The confrontation between social activist Anna Hazare and the government on the Lokpal Bill took a turn for the worse on Monday with the former giving a call to his supporters to fill jails all over the country if he is arrested on Tuesday.
Mr. Hazare was denied permission by the Delhi Police to stage his fast here as his team refused to comply with all 22 conditions they laid.
Addressing journalists here after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh criticised him for resorting to a fast as a protest when Parliament was seized of the Lokpal Bill, the anti-corruption crusader said he would go to the JP Park, the venue of his fast, even though the police had imposed prohibitory orders.
“I am given to understand that I will be refused permission. We will go there. If I am arrested, I will continue my hunger strike in jail. If I am released, I will go back to the venue and continue the fast. This will go on,'' Mr. Hazare said. He gave a “lights off'' call throughout the country to reflect the “darkness in the hearts of the poor, deprived and dispossessed people.''
He said that once he was arrested, people should fill the jails in every village.
Accusing the Prime Minister of speaking the same language as his Cabinet colleague Kapil Sibal, Mr. Hazare said he was sure that if a strong Lokpal was created there would be a 60 per cent end to corruption.
Before his news conference, the 74-year-old activist made a surprise visit to the Rajghat taking the police unawares. He said he went there for “introspection.''
While senior United Progressive Alliance Ministers defended the decision to withhold permission to Mr. Hazare as “necessary,'' the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party slammed the government for “scuttling all voices of dissent.''
CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat said one may or may not agree with Mr. Hazare and his team on the Lokpal Bill but no one can question their right to protest.
Activist Arvind Kejriwal said the government's action was “autocratic.'' Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said they would move the court on Tuesday against the decision of the Delhi Police.
Former Karnataka Lokayukta, Santosh Hegde, who is also a member of the Team Anna's core team, said the government's action showed that it was “nervous.” Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan also condemned the refusal of permission to Mr. Hazare.
This article has been corrected for a factual error.