Washington, Aug 12: Ahead of the proposed August 16 fast against corruption by social activist Anna Hazare, the United States has hoped that New Delhi would exercise democratic restraint in the way it deals with peaceful protests.
"As you know, we support the right of peaceful, non-violent protest around the world," State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters during her daily news conference.
"That said, India is a democracy, and we count on India to exercise appropriate democratic restraint in the way it deals with peaceful protest," Nuland said in response to a question.
Team Anna on Thursday had asserted that they will go ahead with the indefinite fast on August 16 for a strong Lokpal Bill, saying there will be no compromise on their demands but left the door open for further talks with the government.
Hazare threatened to stop drinking water if the government arrests him before or during the fast and tries to force feed him.
The Hazare team also expressed satisfaction at choice of venue – Jai Prakash Narain Park near Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium – offered to them by police for holding the fast. Activist Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the people to maintain calm during the fast.
"We have got reports that in some place, some troublemakers might enter the protest and try to spread violence. We appeal to the people to be aware of such elements," he said.
To fine-tune the strategy for the protest, the Core Committee of the Hazare team met yesterday morning and appealed to people to organise relay fast on August 16.
Team Anna is demanding withdrawal of the "anti-poor, anti-Dalit, weak" Bill and seeking introduction of a stronger one.
Arvind Kejriwal, a close associate of Hazare, said there was no going back on the demands raised by them.
"We are not ready to compromise with anyone till our demands are met. The deadlock continues. We are open for any dialogue but there is no invitation from the government yet," he said.
In Delhi, a spokeperson of the Ministry of External Affairs took strong exception to the comments by the US State Department on handling of peaceful protests saying the remarks were “needless”.
“We have seen the needless comments by the US State Department Spokesperson on handling of peaceful protests in India. Freedoms of speech and expression, as well as, of peaceful assembly, are enshrined in the Constitution of India and exercised by citizens of this country of 1.2 billion people,” the spokesperson said.
Congress today dismissed comments by the US State Department on Anna Hazare's planned agitation from August 16, saying the remarks were “completely oblivious to Indian reality”.
“We do wish the State Department spokesperson should have checked up facts, the context and the ground reality before making these sweeping generalisations which have no basis at all,” party spokesman Manish Tewari said.
He said the remarks reflected that the State Department spokesperson is “completely oblivious to the Indian reality”. PTI