Indian Anti-Corruption Activist to Launch Public Hunger Strike Friday

Posted August 18th, 2011 at 12:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A leading Indian activist plans to launch a massive public hunger strike Friday to demand tougher anti-corruption legislation, in a campaign that has sparked nationwide protests.

Anna Hazare reached a deal with police Thursday to leave jail and hold the 15-day public demonstration at an open-air New Delhi venue capable of holding 25,000 people.

In recent days, thousands of protesters have poured into the streets of New Delhi, Mumbai and other Indian cities to show support for the 74-year-old activist. Police detained Hazare on Tuesday in an effort to block the public fast.

Hazare has continued his hunger strike while in New Delhi’s Tihar prison, where hundreds of supporters have gathered outside. In a video posted on the Internet Thursday, Hazare said he was in good health despite not having eaten in two days.

The activist said he had more energy and was galvanized by public support of his anti-corruption campaign. Hazare said he was ready to address those involved in the revolution during the public hunger strike beginning Friday.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament Wednesday that Hazare’s protest, while inspired by high ideals, was “fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy.” Mr. Singh said 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.

Popular outrage over widespread 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 voted Thursday to impeach a sitting judge on charges that he misappropriated large sums of public money.

Soumitra Sen, a judge in the Kolkata High Court, is India’s first sitting judge to be removed from his post.