New Delhi: In a dramatic turn of events, the government decided to release social activist Anna Hazare and his seven associates from Tihar Jail, hours after they were sent to seven-day judicial custody for defying prohibitory orders and deciding to go ahead with their planned indefinite strike for a strong Lokpal.
However, Anna has refused to come out of jail until he gets an unconditional permission to go ahead with his indefinite fast at Jai Prakash Narayan Park.
Reports suggested Delhi Police have given two options to Team Anna – either fast for three days under conditions or leave Delhi. However, Anna has rejected both the options.
Manish Sisodia, a member of Team Anna who agreed to come out of jail after being released, to put across the message, told reporters that while Anna and his associates have been moved out of their cells they have refused to leave jail till they get a written permission to go ahead with the fast.
Sisodia said Anna is continuing with his fast which he had started after being arrested in the morning.
Further, Tihar Jail authorities are reported to have provided Anna a room in the administrative block, fuelling speculation the activist would spend the night inside jail premises.
The Delhi Police had earlier sent a release warrant to Tihar Jail authorities to free Anna and his aides.
The development came after police decided to withdraw their case against them.
Sources said the decision to release Anna was taken after a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and senior ministers.
The government is understood to have come to the conclusion that keeping him in jail would create unnecessary law and order situation. Also, sources said, Rahul Gandhi pitched for Anna’s release at the meeting.
According to sources, the government was considering taking Anna out of Delhi, possibly to Maharashtra, after his release.
Meanwhile, police have told thousands of Hazare’s supporters detained at Chhatarasal Stadium to vacate the ground, effectively meaning they too are being released. All lights have been switched off at the stadium.
Also, there are reports of several supporters of Anna Hazare being detained at the JP Park in central Delhi.
Earlier, Hazare and seven of his team members were sent to Tihar Jail after being remanded to seven-day judicial custody by a special magistrate for obstructing government’s work.
"Anna Hazare refused to sign a personal bond and has been sent to seven days judicial custody in Tihar Jail," Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said, describing it as a preventive arrest.
Police Commissioner BK Gupta said Hazare and his team members were detained because they failed to comply with police guidelines.
While Hazare, Manish Sisodia, Radheyshyam Prajapati and Suresh Pathare were lodged in Jail No 4, along with CWG scam accused Suresh Kalmadi, Arvind Kejriwal, Navin Jaisingh, Dada Pathare and Darshak were moved to Jail No 1 where 2G scam accused A Raja is lodged.
However, Neeraj Kumar, DG Prisons, Delhi clarified that the activists were kept in separate wards which are away from the wards of other corruption accused like Raja and Kalmadi.
Kumar said all the eight were medically examined after they reached the Jail at around 3.30 pm. He added security was tightened around their wards.
Hazare and his associates had refused to take food during their detention under judicial remand.
All the eight were earlier shifted to Tihar Jail under a heavy police presence from the office of DCP, West Delhi in Rajouri Garden.
Hundreds of supporters tried to block the movement of police van carrying Hazare to Tihar Jail, forcing the police to resort to mild lathicharge in a bid to disperse the crowd.
Those close to Anna said the activist stopped taking food and water as soon as he was detained by Delhi Police from his Mayur Vihar residence in the morning. Anna and his supporters have been campaigning for a strong Lokpal Bill.
Thousands of Anna’s supporters took to the streets in the national capital and across the country, and courted arrest expressing full support to his campaign for a strong anti-corruption legislation.
The detained protestors in Delhi were first taken to Chhatrasal Stadium, which has been converted into a temporary jail, but it was soon flooded with the huge influx of Anna’s supporters, forcing the authorities to shift them to another make-shift jail in the Bawana Industrial Area.
Prior to being shifted to Tihar Jail, Hazare was taken to a hospital for medical check-up.
In an early morning swoop, Hazare was detained from his Mayur Vihar residence before he was to proceed to Jai Prakash Narain Park where he was slated to sit on a fast.
Anna and his key associates were first taken to the Gazetted Officers Mess in Civil Lines, North Delhi.
Senior police officials, including DCP (Crime) Ashok Chand, met with Hazare - prior to his arrest - in a bid to convince him not to go ahead with his planned protest defying prohibitory orders.
However, Hazare turned down the request and was taken into detention.
Flaying the police move, Kiran Bedi said, "Emergency has revisited the country. This detention is undemocratic and unconstitutional."
Expressing outrage over the development, another key Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said that he will move the Supreme Court to protest against the injustice being meted out to the anti-corruption activists.
In his reaction to Anna’s arrest, senior advocate and civil rights activist Shanti Bhushan said, “This government is unconstitutional. It has no moral right to continue. It is like that we are living under British regime.”
“Through the actions of his government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has become Sardar Winston Churchill,” he lamented.
Separately, pledging strong support to Anna Hazare’s movement, former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde also sat on fast in Bangalore along with his supporters.
Around 500 Anna supporters had in the morning blocked the Delhi-Noida Link Road and raised their voice against police action. Chanting `Bharat Mata Ki Jai` and `Vande Mataram`, supporters created hurdles in the way of the police which were trying to take Anna to a nearby police station.
The huge influx of people was seen despite a heavy police presence in the area to ensure law and order in the city.
Hazare had yesterday asked his supporters to fill up jails across the country if he was arrested after being denied permission to hold fast at JP Park.
After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his Independence Day speech, slammed him for resorting to fast as a protest when Parliament was seized off the Lokpal Bill, the Gandhian activist had said that he would go to JP Park despite Delhi Police imposing prohibitory orders.
"I come to understand that I will be refused permission. We will go there. If I am arrested, I will continue my hunger strike in jail. If I am released, I will go back to the venue and this circle will continue," he had said.
Anna said once he is arrested, people should fill up the jails in every village across the country. "Going to jail for the country is no crime...It is a decoration," he said.
Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat had said that prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC had been imposed in some areas of Daryaganj and IP police stations, which include Jai Prakash Narain Park and Shaheed Park.