New Delhi: Veteran
social activist Anna Hazare Tuesday began his "fast unto death" in
New Delhi for a stronger Lokpal Bill that provides for stringent
punishment for corruption, and thousands of people in many cities
lent support by launching hunger strikes and taking out rallies.
"This is the second 'satyagraha'," said Hazare, who started his fast
at Jantar Mantar in the national capital after first paying homage
to Mahatma Gandhi at the Rajghat memorial.
Hundreds of supporters holding flags and placards calling for a more
effective anti-graft Lokpal Bill, thronged the Rajghat and Jantar
Mantar as Hazare sat for his fast.
The 72-year-old activist was joined by supporters, including Right
To Information (RTI) activist Arind Kejriwal, Swami Agnivesh,
Magsaysay Award winners Kiran Bedi and Sandeep Pandey and many
According to India Against Corruption, the banner under which the
activists have united to fight corruption, over 5,000 people
assembled to support the veteran activist at Jantar Mantar, while
supporters from over 400 cities and towns joined the campaign from
their respective places.
Hazare Monday said he is starting a "fast unto death" to press for
the demand to involve civil society in formulation of the anti-graft
Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill.
"I am going on fast because we want representation from civil
society in drafting the Lokpal bill, 50 percent from civil society
and 50 percent from government. If the government frames the bill
without people's participation, it will not be democratic, it will
be autocratic," Hazare told media Tuesday before starting his fast.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had Monday expressed "deep
disappointment" over Hazare's decision to go ahead with the planned
hunger strike, but said he had enormous respect for the social
worker and his mission.
"Prime Minister says I have faith and respect for you. Why didn't he
sit for discussion even for one day with us after the meeting last
month?" he asked.
Many cities saw activists coming out in support of Hazare.
In Lucknow, a signature campaign was launched to express support to
the anti-corruption crusade. People from all walks of life,
including students, teachers, doctors, lawyers and professionals,
turned up for the signature campaign, supporting Hazare's demand for
more stringent punishment for corruption than the government draft
bill provides for.
In Bangalore, Mahendra Kumar Gandhi, a 51-year-old yoga trainer,
started indefinite fast following Hazare. Over 50 others joined him
at the Freedom Park in heart of the city.
Protest fast was also observed in Mysore, Mangalore, Udupi,
Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Bellary, Tumkur and other places in
Karnataka, Anand Yadwad, a coordinator of the protests, told IANS in
In Mumbai, people took out a rally and joined in cars, on motorbikes
and on foot as it moved from Shivaji Park in south-central Mumbai to
Azad Maidan in south Mumbai where over 5,000 people gathered in
support of Hazare's campaign, many observing a day-long
The activists are demanding the government adopt the alternative Jan
Lokpal Bill drafted by leading legal experts and personalities
including Arvind Kejriwal, former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde
and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
The Jan Lokpal Bill calls for setting up Lokpal and Lokayuktas (in
states) independent of government control. In the activists'
version, investigation in any case will have to be completed in one
year, and punishment would be a jail term of minimum five years and
maximum of life imprisonment.
The government's version recommends a prison term of minimum six
months and maximum seven years as punishment for corruption.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) extended support to Hazare and
urged him to end his fast. The party asked the government to
incorporate necessary changes in the proposed anti-corruption
legislation so that it is more effective, and "not make it a
"The entire country is today waiting for effective action against
the cancer of corruption. The wish of the people should be
respected," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said in Delhi.
Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav, who was present to show
solidarity with Hazare, said he was convinced that the Jan Lokpal
Bill was the need of the hour to tackle corruption in the country.
"Just as the Election Commission and the Supreme Court are effective
bodies, similarly an institution which is to fight corruption has to
be equally powerful," Yadav said.
"I approve of the draft prepared by Hazareji and others. I am
willing to back it in parliament," he added.