Anna Hazare calls off fast following notification on Lokpal Bill; tough times ahead
New Delhi: Veteran reformer Anna Hazare, who spearheaded an unparalleled people’s movement against corruption, ended his 97-hour fast here Saturday following assurances from the government that it would introduce a more stringent anti-graft law in the monsoon session of parliament.
As tumultuous crowds gathered at Jantar Mantar, ground zero of the pan-India crusade, and millions others watched on television, the 72-year-old took a few sips of juice offered to him by a little girl. Loud cheers erupted and the strains of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn “Raghupati Raghava Raja” filled the air.
Hazare, who began his fast Tuesday morning, congratulated the people for the success of the movement that saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issue a statement promising that the Lokpal (ombudsman) bill, with more teeth to effectively counter corruption in public life, would be introduced this July.
Terming the movement a second freedom struggle, he said the system had to be changed. “We have got a lot of strength from the people,” the former soldier said, adding that there would be further revolutions on other issues confronting India.
“We have to keep our unity intact. We have a lot of work ahead,” he said indicating that a new journey has begun.
The veteran Gandhian announced that he will soon tour the entire country in support of his campaign against corruption.
“Our relationship should not end here, our relationship should be built from here,” the crusader told thousands gathered in the heart of the capital just before breaking off his hunger strike.
“Whenever I get time, I will go to every state,” he added to wild cheers and clapping.
The Prime Minister said in a statement: “The fact that civil society and government have joined hands to evolve a consensus to move this historic legislation augurs well for our democracy. I am pleased that Anna Hazareji has agreed to give up his fast.”
“This is a scourge that confronts all of us. The government intends to introduce the Lokpal Bill in parliament during the Monsoon Session.”
The Prime Minister said the interaction between the government and representatives of social reformer Anna Hazare was productive.
“I hope that the process of preparing this legislation will move forward in a constructive mode so that after consultation with a wide spectrum of stake holders, the legislation is placed before the cabinet for introduction during the monsoon session,” he added.
Describing it as a victory of the people, activist Swami Agnivesh waved copies of the gazette notification and said: “I am thankful to the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government that they respected the sentiments of the common people. And they came out with a respectable solution.
The first signs of breakthrough came Friday evening when Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, the high profile anti-corruption activists who had backed Anna Hazare, emerged from Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal’s residence after another round of talks.
Hazare announced Friday night that he would be calling off his fast Saturday.
It was a carnival like atmosphere at Jantar Mantar where hundreds of people early Saturday danced to drumbeats, shouted slogans and hugged each other to celebrate the victory of Anna Hazare who has been sitting on a hunger strike since April 5.
There was a festive mood at the site as school children holding tricolour marched to Jantar Mantar and live bands performed on the dais.
Several people showered rose petals on the roads while preparations were on for a `havan’ to be performed at the Jantar Mantar Saturday.
“I have been coming here from last five days and today (Saturday) I am here to celebrate people’s victory with Anna Hazare. I feel that Jantar Mantar is the holiest shrine in the country as people have come here to pray for the well being of the country,” said Smita Garg, a school teacher.
The government and the civil society arrived at a consensus Friday night after four rounds of talks.
“I was constantly supporting the movement. Anna Hazare’s successful agitation is the victory of democracy,” said an ecstatic Sudersh Adhikaro, a shopkeeper.
Arun Bhoj, 32, a marketing executive, said: “I am very inspired by Gandhian principles as they are relevant even today. A sole man following Gandhian principles have made the Indian government bow… this is the power of democracy.”
A human chain has been formed near the dias to prevent people from climbing onto the stage.
“Usually we have a tendency to crib that things are not fine like traffic woes, water shortage. Anna Hazare’s success is an inspiration for all of us and we should learn a lesson from it,” said Sunia Gambhir, 28, a homemaker.