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Sea Of Anna Supporters At India Gate

PTI 17 Aug 2011, 19:00:14 IST
PTI

New Delhi, Aug 17: A sea of supporters of Anna Hazare gathered this afternoon at the India Gate to begin a march to Jantar Mantar demanding Jan Lokpal Bill.

As the Gandhian leader was closeted inside the Director-General Prison's office in Tihar Jail campus with his aides demanding an unconditional assurance for holding an indefinite fast at J P Park, his supporters were asked to assemble at India Gate.

Delhi police officials kept a watchful eye over the demonstrators, mostly young and college-educated at India Gate who had come with banners  praising Anna Hazare.

Meanwhile, protests swelled across India today in support of the anti-corruption campaigner fasting to death.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's beleaguered government appeared to be apparently unable to end the standoff.

Hazare, who has struck a nerve with millions of Indians by demanding tougher laws against rampant corruption in India, insists he wants the right to return to  J P Park where he had originally planned to publicly fast, before he leaves jail.

The arrest and sudden about-turn to release him appeared to confirm a widespread feeling Singh's government is cornered, clumsy and too riddled with corruption scandals to govern Asia's third-largest economy effectively.

"Corrupt, repressive and stupid," was the verdict of The Hindu newspaper. "Anna has the government fumbling," was the headline of the Mail Today.

In Assam, thousands of farmers, students and lawyers marched. In the financial capital of Mumbai, 500 people carrying the Indian flag and wearing Gandhi caps chanted "I am Anna".

"I was forced to pay a bribe while getting my passport approved and I felt helpless," said student Rahul Acharya, 21. "This is the time all youngsters should join the movement so that the future would be corruption-free."

In the IT hub of Hyderabad, lawyers boycotted courts, students skipped class and hundreds took to the streets. In another IT hub of Bangalore, thousands of young demonstrators, mostly techies,  protested.

Hazare became the unlikely thorn in the side of the Congress-led coalition when he went on hunger strike in April. He called off that fast after the government promised to introduce the Lokpal bill creating a special ombudsman (Lokpal) to bring crooked politicians, bureaucrats and judges to book.

The legislation was presented in early August, but activists slammed the draft version as toothless because the prime minister and judges were exempt from probes.

Critics say Singh's government of mainly elderly politicians has no idea how to react to spontaneous protests, highlighting a generation gap as social networks like Twitter and Facebook galvanize thousands - including many of India's growing urban middle class, from Supreme Court lawyers to students.