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Anna Has Driven Govt Into A Corner, Reports US Media

Washington, Aug 18 :  Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has driven Indian government into a political corner, the US media has said, but a leading paper feels that the methods being used by the social activist
PTI August 18, 2011 13:53 IST

Washington, Aug 18 :  Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has driven Indian government into a political corner, the US media has said, but a leading paper feels that the methods being used by the social activist are a recipe for “anarchy”.

The anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare, his arrest and his negotiation with the government, gorged wide coverage in the American media, with the papers saying that the Gandhian has become a thorn in the side of the government. 

“Hazare, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, is the face of a nationwide social movement against rampant corruption that has gathered pace this year after a string of high-profile scandals. He has become a major thorn in the side of the government, which is led by the Congress party,” The Washington Post reported.

The social reformer has become an unlikely figurehead for the fight against corruption in the country, CNN reported.  “He has been able to mobilise public support because there is so much dissatisfaction with the issue. Citizens have even created a website—ipaidabribe.com—where people can denounce the corruption they encounter in their daily lives,” the news channel reported.

“Fueled by obsessive coverage on India's all-news television networks, the jailhouse protest clearly captured the imagination of the country, and appeared to have backed government leaders into a political corner,” The New York Times said.

The Los Angeles Times said the Indian government attempt to head off a political crisis by arresting a key anti-corruption activist appeared to backfire when Parliament walked out and demonstrations erupted around the country. 

“In April, Hazare held a five-day fast that garnered enormous national support and helped make him the public face of a grass-roots anti-graft fight. It also put the ruling Congress Party under pressure to pass a controversial Lokpal, or people's protector, bill that, among other things, would establish an independent ombudsman able to investigate senior officials,” the paper said.

But the Wall Street Journal accused Hazare of undermining the Indian constitution, alleging that the methods used by the social activist are nothing but a “grammar of anarchy”.  “Methods of Hazare's kind have no place in a democratic republic and, as the architect of India's constitution B R Ambedkar warned in 1949, are nothing but the grammar of anarchy,” said the paper.

“The real issue should be Hazare's demagogic tactics. An open political system like India's resolves differences through the ballot box, but Hazare is intent on forcing the issue by threatening to fast to the death,” the daily said. 

“Hazare's supporters encourage comparisons to the emergency rule in 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties. But if there is anyone who wants to undermine India's constitution today, it is Hazare,” The wall Street Journal said.  “He demands that parliament create the unelected post of ombudsman, chosen by a panel of worthies, with sweeping powers to haul up any public official on graft charges, including the prime minister,” the daily said.

“Who will guard the guardian if he begins to engage in politically motivated prosecutions?” the daily asked. 

In Washington,  the US State Department has blamed “inaccurate reporting” in India for creating an impression that it had issued a strong statement on Anna Hazare there, contending that it supports freedom of peaceful expression and non-violent protest across the globe.  “There was some extremely inaccurate reporting out of India ... that the United States had issued some sort of strong statement, which we did not issue. The only statement about India yesterday to my knowledge was the one that we made from the podium here,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, told reporters last evening.

Nuland was responding to questions about the statement by a Congress party spokesman suggesting that the US was interfering in the internal affairs of India.  “I think this goes to inaccurate reporting in India that we had issued some sort of statement on—with regard to this case that we did not issue. With regard to the case, however, you know where we are. We support freedom of expression and assembly. And we encourage all countries and all parties to do the same,” Nuland said.
She said all democratic governments have a responsibility to allow peaceful protest and freedom of dissent, even as they work to maintain public safety, and India is a country that has a strong and long-established democratic tradition, to which people look up to.

“It has a long tradition of non-violent protest. And it's widely admired for these things and open debate. And that's the standard that we—we all have come to expect from India,” Nuland said.

“I hope you heard, in the statement made yesterday, the statement just made, with regard to India, the same underlying principles with regard to the strong, vibrant democracy of India as we hope for in the transitional countries that we're working with, Egypt, Tunisia, etcetera. In all countries, the US supports peaceful freedom of expression, non-violent protest,” Nuland said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not spoken to her Indian counterpart in the last couple of days. “Obviously, our embassy has been enunciating these same principles,” she said.

“We support the principle of freedom of assembly, rightof non-violent protest in democracies around the world and in countries around the world, the universal principle,” Nuland said when asked if her comments were general in nature or specific to the movement of Anna Hazare. PTI