Indian Political Parties Unite to Urge End to Activist’s Fast

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 10:40 am (UTC-5)
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Opposition parties have joined Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in urging a prominent anti-corruption activist to end his nine-day hunger strike.

Anna Hazare, who is encamped in an open-air venue in Delhi with thousands of supporters, vowed Wednesday to continue his fast indefinitely unless parliament passes his version of an anti-corruption bill by August 30.

Prime Minister Singh chaired a meeting of political parties Wednesday to try to find a way to end the impasse. The Indian leader told lawmakers that he was seeking their “guidance on the way forward.”

At the end of the meeting, the parties passed a resolution calling for Hazare to end his fast and for Hazare's version of legislation to be considered in parliament.

Mr. Singh repeated concerns about Hazare's health and urged the 74-year-old activist to let doctors feed him intravenously, which Hazare has refused.

On Wednesday, Hazare told supporters he has lost six kilograms and that his kidney is affected but that they should not worry. His hunger strike has triggered huge anti-corruption protests throughout India.

On Wednesday, members of India's lowest caste, the dalits, staged a counterprotest, saying Hazare's anti-corruption plan would not protect them.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid met briefly with one of Hazare's aides on Tuesday, but the meeting apparently did not yield any breakthroughs.

Earlier this month, the Indian parliament proposed creation of a civil institution, known as a lokpal, to reduce the country's endemic corruption. Hazare opposed the bill, saying it would not hold a prime minister or the judiciary accountable for corrupt practices.

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