Accepts police offer; protest can be extended
Social activist Anna Hazare on Thursday reached an understanding with the government to stage a two-week-long fast on the spacious Ramlila grounds here on the Lokpal Bill issue.
Team Anna, comprising Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, had bargained hard with Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta till the early hours of the day, and succeeded in getting written permission for the two-week-long fast which, it was mutually agreed, could be extended.
Mr. Hazare could not, however, come out of the Tihar jail as the agitation venue needed to be prepared. He will begin his fast on the Ramlila grounds on Friday afternoon.
“We decided that instead of getting into a confrontation on the duration of the fast, it was better to accept the offer and then review the situation after 15 days,'' Mr. Bhushan told The Hindu.
Video message to supporters
Responding to demands from his supporters that he come out of the jail, Mr. Hazare, who began his fast in the prison three days ago, said although he had accepted the Delhi Police offer, he felt fit to continue the agitation for a much longer period, and join all marches that thousands of people had undertaken in the last few days. “My supporters are my strength. I am energised by them,” a cheerful-looking Mr. Hazare said in a video message.
He asked the government to immediately bring before Parliament a revised Lokpal Bill incorporating the provisions of civil society's Jan Lokpal Bill.
With this, the focus shifted back to the core issue of civil society's Bill versus the government's Lokpal Bill.
At the same time, Mr. Kejriwal said if the government were to bring in a strong Judicial Accountability Bill, Team Anna would not insist on the inclusion of the higher judiciary in the Lokpal Bill. “This has been our consistent stand,” he told journalists.
“No talks offer”
To a question, he said there was no offer of a dialogue yet from the government. “Our fight for the Jan Lokpal Bill to reach Parliament has just begun. We have just entered the battle zone.''
The government already introduced its Lokpal Bill in Parliament and it has been referred to the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Criticising the government for first detaining Mr. Hazare and his associates, and then releasing them “within two hours,” Mr. Kejriwal said the people should question the government whether it could put people in jail anytime and release them at will. “What kind of law is this, what kind of democracy?”
Team Anna said the government's excuse of an apprehension of breach of law and order was proved wrong as the public outpouring in every part of the country had been totally peaceful.
Dismissing rumours about Mr. Hazare's health, fuelled by the arrival of two ambulances at Tihar on Wednesday night, Mr. Kejriwal said the elderly activist was keeping “well.”