Anna Hazare sounds a warning to government; prominent citizens join the protest

Anna Hazare, who has become the rallying point for the anti-corruption protests that has spread across the country now, sounded a warning to the government that his agitations would not end with the passing of the Lokpal Bill and would continue until the “country's poor get justice.”

Addressing a press conference at Jantar Mantar on Friday evening, Mr. Hazare said he would not bow down and give up the fast until the Lokpal Bill is finalised.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Hazare gave a call for a “Jail Bharao Andolan” in the country from April 13 if his demands for the passing of the long-pending Lokpal Bill was not met by the government.

Buoyed by the outpouring of public support on the fourth day of his fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar, Mr. Hazare soothed his supporters' worries about going to jail.

“Don't worry about anything. You will get enough food there. Going to jail for the country is not a stigma. It is a privilege. I have myself been jailed and the government was forced to plead with me to leave.”

Both the young and old at the venue responded to his call with a roar of approval.

A bevy of prominent citizens made their way to Jantar Mantar to express solidarity with Mr. Hazare and the protesters. Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, former Union Law Ministers and senior advocates Shanti Bhushan and Ram Jethmalani, environmentalist Vandana Shiva, noted actors Anupam Kher and Tom Alter, Bharatnatyam dancer Sonal Mansingh, film director Farah Khan, satirist and TV personality Jaspal Bhatti, theatre actor Piyush Mishra and RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav were among those who greeted Mr. Hazare.

“No disunity”

Ms. Patkar put to rest rumours of disunity in the civil society camp and said “the movement had united the whole country because the ordinary person's life is a daily struggle because of corruption.”

Mr. Shanti Bhushan said: “Only those who want corruption to continue can find shortcomings in the Jan Lokpal Bill. Citizens will have to monitor the Bill's journey through the drafting stage and Parliament to see what we finally get.”

Mr. Jethmalani vowed to send the corrupt to jail and bring back the black money sent abroad from India “with whatever life left in me – whether it be one month or a year.”

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan told reporters at the venue that he was hopeful of the protest growing into a movement towards participatory democracy. “Consulting citizens and gathering their input while drafting Bills should be the norm. When you provide them more power and responsibilities, the maturity of the Indian voter will grow.”

Appeal to honest leaders

Meanwhile, an announcement made to supporters that senior Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi was reportedly ready to resign his position as Union Minister to join the movement against corruption was greeted effusively by protesters. Swami Agnivesh called upon “honest” leaders from political parties to take up the cudgels against corrupt fellow party-men.