New Delhi, Aug 16: In a clear indication of change in strategy in tackling Anna Hazare's protest over Lokpal Bill, government today refrained from making any personal attack on the activist but justified his arrest saying defiance of police order was not acceptable in democracy.
“This is not a pleasant task and none of us is happy trying to explain the circumstances under which certain events have taken place. It is a painful duty and we are performing it with the seriousness it deserves,” Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters here.
At the same time, he strongly defended Hazare's arrest saying the action was taken by the Delhi Police after it came to a conclusion that he and his supporters would commit a “cognisable offence” by defying prohibitory orders.
Addressing the media along with HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and I&B Minister Ambika Soni, Chidambaram said that the government did make an effort to reach out to him yesterday but the meeting did not materialise.
“Yesterday, there was an attempt to meet Hazare, but that was not possible. This morning police officer met Hazare and drew his attention to his statements that he and his supporters would defy the orders and asked him what his intentions were.
“Hazare said he was proceeding to Jaiprakash Narain Park to defy the orders. At that time, police came to the conclusion that he and his supporters would commit a cognisable offence and there could be likely breach of peace and they decided to take action under Sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC,” he said.
The Union Ministers, while disagreeing with Hazare's method for bringing the Lokpal Bill, made it clear that they shared the activist's concern on corruption. “We are on Anna's side and Anna is on our side (as far as fight against corruption is concerned),” Sibal said adding that the disagreement was over Team Anna's insistence on accepting their Bill or no other Bill.
Chidambaram also admitted that there was “great deal of angst and anger” among people on corruption and termed the Lokpal as “not a panacea but one of the answers” to deal with the menace.
The change in strategy appears after Rahul Gandhi's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday which was followed up with discussions with UPA troubleshooter Pranab Mukherjee and Chidambaram in Parliament today.
In a marked difference from the earlier attack on Hazare by the party, Soni said the activist was a “reputed person” and the government trusted his word on protest being peaceful. She, however, said that no one can guarantee that there cannot be any problem when such large number of people gather at place as people seated on a dias do not have control on each and every person participating in an agitation.
While making no personal attack on Hazare, Soni said he may have been ill-advised by his colleagues former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan “who understand law”.
Sibal also pointed out towards media reports that Bedi was accompanied by two BJP leaders when she was stopped by the police at Raj Ghat. PTI