Fasting Anna almost gets his way, but govt still holding out
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It has become clear that Hazare will not come out from his self-imposed stay in the Tihar Jail – where his fast entered the second day Wednesday – unless the government gives in to all his demands, the foremost among which is permission to fast for a month.
By evening, the Delhi Police – which had kept an uneasy eye on the mounting public pressure – had said 'yes' to several demands that it had rejected outright till yesterday. The police offered Hazare 10 days to fast at the Ramlila Maidan, with the convenient rider that it could be extended if necessary.
It removed the cap on the number of protesters who could gather at the fast venue, as well as the number of vehicles that could be parked there. Police had earlier denied permission to Hazare to hold his indefinite fast at Jai Prakash Narain Park near Ferozeshah Kotla Ground after the 73-year-old Gandhian refused to give an undertaking that he would restrict his protest to three days and the number of protesters to 5,000.
The fresh proposals came during marathon discussions between Hazare, his team and the police. Initially, the police insisted they could allow only five days of protest though Team Anna wanted a month.
The police have also said a medical team will monitor the Hazare's health and that of his supporters. A government doctor will be part of the team, and the other private medic could be chosen by the Hazare team. Earlier, the police had insisted on an all-government medical team.
The government has conveyed there should be no demand for a fast-unto-death, sources said.
Earlier in the day, after a meeting with Hazare inside jail, close associate Prashant Bhushan had said the government and the police were discussing with them options of a fast venue -- JP Park or Ramlila Maidan -- where he could launch his fight for a strong Lokpal Bill.
Bhushan said if conditions were imposed, Hazare would continue his fast inside the jail.
Even if it was the Ramlila Maidan, their fast would not bow to any conditions set by the government, Hazare's other aide Manoj Sisodia had said.
The Gandhian, who continues his fast inside the jail – though he was released last night – appealed to his followers to assemble at India Gate at 4 pm, from where a rally would be taken out towards Jantar Mantar in support of his Jan Lokpal Bill.
Hazare's aide Prashant Bhushan "invited" all to join the anti-corruption leader's movement and the team at India Gate.
Hazare also sent out word to his supporters from inside jail, asking them to be calm and to maintain peace.
Hazare's associates had earlier hinted Hazare would come out by afternoon and may go to Jai Prakash Narain Park, his preferred venue for the indefinite fast in support of his campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill.
Hazare, who was ordered to be released last night after a day-long detention before he was to begin his fast demanding a strong Lokpal, had refused to come out of the prison unless he was allowed to protest from JP Park without conditions.
Meanwhile, yoga guru Ramdev and Art of Living Foundation head Sri Sri Ravishankar joined protestors expressing solidarity with Anna Hazare outside Tihar Jail on Wednesday.
Ramdev, with whom Hazare and his associates have differences due to his alleged links with Hindutva elements, reached Tihar Jail this afternoon.
Earlier, Ramdev submitted a memorandum against Hazare's arrest to President Pratibha Patil.
Addressing protesters, Ramdev termed Hazare's arrest as a "conspiracy in the name of democracy".
"Anna is fighting for a strong Lokpal and his dream will be fulfilled. The whole country and all patriotic countrymen are with him in this struggle," he said.
Activists Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar had earlier joined hundreds of protestors while a large number of the Gandhian's supporters took out marches across the city.
Over the last few days, Team Hazare had refused to give a written undertaking that he would end his protest within three days and restrict the number of protesters to 5,000.
Hazare and seven of his aides were picked up from an East Delhi apartment yesterday morning hours before he was to launch his fast at JP Park after Delhi Police failed to persuade him to change his mind.
Police arrested him on grounds that he was about to commit a cognisable offence but in a sudden turn of events, the government decided to release him after protests erupted across the country against its action.
Addressing the crowd outside Tihar Jail, Prashant Bhushan, one of the close associates of Hazare, said: "Today's protest represents the significance of people's struggle not just against corruption but for democracy."
Hazare continued his fast for the second consecutive day as the government was caught in a cleft on how to deal with the embarrassing standoff.
He spent the night in the administrative block of the jail along with his associate Arvind Kejriwal.
Hundreds of people continued their vigil outside the jail premises as Hazare made it clear he would come out of the prison only if he was given permission to stage the indefinite fast.
When Hazare's supporters shouted slogans against HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Sisodia said the Gandhian has given "strict instructions" not to raise any slogans against any person or party.
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