Indian Anti-Corruption Activist Begins Hunger Strike

Posted August 19th, 2011 at 5:50 am (UTC-5)
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Indian activist Anna Hazare has begun his 15-day public hunger strike to demand tougher anti-corruption legislation.

Thousands of his supporters greeted Hazare when he arrived Friday at the open-air, 25,000-capacity New Delhi venue where he is staging the strike.

Hazare arrived, hours after he left Tihar jail.

The 74-year-old activist's procession from the jail through the Indian capital included a stop at a memorial to Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Ghandi.

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 and Hazare later reached an agreement to limit the protest to 15 days.

Hazare has galvanized the nation's anger at official corruption and put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government on the defensive.

Mr. 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 with high-profile corruption scandals, including 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.