NEW DELHI, July 29: Social activist Anna Hazare began an indefinite fast against corruption here on Sunday, calling for the establishment of real “swaraj” or people’s rule in the country. The 75-year-old began the hunger strike at 10.30 near the Jantar Mantar observatory demanding a stringent Jan Lokpal bill to check corruption. A total of 350 others including three Team Anna members have been fasting since Wednesday. One of them was in hospital but stable after being in critical condition earlier.
Addressing thousands of supporters, Hazare said: “It is time for the return of swaraj in the country.” Using familiar idioms, he described politicians as “public servants” and the people as “owners” of the society. “But the picture today is that people have become servants and politicians are the owners,” he thundered to loud cheers.
“This movement is to awaken the people,” Hazare said.
The soldier-turned-activist from Maharashtra denied accusations that Team Anna was deviating from its stated aim of getting the Jan Lokpal Bill passed in parliament. “It is the government which is moving away from its path. Our main demand is to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed.”
He quickly added that as long as all 15 ministers in the Manmohan Singh government who Hazare alleges are corrupt remain in parliament, the Lokpal Bill will not be passed.
“I am ready to sacrifice my life for the cause. I am confident that people will not let me die till Jan Lokpal bill is passed.”
The three key Team Anna members on fast are Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai.
Meanwhile, 15 hunger strikers had to be taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital after their condition deteriorated, a Team Anna member told IANS.
Earlier, Hazare used diplomatic language to criticise Saturday’s surprise protest by some of his supporters outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s official residence.
He said the protest was a reaction by people angry with the government. However, he advised his supporters to “think before doing any such things” in future.
“People are fed up and angry as they have been suffering for so long. We should think before taking any such step as it involves the country’s prime minister,” Hazare told reporters before starting his fast.
The crowds appeared to be more on Sunday compared to earlier days.
Shilpa Gupta, an Anna supporter, told IANS: “I was not able to come the last four days. I decided to come to Jantar Mantar today to join the fight against corruption.”
The Lokpal Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in the winter session last year, but got stuck in the Rajya Sabha and was referred to a parliamentary select committee.
It was expected to be tabled during the budget session but was not. Team Anna members are demanding that their version of the bill be incorporated and passed by parliament.
Team Anna has permission to fast at Jantar Mantar till August 8, the day the parliament’s monsoon session is expected to begin.
This is Hazare’s third indefinite hunger strike demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill. IANS