Social activist Anna Hazare on Friday extended his support to the ‘Iron Lady' of Manipur Irom Sharmila, who has been on a fast-unto-death for more than a decade demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
Mr. Hazare pledged his support at a public rally against corruption organised by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) led by the Right To Information (RTI) activist Akhil Gogoi. Ms. Sharmila was only 28 years old when she began the fast in November 2000 after 10 innocent people were shot dead by Assam Rifles troops at Mallom, 7 km from Imphal city.
Addressing the rally, Mr. Hazare urged the people, particularly the youth, to start a ‘Jail Bharo' movement to carry forward the relentless struggle to end corruption, which he described as India's second independence movement.
Mr. Hazare also stressed the need for a strong movement to bring in reforms in the conduct of elections and incorporating the option of “right to reject” by inserting an additional button in the Electronic Voting Machine or ballot paper. The 72-year-old social activist said that he would travel the length and breadth of the country to seek the support of the people for the ‘second freedom struggle of the country.'
Retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and Raman Magsaysay award winner Kiran Bedi urged the people of Assam to press for the appointment of a new Lokayutka after the Jan Lok Pal Bill was passed by Parliament and a Jan Lok Pal is appointed at the Centre. The present Lokayukta in the State was without any power and ineffective, she said.
Ms. Bedi said only 16 per cent of the fund meant for development work reached the people, while 84 per cent was siphoned off. She urged the people to demand that politicians and bureaucrats have a fixed time schedule every day to meet the common people without any prior appointment.
Another co-activist of Mr. Hazare, Swami Agnivesh asked the people to be prepared to take to the streets in lakhs and build up an even stronger anti-corruption movement if the present government at the Centre tried to go back on its commitment to pass the Jan Lok Pal Bill before the August 15 deadline. Stating that rampant corruption was one of the causes behind growth of naxalism and terrorism in the country, Swami Agnivesh said that if corruption was eliminated then naxalism and terrorism would also come to an end.
Social activist Arvind Kejriwal, who has been playing a key role in the Jan Lok Pal Bill movement, alleged that some forces had been trying to scuttle the Bill and opposing the move to bring the Prime Minister under its ambit. He also insisted that all political parties must declare the list of donors who funded their election expenditures and the amount each paid.
KMSS Secretary Akhil Gogoi called for the inclusion of all burning issues and demands of the people of the north-east like the ongoing movement against big dams in the agenda of the national movement.