New Delhi: Activist Anna Hazare and his supporters will hold a day-long fast at Rajghat in New Delhi today to protest against the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his followers at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday night.
Mr Hazare and his supporters, who have launched the India Against Corruption campaign, will be on hunger strike from 10 am to 6 pm. They initially wanted to protest at Jantar Mantar, but the Delhi police denied them permission for this citing law and order concerns. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC have been in place at Jantar Mantar after Saturday’s incident at Baba Ramdev’s camp at the Ramlila grounds.
“We want to have a peaceful day of prayer and fasting,” said Arvind Kejriwal, an activist at the frontlines of the India Against Corruption movement. He stressed that the hunger strike is a protest against the government’s action against Baba Ramdev and his camp against corruption late on Saturday night. The Baba was evicted from the camp at Ramlila Maidan and 65,000 supporters were forced to disperse after the police tear-gassed and lathi-charged them. The Opposition and activists have targeted the government for trying to stifle a democratic protest.
In April, a lengthy hunger strike by Mr Hazare provoked vigorous nationwide support. The government was forced to acquiesce to Mr Hazare’s demands: that the government introduce a new tough law against corruption, and that civil society activists help draft this law to prevent the government from providing loopholes designed to help those the law would apply to – bureaucrats and politicians.
Mr Hazare nominated five activists, including himself, to the drafting committee of this new Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill). The government appointed five ministers to work for them. The joint drafting committee, as it’s referred to, had an uneasy working relationship which hit a new low after the Baba Ramdev crisis.
Irreconcilable differences between the government and activists include the latter’s demands that meetings of the joint committee be video-taped and that the Prime Minister’s office be covered by the Lokpal Bill. Activists also want a public debate on the Lokpal Bill – the government has so far refused this. Civil society members had earlier said they won’t attend Lokpal panel meetings unless they are video recorded and made public, but now they say they will attend the next meeting.
No Intention To Quit Lokpal Panel, Says Team Anna
A day after boycotting the meeting of Lokpal bill drafting committee, Anna Hazare-led team made it clear on Tuesday that they had no intention to quit the joint panel and hit out at HRD Minister Kapil Sibal for
Activist Arvind Kejriwal said civil society members will attend the next meeting on June 15 and contended that if they leave the ten-member committee, it will have “no credibility” as it will only remain a government panel with five ministers.
“Kapil Sibal has said that whether we come or not, they will go ahead (with the drafting of the Lokpal Bill). Why did that question arise? We had written to (Finance Minister) Pranab Mukherjee that we will not be attending June 6 meeting. We also said that Anna Hazare will not be available on June 10 and so the meeting on that date be postponed. So it makes it clear that we are going to attend meetings. We are
not going to leave the committee just like that,” he said.
He also accused Sibal of “putting words in their mouth” and said the government should “tone down arrogance.” Despite the five civil society members boycotting the meeting on Monday, the ministers went ahead and finalised some provisions of the proposed Lokpal Bill.
Later, Sibal took objection to the boycott of the meeting by civil society members and said that the committee would do its work “whether or not someone comes”. (With PTI Inputs)