Hazare Escalates War With Govt
New Delhi, Aug 17: Anna Hazare today escalated his battle of attrition with the government refusing to come out of Tihar Jail notwithstanding Delhi Police's climb down on various conditions it had imposed on his indefinite fast in support of a strong Lokpal.
The 73-year-old Gandhian spent the second night in the jail complex as hectic negotiations continued between Team Hazare and police which made a fresh offer that the protest can be held for 21 days at Ramlila Maidan, the new venue over which the two sides have reached an agreement.
The hard bargaining came on a day when government came under renewed attack in Parliament over Hazare's arrest and rallies and protests across the country, including a huge procession from India Gate to Parliament House, in support of the Gandhian.
On a day of now-on and now-off announcements, social activists Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar told cheering crowd of supporters in the morning that Hazare would come out of the jail anytime and they should be prepared to go to JP Park in a peaceful manner.
However, Hazare, who continued his fast for the second day, seemed to have had other plans when he called close associates Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Manish Sisodia and discussed the strategy.
Bedi came out and announced to the crowds that consultations were on and that Hazare was not not coming out anytime soon.
Then began the tough negotiations with Delhi Police officials, who first agreed that Hazare can hold the protest fast for seven days after which the situation would be reviewed day after day.
Police, which only yesterday arrested Hazare and his associates of apprehension of breach of peace and foiled his agitation plans, today made it clear that it has no objection to the number of protesters who can gather at the venue. In fact, police also offered Ramlila Maidan, a bigger venue than the JP Park which was originally preferred by Hazare, for the protest.
Highly placed sources said that the only point on which the two sides were stuck was on the number of days Hazare could fast.
As Hazare insisted that he be given 30 days permission for his protest, police made concessions stepping up from seven days to 14 days and finally in the night making a fresh offer of 21 days.
The stand-off continued even as government came under renewed attack in Parliament from Opposition parties after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a statement in both the Houses.
Singh maintained that Hazare was trying to impose his version of Lokpal Bill and his “totally misconceived path” was fraught with “dangerous consequences” for Parliamentary democracy.
Making similar points at the end of the debate on Prime Minister's statement in the Lok Sabha, Home Minister P Chidambaram said the Hazare has “undoubted right” to protest “as long as he wants” but subject to certain conditions.
Late night, the Prime Minister held discussions with senior ministers on the issue. PTI