Indian Anti-Corruption Activist Agrees to 15-Day Fast

Posted August 17th, 2011 at 10:40 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

An advisor to India's most prominent anti-corruption activist says Anna Hazare has accepted a police offer to hold a 15-day public hunger strike in a New Delhi park, prompting wild celebrations from his followers.

Kiran Bedi, a former senior police official who is now a widely respected anti-graft protest leader, posted news of the agreement on her Twitter feed.

Hazare will begin his protest Thursday afternoon.

Officials had initially given Hazare permission to hold only a three-day public fast, which he refused.

After the final deal was announced, crowds outside New Delhi's Tihar jail, where Hazare is being held, erupted in cheers and threw flower petals in the air.

Thousands had marched through the center of New Delhi Wednesday, shouting slogans in support of Hazare. Similar demonstrations were held in the country's financial hub, Mumbai, and in cities throughout the south and east.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament that Hazare's protest, while inspired by high ideals, was “fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy.” Mr. Singh said Wednesday that Hazare cannot be allowed to force lawmakers to sign his own version of anti-corruption legislation.

Earlier this month, the prime minister's ruling Congress party introduced an anti-corruption bill in parliament that would create a civil organization , with the powers to investigate ministers and bureaucrats. But Hazare rejected the bill and called for parliament to pass his own version, saying it would do more to hold the prime minister and judicial branch accountable.

Hazare and more than 1,000 of his followers were detained Tuesday as he prepared to begin a hunger strike to demand stronger anti-corruption legislation. Police later allowed Hazare to leave, but the activist chose to remain in prison until authorities agreed to withdraw restrictions on his protest.

In a statement released after his detention, Hazare vowed to continue the protest movement, telling supporters that the “second freedom struggle” had begun. He also urged them to keep the movement non-violent.

Popular outrage over corruption in India has grown steadily over the past year as one high-profile corruption scandal after another have made headlines in national media. They include the sale of telecommunications licenses at below market value and numerous financial irregularities in India's hosting of last year's Commonwealth Games.

In the latest scandal, India's upper house of parliament began impeachment proceedings Wednesday against a judge on charges that he misappropriated large sums of public money.

If found guilty, Soumitra Sen, a judge in the Kolkata High Court, would be India's first sitting judge to be removed from his post.