeting include Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, officials in Prime Minister’s Office said.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi are also scheduled to attend the meeting, they added.

Hazare, 74, had announced Sunday he would proceed with his indefinite fast at the Jai Prakash Narain Park near Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium close to the old quarters of the city. The Delhi Police had imposed prohibitory orders there.

He was detained along with some 250 of his supporters including activist Arvind Kejriwal and former top cop Kiran Bedi. Some of them were taken into custody from other places in the city.

‘Don’t let my arrest stop this movement. This is the nation’s second struggle for freedom. The entire world has come to know how deep rooted corruption is,’ Hazare had said in a statement, minutes before his detention.

‘I appeal to you that let there be no violence in this movement. I also appeal to you, young and old alike, to give eight days of your life to the nation – if necessary for a jail bharo andolan (fill the jails campaign).’

His supporters, who were detailed from various places, described the police action as unconstitutional.