New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare said on Friday that he would not budge from the Ramlila Ground till his version of the Jan Lokpal Bill is introduced in Parliament. Hazare and his supporters had been given permission for a 15-day fast when they left Tihar Jail following his arrest on Tuesday.
“This is not about one Lokpal, this is about bringing a change in the whole country. This is about giving justice to the poor,” Hazare said in his first address after reaching the venue. “These traitors have looted the country. We will not tolerate the government. We cannot forgo our freedom at any cost.”
Hazare was arrested after he and his supporters decided to go ahead with their fast at Jai Prakash Narayan Park in New Delhi despite the police denying them permission. Once free to go, Hazare refused to leave Tihar Jail until permission was given for the protest. A large crowd of supporters had gathered at the jail to witness his exit from Tihar.
On Thursday, Hazare and his supporters were given permission to hold the fast at the Ramlila Ground till 2 September.
Hazare’s associate and Right to Information (RTI) activist Arvind Kejriwal, however, said on Friday that the protest would go beyond this, depending upon how the government responded.
Also Read : Timeline | Anna’s fast politics
“We have told you (the government) so many times to bring the Bill, now we are in people’s court and will not move till the Bill is brought,” Hazare said in his address.
Hazare’s demands are “unfortunate” and based on a “totally populistic premise,” said Subrata Mukherjee, a retired professor in the department of political science at Delhi University. “It is the most unreasonable demand and it defies the Gandhian framework of the beauty of compromise,” Mukherjee said. “What he is trying to do is that he thinks there is a euphoria which has been created. With Parliament being in session, it will be very easy for him to pressurize the government and indirectly the entire Parliament to bypass all the lengthy processes and legislate it in his own way.”
Swelling support: Anna Hazare after coming out of the Tihar Jail. A large crowd of supporters had gathered at the jail to witness his exit. Photo by Ramesh Pathania/Mint.
The government was using the standing committee as a shield, Kejriwal said on Friday.
“Our demand is that the government withdraw its Lokpal Bill and introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill, or introduce amendments in the present Bill including all points of the Jan Lokpal Bill,” Kejriwal said. The Lokpal Bill was introduced in the Parliament earlier this month and is currently with the standing committee.
Varun Gandhi, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the Lok Sabha, said that he could present the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament after technical clearance is granted. Gandhi had earlier said that he would move Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill as a private member’s Bill.
People thronged the Ramlila Grounds despite a day-long drizzle and no seating. “Revolutionaries do not need camps or tents, I will be here in support of Hazare as long as he is here,” said Shankar Shantaram Chinkal, a 62-year-old farmer from Sangli, Maharashtra.
Another Hazare supporter said the new venue would make the protest more organized.
“For the last three days there was no definite place. Now everyone can come here and express their support to Hazare,” said Asha, a 45-year-old homemaker and Delhi resident who uses only one name
Liz Mathew and PTI contributed to this story.