Four days after he launched a fast here that caught the
imagination of India, iconic Gandhian leader Anna Hazare Friday
night declared "victory" in the campaign for a stringent Lokpal
Bill to battle corruption and said he will end his hunger strike
As tens of thousands gathered at the protest venue in the heart of
the city singing and shouting slogans, creating a carnival like
atmosphere, the soldier-turned-activist from rural Maharashtra
told journalists and cheering supporters that the "people of India
"From the way the government has accepted (our demands), the
people of India have won," the visibly pleased 72-year-old said,
the roar of men and women almost drowning the electrifying
"The government is ready, so I am ready," he said, adding that his
own protest would end only when the government announced a
10-member team that would draft the Lokpal Bill that has been left
hanging since 1969.
The panel would have five members each from the government and the
civil society. It would include Hazare as well as Santosh Hegde,
Shanti Bhushan, who would be the co-chairman, Arvind Kejriwal and
Shanti Bhushan, a lawyer of repute, climbed on to the stage where
Hazare was seated and announced to wild cheers: "Today, the
government has had to bend."
He called the moment "the biggest victory of the people after
1977" when the Indira Gandhi-led Congress was voted out of power
after the dark days of Emergency.
He said after being intransigent for more than three days, the
government had agreed to issue a notification on a joint panel
that would draft the Lokpal Bill, accepted all five names from the
civil society proposed by Hazare and have it passed in the
upcoming monsoon session of parliament.
Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who talked to
Hazare's aides, announced separately: "This is a happy day for us.
It is a victory for democracy."
Friday night's development followed four action-packed days when
Hazare's fast ignited an unprecedented mass movement all over the
country that drew people from all walks of life -- from the young
to the elderly, from rural folks to urban dwellers, from traders
to businessmen, and from students to Bollywood.
Hazare was determined to have a stringent Lokpal Bill that could
probe corruption in high places including the prime minister,
ministers and MPs.
The bill had been pending since it was first introduced in the Lok
Sabha in 1969 but could never get past the Rajya Sabha, the upper
house, despite being introduced on nine occasions, the last time
With assembly elections underway in five states, the Congress-led
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) initially took a tough stand
against Hazare but relented as it saw the protest spread rapidly
to all parts of India, with scores going on solidarity fast in
town after town.
Concerned over the groundswell of protests, Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh Friday stepped in to attempt a breakthrough in the
stand-off with anti-corruption crusaders.
He held back-to-back meetings with his ministers and Congress
leaders including party president Sonia Gandhi, apart from calling
on President Pratibha Patil. There were worries that Hazare's
'jail bharo' campaign from April 13 could worsen the situation.
His intervention was necessitated after Sibal's talks with Swami
Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal failed.
Amid the continuing deadlock, Hazare refused to relent. He also
made it clear that if there were shortcomings in the government
draft, he wouldn't break the fast.
In the meantime, support for Hazare swelled. From Delhi to Mumbai
and from Kerala to West Bengal, thousands took to the streets
hailing a man they likened to a modern day Mahatma.
Sensing the public mood, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh extended
support to Hazare. The thousands at the Jantar Mantar protest
venue went wild when Delhi Metro chief E. Sreedharan pledged his
support to Hazare.
"We will not bow before the government. The massive support we
have got from people has made the government realize the
importance of the bill and soon they will accept the demand,"
Hazare thundered earlier Friday.
Bollywood actor Anupam Kher declared Friday night: "It is a
victory for billions in India and even abroad. If cricket can
bring India together, so can the battle against corruption."