Govt-Anna Hazare Deadlock Persists Over Terms For Fast; Govt Gets The Stick In Ls, Rs

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fasting anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare was on Wednesday expected to walk out of Delhi's Tihar Jail following his release orders the previous night but a deadlock in negotiations over the conditions for his fast persisted. Hazare's controversial arrest on Tuesday by the Delhi Police also sparked off a showdown between the Congress and the Opposition in Parliament. (Hazare-govt face-off: Day 1 coverage)

Hazare was expected to come out of Tihar Jail and head for his fast - against the version of Lokpal Bill tabled in Parliament - as soon as the terms and conditions were agreed upon by his team and the government.

It is learnt that the Delhi Police proposed a seven-day fast at Ramlila Maidan, which Hazare rejected. Team Anna wanted at least a month-long fast. Both the parties agreed to the Ramlila Maidan as an alternative venue to the Jai Prakash Narain Park chosen earlier.

It was earlier being said that the police had lifted restrictions on the number of people who could join the fast. But now a maximum of 25,000 people were being allowed.

Thousands of Hazare's supporters waited for him outside the jail premises, waving the Tricolour and chanting slogans. Many of them had been camping since Tuesday evening, when Hazare was brought to the jail.

Prashant Bhushan, a key associate of Hazare, told the swelling crowd at Tihar that the activist was ready to leave the jail premises only if allowed to fast unconditionally.

"Else, he says he will continue his fast inside Tihar. The police and government were looking into his demand," Bhushan said.

Spiritual leaders Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar met Hazare inside his Tihar cell. Ramdev slammed the government and also submitted a memorandum against Hazare's arrest to President Pratibha Patil.
Govt sets terms for fast
Sources said the government was insisting on a set of terms for allowing Hazare to fast. Among them were that the fast cannot be one 'unto death', loudspeakers cannot be used beyond 10 pm and government doctors will be monitoring Hazare's health.

Team Anna was holding a vigil at India Gate in the evening in support of its version of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Hazare had spent Tuesday night in Tihar despite being freed, insisting on an unconditional release and permission to fast at Jai Prakash Narain Park. But Tihar officials told him this morning that he would not be allowed to stay inside the jail any longer.

Lok Sabha: PM defends action on Hazare
In Parliament, BJP MPs gunned for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after he defended the arrest of Hazare and his associates and accused the activists of foisting their version of the Lokpal Bill on Parliament.

In a statement marred by slogan-shouting by Opposition MPs, Singh said that Hazare and his supporters would have been allowed to hold their protest if they had agreed to give an undertaking as sought by the Delhi Police.

"On August 16 morning, the Delhi Police concluded that Hazare and his supporters would be committing a cognisable offence by proceeding with the agitation," Singh said.

Singh said that Hazare may be "inspired by higher ideals" to form a strong Lokpal but the path chosen by him was inappropriate. "Anna Hazare wants to impose his Jan Lokpal Bill on Parliament," said Singh, adding that only Parliament had the right to enact laws.

Sushma rejects PM's statement
Reacting to Singh's statement, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj accused the government of suppressing the Fundamental Rights of citizens.

She said the PM's statement did not reflect the truth on the Hazare episode and the government's attitude in dealing with corruption was beyond comprehension. The government ignored the entire Opposition while initaiting talks with the civil society over the Lokpal Bill, she said.

Sushma alleged that the PM was okay with Kashmiri separatists holding a conference in Delhi but a peaceful protest (by Baba Ramdev in June) had become a problem for him.

A slanging match was witnessed between the Congress and BJP MPs throughout the debate, forcing adjournment of Lok Sabha twice.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad, however, slammed the civil society protesters. "I am hurt at civil society targeting politicians," he said and accused Baba Ramdev of surrendering his anti-corruption movement to communal forces.

Rajya Sabha: People tired of corruption, says Jaitley
Reacting to the PM's statement in Rajya Sabha, BJP MP Arun Jaitley said that the people of India were exasperated by corruption and the government's inaction on it. He said the government's conditions on Hazare's protest fast were unreasonable.

"The civil society has a right to protest and dissent. The PM's statement on Hazare's arrest does not inspire confidence," Jaitley said.

PM, Cong strategy on Anna
Earlier in the day, Singh called a meeting of senior ministers and Congress leaders, including Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, at his residence to discuss the strategy on Hazare.
The Congress Core Group too met. It was attended by the prime minister, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

A meeting was also held at the home ministry.

Crowd swells outside Tihar, Patkar joins in
The roads outside Tihar Jail on Wednesday morning remained swarmed with Hazare's supporters, who had been camping there through the night. More people were seen joining the crowds outside prison gate no. 1. Heavy police presence, barricades and water cannons were seen.

Social activist Medha Patkar arrived outside Tihar Jail and said: "It is unfortunate that the government isn't allowing space in the city for a non-violent protest. It's a nationwide protest and the government must listen to the voice of the people."

Hazare's Tihar stay
The police had arrested Hazare on Tuesday morning ahead of his fast at Jai Prakash Narain Park. Later in the day, he refused to seek bail and was sent to seven days in judicial custody at Tihar, but the authorities backtracked by late evening and ordered his release.
But Hazare spent the night in jail, insisting on an unconditional release and permission to launch his fast at Jai Prakash Narain Park. Hazare was offered released on Tuesday night after the Delhi Police issued warrants of release for him and seven of his associates.

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