New Delhi: Activist Anna Hazare, 75, is in on the third day of his hunger strike against corruption at Delhi's Jantar Mantar. The government says that it's upto his supporters to convince him to end his fast. "Those that gave permission for the camp at Jantar Mantar will decide how to deal with issues like deteriorating health," said government sources, who also ruled out any backroom discussions with Anna and his aides.
A year ago, a 16-day fast by Anna in Delhi against corruption galvanised a middle class that was drained by immense and sordid corruption in government offices and departments. As Anna fasted, students, housewives, professionals attended his protest camp, chanting, "Anna tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain (Anna, you lead the movement, we are with you"). Public anger against the system and Anna's deteriorating health weighed heavily on the government. The Prime Minister urged Anna to end his fast. The activist agreed when Parliament promised to consider urgently his request to pass a historic new law to check graft among politicians and bureaucrats. That law would be derived from the Lokpal Bill, named after a new national ombudsman agency authorized to investigate and prosecute government servants accused of graft.
This time around, the government has decided that it will make no assurances or offers in exchange for Anna ending his hunger strike. Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V Narayanasamy described the hunger strike to NDTV as "a drama." Senior government sources who did not want to be named said that Anna's own team should take responsibility for the health of its members. Anna's aides like Arvind Kejriwal have been fasting for nearly a week now. "Anyone's health is a concern but we will not be pushed into a corner," said government sources. They pointed out that the ruling coalition introduced the Lokpal bill in parliament in December- it was passed by the Lok Sabha but is now stalled in the Rajya Sabha, where opposition parties have asked for more than 200 amendments.
The government's stark attitude towards Anna and his team is at least partly provoked by the activists' blacklisting of the Prime Minister and 14 senior ministers. Team Anna says it has documented evidence to prove how through corruption or by sheltering other venal parties, they hurt the nation's interests. The activists demanded an independent inquiry against the ministers. The government said that the unsubstantiated charges did not merit a circumvention of established processes. Many ministers replied individually to Anna, explaining why his team's allegations were factually incorrect.
Team Anna has also been accused of using inappropriate language against politicians. Mr Kejriwal infamously said MPs include rapists and dacoits. A few days ago, a group of people moved allegedly from Anna's camp to the Prime Minister's house and painted "chor" or "thief" on the wall of his residence.
Last month, the government admits, it tried to hold talks privately with Anna, who is often seen as more practical and flexible than those who make up his inner circle. Law Minister Salman Khurshid met Anna near Pune. A few weeks later, Anna publicly shared the details of the meeting. He said the minister had asked him to keep the meeting confidential , but that Anna discovered later that this was an attempt to fissure his camp. At that meeting, Anna said, Mr Khurshid had promised that the PM and Congress president Sonia Gandhi would consider his version of the Lokpal Bill.
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