Indian Anti-Corruption Activist to Leave Prison, Hold Fast on Friday

Posted August 18th, 2011 at 6:15 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Indian activist Anna Hazare says he will spend one last night in a New Delhi prison before holding a massive public hunger strike on Friday to demand tougher anti-corruption legislation.

Early Thursday, the 74-year-old activist accepted an offer from police to leave jail and hold the 15-day public protest at an open-air New Delhi venue capable of holding 25,000 people.

Hazare and more than 1,000 of his followers were detained Tuesday after refusing to submit to police demands that his public protest be limited to three days and less than 5,000 people.

Police later allowed Hazare to leave, but the activist chose to remain in prison until authorities agreed to withdraw restrictions on his protest.

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

The event, originally expected to be held on Thursday afternoon, will now take place on Friday, as Hazare's aides say the protest site is not adequately prepared to accommodate thousands of protesters.

Thousands of protesters have poured on to the streets in recent days in New Delhi, Mumbai, and other Indian cities to show support for the activist.

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.

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 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.