Riding on a groundswell of support, social activist Anna Hazare
Friday vowed to continue his fast till a strong anti-graft law is
enacted and gave an ultimatum of Aug 30 for parliament nod to the
Lokpal Bill, even as he began his protest at Ramlila Ground here.
He also announced that his supporters nationwide will begin a
'jail bharo' (courting arrest) protest after Aug 30 if a stronger
Lokpal Bill with the prime minister and judiciary under its
purview was not passed by parliament.
Faced with this fresh challenge, a beleaguered Congress Party,
which is heading the coalition government at the centre, held its
core committee meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh to assess the political fall-out.
The 74-year-old Hazare, who reached the rain-drenched Ramlila
Ground after a nearly three-hour journey from the Tihar Jail where
he had been since Tuesday, showed no signs of fatigue and was his
usual energetic self.
"We will not leave this place till a (stronger) Lokpal bill is
passed," the soldier-turned-reformer said, urging the youth not to
abandon the fight against corruption.
"The parliament should pass the Lokpal Bill by Aug 30. If not,
activists all over the country will start a jail bharo agitation,"
he told supporters.
"This is the start of a new revolution, of a new freedom
struggle," declared Hazare, whose arrest Tuesday had sparked off
popular anger and put the government in a political fix.
"This torch of revolution should always remain lit. It is not just
about Lokpal. We have to bring about a transformation in this
country," he said in chaste Hindi, comparing the present-day
government with the colonial British Raj.
People, he added, would not tolerate any more the loot of national
The crowds at the Ramlila Ground continued to swell, despite
lashing rains, late into the night, and most of them preferred to
stay back in the ground rather than go back home.
Elsewhere, in towns and cities across the nation, protests
continued for the fourth day in his support.
Hazare's team member and senior advocate Prashant Bhusan dismissed
rumours of the social activists surrendering to the government,
saying: "No compromise has been agreed to."
Another Hazare associate, Arvind Kejriwal, said all their demands
on the Lokpal Bill were non-negotiable, but denied there was
division in Team Anna's ranks.
He also said if the government wanted to have a separate
anti-graft law for judiciary, then the civil society activists
will draft it for parliament to pass.
Slamming the government for saying Parliament was supreme as far
as law-making was concerned, Kejriwal thundered: "The people are
supreme, parliament is not."
To demands for Team Anna activists to contest elections, Hazare
refused to take the bait, saying he will never ever enter an
Before reaching the sprawling Ramlila Ground, Hazare visited
Rajghat, where a large crowd gathered to support him. He also paid
homage at the India Gate memorial to the Unknown Soldier.
Hazare was arrested Tuesday and sent to Tihar Jail ahead of his
scheduled hunger strike. As mass protests erupted nationwide, the
government backed off and ordered him released.
But Hazare refused to leave the prison until he was allowed to
fast without fetters. Eventually, the authorities agreed to let
him use the Ramlila Ground that can accommodate thousands of
As he stepped out of Tihar Jail Friday morning, hundreds of
people, many of whom had been camping outside the prison for days,
With a protective ring thrown by police and activists of India
Against Corruption (IAC), Hazare started his journey to Ramlila
Ground in an open truck decorated with the national flag that
negotiated its way through massive crowds.
At one point, the procession was two kilometres long. The crowd,
made up of people from all ages and varying socio-economic
backgrounds, appeared upbeat and quite unmindful of the rain.