New Delhi: With the government succumbing to public pressure, Anna Hazare and his supporters gained permission on Thursday to hold their fast till 2 September at the Capital’s Ramlila Ground. Hazare, who was still at Delhi’s Tihar Jail on Thursday evening, is expected to reach the venue only on Friday as preparations at the proposed venue were still on till Thursday evening.
Hazare and his supporters signed an undertaking on Thursday stating that they would abide by existing rules and regulations and that violation of any of these clauses would render them liable to be prosecuted under law.
Hazare and his supporters were arrested and moved to Tihar on Tuesday after they went ahead with a hunger protest despite the Delhi Police denying them permission.
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“What the Delhi Police conveyed to the ministry of home affairs is that the permission was given till 2 September on the usual sort of conditions,” home secretary R.K. Singh said, adding that the government was not involved in any discussions.
The clause in the undertaking includes examinations by government doctors, the crowd not spilling over to nearby roads, no damage to public property, drinking water arrangements, loudspeaker limits and the gathering not to exceed the limit of the ground, which is roughly 25,000 people. Baba Ramdev’s fast in June at the same venue ended abruptly after a midnight raid by the Delhi Police. The Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government faced criticism over the crackdown, which injured around 75 people. “The government has accepted our demand. They have given us the Ramlila Ground for 15 days,” Hazare supporter Swami Agnivesh said while addressing the crowd that had gathered in front of Tihar Jail. Hazare, who was given unconditional release on Tuesday, has refused to leave the premises of the jail till his demands were met.
Meanwhile, protest demonstrations were held in several parts of the country, including Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Orissa and Gujarat.
While Nitin Gadkari, president of main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) extended support to Hazare, the Congress defended its flip-flop on conceding Hazare’s demands. “Governance is never static,” party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said.
Hazare went on an indefinite fast against corruption in April, which ended on its fifth day after the government accepted all his key demands, including the formation of a joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill. Hazare and his supporters were, however, dissatisfied with the provisions of the Bill that was presented in Parliament this month, and the veteran social activist launched another agitation.
Members of the joint drafting committee differed on including the Prime Minister, the higher judiciary and the lower bureaucracy under the ambit of the Lokpal. On Thursday, however, Hazare’s supporters indicated the inclusion of the judiciary may be negotiated. “PM has to be within the ambit of the Lokpal. As far as the judiciary is concerned, if a good judicial accountability Bill can be brought along with the Jan Lokpal Bill then we are open to it,” Arvind Kejriwal said.
While Hazare is expected to reach the Ramlila Ground on Friday, eager supporters flocked in front of Tihar Jail throughout Thursday anticipating Hazare emergence. “I have come here for the second day. We will follow him to Ramlila Ground too. Hazare is fighting for us,” Kishan Singh Rawat, a retired army officer who reached Tihar Jail with his entire family, said on Thursday.
Social media support for the agitation also gained momentum.
PTI contributed to the story.