Hazare holds fast; gives govt Aug 15 deadline for Lokpal Bill

Anna Hazare threatened another hunger strike from August 16 if Lokpal Bill is not passed.

New Delhi: Seeking to mount pressure on the
government, civil rights activist Anna Hazare on Wednesday observed a
day-long fast at Rajghat and threatened another hunger strike
from August 16 if Lokpal Bill is not passed by then, saying it
was part of the "second freedom struggle".

The agitation saw Hazare and his associates attacking the
government for putting "hurdles" in the drafting of a strong
Lokpal Bill that will have under its purview the Prime
Minister, higher judiciary and MPs` activities in Parliament.

Hazare slammed the government, alleging that it was
trying to target the civil society members of the joint Lokpal
panel, such as Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Santosh Hegde
and Arvind Kejriwal through a "discreet" campaign.

Joined by a few thousand supporters, Hazare staged the
protest against the police crackdown on Ramdev`s congregation
here on Saturday night. The Hazare camp made it clear that the
protest was "not for Ramdev as such" but the cause of black
money, Lokpal and "assault on democratic rights".

Terming the police action at Ramlila as a "blot on
humanity" and attempt to "stifle democracy", Hazare and his
associates accused the government of trying to "steamroll" any
dissent "only because they have been elected for five years".
During the 10 am to 6 pm protest held outside the gate of
Rajghat under tight security, the activists including Kiran
Bedi and Swami Agnivesh led tricolour-waving youths in singing
patriotic songs and bhajans.

Comparing the police action at Ramlila Maidan to
Jallianwala Bagh "without the firing part", Hazare had a poser
for the government -- "What is the difference between your
democracy and British Raj?"

Coming down heavily on the Home Minister, he said "(P)
Chidambaram says these satyagrahas are danger to democracy. If
he thinks that we are blackmailing him, then we will continue
to blackmail. You are not our masters. MPs are the servants of
the people."

Hazare said the government was levelling allegations
against civil society members to defame them.
"First they targeted Shanti and Prashant Bhushan through
a CD and later took on Hegde. Now we hear that some officers
have been put behind Arvind to find out about his assets. What
is the need for doing so when he does not have anything? This
is not good. If you want to ask something, ask directly. You
are doing these discreet things," he said.

At the same time, the Hazare camp distanced itself from
Ramdev`s manner of agitation, particularly his threat to raise
an "army" of 11,000 men and women, saying "we are very
uncomfortable" with the suggestion and do not support it.

During the protest, a virtual open house on the issue of
Lokpal during which people came out strongly in favour of
bringing the Prime Minister, MPs and higher judiciary under
the purview of the ombudsman.


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