Gandhilike protest: Anna Hazare begins his fast after paying a vist to Rajghat
INDIAN activist Anna Hazare, whose anti-graft hunger strike in August attracted huge public support, held a one-day fast yesterday demanding the government to do more to tackle corruption.
Hazare’s 12-day fast four months ago unleashed an outpouring of frustration among Indians over bribes paid in all types of transactions ranging from getting a baby’s birth certificate to tenders for infrastructure projects.
He returned to New Delhi for a one-day symbolic hunger strike to protest against the government’s draft of a new anti-corruption law, which he said was “toothless” legislation that exempted many key officials.
“We will take our protest to the streets if a strong bill is not brought in,” he told a crowd of several thousand supporters.
“If the government brings in a weak bill, the other political parties must join hands with the people of this country who are ready to come out and support us,” he said.
During his fast in August, millions of Indians rallied across the country to support Hazare, a 74-year-old former army truck driver who has modelled his image on Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.
On Sunday (December 11), Hazare visited Gandhi’s memorial in Delhi before heading to the open-air venue, where a stage, sound system and crowd barriers had been set up for the event.
Dressed in plain white clothes and his trademark cotton cap, he sat cross-legged in front of the Indian national flag during fiery speeches from fellow activists attacking the “watered-down” anti-graft bill.
Hazare has raised the stakes in his battle with the government by threatening to go on an indefinite fast in Delhi from December 27 if lawmakers do not concede to his demands over the Lokpal (Ombudsman) bill.
The ruling Congress party reacted by taking a harder line against the veteran campaigner, with a party spokesman on Sunday describing Hazare’s tactics as undemocratic and “insulting parliament”.
Dr Singh has endured a difficult period in office over the past year, and he now faces the prospect of more rallies in support of Hazare when the activist starts fasting again at the end of this month.
Hazare said that India’s rulers must listen to ordinary people “struggling with corruption in everyday life”, and urged voters to reject Dr Singh’s Congress party in state elections next year.
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