New Delhi: Gandhian Anna Hazare began a fast-unto-death on Sunday at Jantar Mantar to press for a strong Lokpal Bill, joining his three close aides -- Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai -- who are already on an indefinite fast.
Anna’s fast came after his four-day ultimatum to the government to concede to his demands on Lokpal Bill found no response.
As the 75-year old activist stepped in with his fast, crowds started poured into the venue, what was missing for the past four days.
Even after Hazare announced his decision, some of those who were fasting appealed to him not to fast again, saying his life is valuable and his leadership is needed.
"Till we get Jan Lokpal, the countrymen will not allow me to die", said Hazare addressing his supporters.
"They (politicians) are servants and we people are the owners; but the picture today is that people have become the servant and the politicians are the owner," he thundered to loud cheers.
"This movement is to awaken the people," he added.
The soldier-turned-activist denied accusations that Team Anna was deviating from its stated aim of getting the Jan Lokpal Bill passed in parliament.
"It is the government which is moving away from its path. Our main demand is to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed", he said.
Anna, who had been sitting on a dharna along with his three fasting colleagues for the past four days, reached Jantar Mantar here this morning to slogans of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', 'Vande Mataram' and 'Inquilab Zindabad'.
This is the fourth indefinite fast by Hazare since April last year. The April fast was followed by one in Ramlila Maidan here in August and in Mumbai in December.
In between, he had single-day fasts in Delhi thrice -- in June and December last year and March this year.
Today's protest also saw the release of a book by Arvind Kejriwal titled 'Swaraj', which is being touted as the manifesto of Team Anna.
Kejriwal, who is fasting for the fifth day, urged students to bunk classes next week for the sake of the country.
"We appeal to all students to take leave from college for a week and come to the streets. We don't ask them to sacrifice their lives but join the movement for a week", he said.
Another Team Anna member Kumar Vishwas came out with a slogan, "Next week, for country's sake".
The day also saw Team Anna appearing to distance itself from Ramdev who shared dais with Modi.
“We have never been in agreement with Narendra Modi and never can be. Modi is a murderer of humanity. Ramdev should clarify his position on this,” said core committee member of Indian Against Corruption Sanjay Singh.
Hazare had last year courted controversy after praising Modi, remarks which were later clarified as commending his initiatives for rural development.
Team Anna supporters, led by Prashant Bhushan, marched to India Gate in the evening from their protest venue at Jantar Mantar waving tricolor and shouting slogans.
"It is a fight to save the country from chaos, from anarchy, from civil war and, therefore, all the people interested in the service of country have come up, have risen up," Bhushan said as he walked with the protesters.
Before starting his fast, Hazare said the protest outside Prime Minister's residence, yesterday, was a result of people's anger.
"How long people will tolerate but if some thing like this (defacement of walls) has happened, I apologise for that. The slogans (written on walls) were lowly. We should think before taking any such step as people are watching our agitation," he told reporters.
Scores of Team Anna supporters yesterday protested outside 7, Race Course Road and threw coal pieces into the premises besides defacing walls.
With Agency inputs
First Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012, 08:33