New Delhi, Aug 13: A confrontation appeared to be building between Anna Hazare and government with the Gandhian today deciding to go ahead with his indefinite fast from August 16 for a “strong” Lokpal rejecting conditions that the protest should be limited to three days and 5,000 people.
Hazare accused the government of “deceit” by putting conditions on his agitation and sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to “show courage” and protect his fundamental rights.
Addressing a press conference after Delhi Police sent a letter carrying 22 conditions, he made it clear that he was ready for any eventuality in case government decides to crackdown to disrupt his protest, saying he would not mind going jail or beaten up by police.
“Fast will take place in Jai Prakash Narain Park. We will continue with the protest beyond three days...the government is scared that its corruption will be exposed,” said Hazare whose fast in April forced the government to come out with a Lokpal Bill with which he is not satisfied.
The government has introduced Lokpal Bill in Lok Sabha which has been referred to Standing Committee of Parliament and is expected to be taken up in the Winter Session.
The legislation excludes Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament but Hazare wants the bill to cover them besides the entire bureaucracy.
Lawyer Shanti Bhushan said they agree with almost all the conditions laid by Delhi Police for the protest but would not give an undertaking that the protest will end by the third day and the number of protesters will not go beyond 5,000. termning it “unconstitutional”.
In his letter to Singh, Hazare said, the government's attitude gave a hint of “dictatorship” as those raising voice against it are being “crushed” particularly under his government.
“Your Government is trying to crush those who raise their voice against corruption. This is happening more often in your Government,” Hazare said.
Seeking Singh's intervention, he wrote, “you are 79-years-old and are holding the nation's top position. You have got everything from life. What else do you want from life. Show courage and take some concrete steps.”
Noting that it was the duty of the Prime Minister to protect the Constitution and democracy, Hazare expressed hope that Singh would “understand the gravity of the situation and would do something quickly”.
He told Singh that he and his associates were determined to undertake the fast from August 16 and sacrifice their lives. “If the head of democracy is unable to provide a proper place for the fast, then we will court arrest and undertake the fast in jail,” he said.
When asked what will be their response if government disrupts the protest, Hazare said, the country will respond to such actions of the government.
Kejriwal said they were ready to give an undertaking which is within the boundaries of Constitution. “This is not a switch-on, switch-off protest,” he said.
On Delhi Police's letter, activist Kiran Bedi alleged it was a “dictated order” and not a police draft. Swami Agnivesh said, “this is reminds of emergency. They again are attacking Constitution.”
Asserting that the protest would continue till the time it is “necessary”, Bhushan warned the government against disrupting the protest and reminded about the repercussions of the Emergency on Congress party in the subsequent election.
Rubbishing the government's condition that the number of protesters be limited to 5,000, the Hazare team said when political parties hold protests, lakhs of people are being brought in busess and trucks with which the government has no problem.
“In our protest, people are coming on their own using their own money. The government is acting against them... People will come and teach the government a lesson,” Hazare said while noting that he was not sure how many people will join his protest.
To a question, he said he had faith in Parliament and that was why he appeared before the Standing Committee examining the Lokpal Bill.
“The government, however, has betrayed us. This is not the draft we wanted. Get the proper bill, after that whatever Parliament decide, we will obey,” he said. PTI