Anna can’t fast at Jantar Mantar: Delhi Police

Delhi Police made it clear that Jantar Mantar is out of bounds for Anna Hazare`s fast for a "strong" Lokpal Bill later this month.

New Delhi: Delhi Police on Tuesday made it clear
that Jantar Mantar is out of bounds for Anna Hazare`s fast for
a "strong" Lokpal Bill later this month, saying the venue has
"little capacity" and no single organisation can be allowed to
"usurp or lay exclusive claim" to it.

The Hazare Team, in turn, suggested four other places
where they could sit in for protest from August 16, including
Boat Club, Rajghat, Ramlila Maidan and Shaheed Park near ITO.

In a letter to Team Hazare, police said, it is
imperative for the duration of the dharna to be specified as
no single organization can be allowed to usurp and lay
exclusive claim to the place meant for holding demonstration
or protest for an indefinite period of time.

"This space has to be shared equitably with others
intending to hold peaceful protests and there are many
claimants from all over India seeking to hold demonstration at
Jantar Mantar site. This venue has little capacity and it would
be difficult to accommodate the huge crowds expected by you
and otherwise anticipated by the media, the letter said.

Countering this, the Hazare team wrote to Police
Commissioner BK Gupta asking why they were being denied
permission when a three-day protest organised by another
activist Medha Patkar at the same venue had been given a nod.

They claimed that they had already intimated police that
the proposed fast is going to be one-month long and it was
"wrong to say" that they did not define the time-limit.

Jantar Mantar, located barely a few hundred metres away
from Delhi`s heart Connaught Place, is the hotbed of protests
in the capital. Hazare undertook a fast there in April, which
evoked nationwide support and forced the government to agree
to formation of a joint committee to draft Lokpal Bill.

The Hazare Team was ready to come and discuss with the
Commissioner any other alternative venue for the proposed fast
but insisted that it should be within three kms of Jantar
Mantar and well-connected by bus and metro.

"Though we are not convinced with the reason for denial,
if you feel that Jantar Mantar Road is inadequate for
accommodating large number of people, we are suggesting the
following places in accordance of preference for the proposed
fast. Jantar Mantar Road, Boat Club, Rajghat, Ramlila Maidan
and Shaheed Park," the Hazare Team said.

Sources indicated that Ramlila Maidan may be the
preferred choice of police.

Police had earlier indicated that it may not be possible
for them to allow an indefinite protest at Jantar Mantar and
suggested to Hazare that he look for an alternative site in
the city`s outskirts if he wants to go ahead with his protest
for more than a day.

Police had asked the Hazare Team to clarify how many
days they propose to sit on dharna and expected number of
people who will gather at the protest site.

A senior police official said they have told the Hazare
team that police could give permission to the Gandhian to hold
the protest at Jantar Mantar if it is for a day which could
see a participation of not more than 2,000 people.

Police also suggested that if he wants to continue with
his fast, he could choose an alternative site like Burari, on
the outskirts of Delhi, the official said.

Hazare had made it clear yesterday that he was not
insisting on sitting on an indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar as
for him, Jantar Mantar was not the issue but Lokpal is. "I
don`t want people to say that Anna is stubborn on this. Our
issue is not Jantar Mantar, our issue is Lokpal," he said.