Veteran Indian activist arrested ahead of anti-graft fast | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 16.08.2011
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Veteran Indian activist arrested ahead of anti-graft fast

Police in India have arrested veteran anti-graft activist Anna Hazare. He was about to begin a fast unto death as part of his campaign for tougher laws against corruption.

Indian social activist Anna Hazare, center, Kiran Bedi, second right, Prashant Bhushan, third right, and Arvin Kejriwal

Anna Hazare has been campaigning for civil rights for decades

As he was led away by policemen, Anna Hazare waved to hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside an apartment in the eastern part of the Indian capital New Delhi where the activist had planned to begin his fast against corruption.

Three of the 74-year-old's closest supporters were also arrested. They are Kiran Bedi, a senior police officer, and two fellow activists Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia.

"We are holding Hazare in preventive detention until this evening and then we shall decide what to do with him," police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.

'Not prohibiting peaceful protest'

Hazare is being driven in an open-top car surrounded by supporters

For Hazare, the Lokpal bill does not go far enough

On top of this, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said later on in the day that at least 1,200 people had been taken into custody in New Delhi as police acted to halt the hunger strike. "We are not prohibiting a peaceful democratic protest," he insisted.

As the day went on, Indian media reports suggested that Hazare had begun his fast in police custody.

The Indian parliament was adjourned after opposition members protested against the arrest in the upper and the lower houses. A spokesperson for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said that the "government does not know how to deal with opposition in parliament and with civil society outside parliament."

'Second freedom struggle'

Hazare's planned protest was to pressure the government into strengthening a new anti-corruption law.

"The second freedom struggle has started," the activist says in a message posted on YouTube. "This is a fight for change. Unless there is change, there is no freedom, there is no actual democracy, there is no true republic, there is no true people's rule. The protests should not stop. The time has come for no jail in the country to have a free space."

In April, he received a lot of support from celebrities and important social figures when he organized a 98-hour-strike demanding for more civil society participation in a proposed anti-corruption law that is also known as the Lokpal bill.

A supporter wears a picture of Indian rights activist Anna Hazare at the site where he was detained

Over a thousand of Hazare's supporters were detained on Tuesday

The proposed bill seeks to create a new ombudsman who investigates politicians and bureaucrats, but not the prime minister or the judiciary. Hazare and civil society activists want these to also be included in the list of positions that can be scrutinized.

Hazare re-launched his protest on Monday, saying the proposed bill had been considerably watered down to the disadvantage of civil society.

He was denied permission to fast near a cricket stadium in New Delhi when he said he would not end his protest within three days and refused to ensure that not more than 5,000 people would take part.

Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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