Monday, 15 August 2011

Denied Permission To Fast, Anna Hazare Prays At Rajghat

Confrontation between Anna Hazare and Government escalated on Monday with police denying permission to the Gandhian for holding a fast from Tuesday to press for a strong Lokpal Bill and his team declaring that they would go ahead with the planned stir and court arrest if prevented.

Delhi Police's refusal of permission coincided with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's strong remarks in his Independence Day speech that hunger strikes and fasts-unto-death do not help address the problem of corruption and Parliament is the only body to form legislations to curb the menace.

The city police did not give its nod to hold the protest at Jai Prakash Narain Park near Ferozeshah Kotla stadium saying that the organisers have refused to give an undertaking on restricting the number of days of protest and protesters besides four other conditions.

Sudhir Yadav, Joint Commissioner of Police (Northern Range), said anybody assembling at the Park tomorrow would face legal action.

"We have denied the permission. Nobody is supposed to come to the park. If somebody comes there, it is unlawful. They will be handled according to law. If they do that, it is violation of law," Yadav said as police prepared to lock down the grounds.

The Hazare team said they have given an undertaking leaving six out of the 22 conditions laid by police. "We have not accepted six conditions as they are unconstitutional," activists Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi said.

The activists said Hazare would go to the venue and court arrest if he and his supporters were not allowed to enter the park. "We will court arrest tomorrow. The conditions laid by the Delhi Police are unconstitutional. Unfortunately they are under directions," Bedi said.

Kejriwal alleged that the denial of permission showed the "dictatorial and arbitrary attitude" of government and that it was creating an Emergency-like situation.

Asked whether they would approach court against the Delhi Police action, Kejriwal said, "All options are open and there is an option to go to court." Lawyer Prashant Bhushan had on Sunday said they may approach Supreme Court if a permission is denied.

The conditions that were not accepted by the Hazare team were capping the agitation to three days and the number of protesters to below 5,000, government doctors to check on Hazare, ban on use of loudspeakers after 9 PM, limiting the number of vehicles to 50 cars and 50 motorcycles in parking and not erecting tents.

Government, meanwhile, justified the police action with regard to Hazare's fast. Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the law of the land is the same for all and that everybody will have to take permission to carry out any protest.

A senior police official said they had been "very accommodating" and had gone out of the way to help the Hazare team. He said they would be forced to take action against them if they forcibly enter the park tomorrow.

However, Kejriwal alleged, "The conditions set by police were at the behest of politicians. Artificial restrictions were imposed on us. We won't agree to such unconstitutional methods." Soni denied these allegations.

Earlier in the day while addressing the nation on the occasion of Independence Day, the Prime Minister said those who are opposed to the bill should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts-unto-death.

Without naming Hazare and his agitation beginning from Tuesday, Singh said he was aware that some people had different opinion on some aspects of the Lokpal bill.

"Those who don't agree with this bill can put forward their views to Parliament, political parties and even the press. However, I also believe they should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts-unto-death," the Prime Minister said.

Reacting to this, the Hazare team called him an "insensitive" person who is asking people to fall in line on the issue.

Bedi claimed people have no trust left in the UPA government which was elected two years back as it had "squandered" an opportunity to make history by enacting a law for strong anti-corruption ombudsman.

"He speaks like a final arbiter. He says you cannot protest. This is a direct imposition of a bill on people against their will. The Prime Minister is imposing a bill on the country and saying protest fast is wrong. The PM is asking people to fall in line," Bedi told PTI.

"He is insensitive to people's perception. Surveys after surveys and referendums after referendums showed that people rejected the government's Lokpal Bill. He is not taking this into account," she alleged.

Supporting the Hazare team on the issue, senior CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said one's right to protest cannot be questioned even if you do not agree with the demands of the agitator.

"The point here is one may not agree with the form of protest or with all the demands being raised by Hazare.

However, his right to protest cannot be questioned. Saying once a bill is in Parliament, there can be no protest in this country is highly undemocratic.

"The Congress has forgotten when it was in opposition and when it is in Opposition, even in the states there are so many occasions they do not agree with a bill and they have staged a protest," she said.

Govt justifies Police rejecting permission to Anna

The Government on Monday justified Delhi Police rejecting permission for Anna Hazare's indefinite fast in the national capital in absence of an undertaking by his team saying law of the land is equal for all and even political parties have to take permission for holding agitations.

"I do not want to say any harsh thing against anybody. The law of the land is equal for all. Be it Congress, any other political party or any citizen, we all have to take the permission of the law and order machinery to carry out any protest or march," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters.

She said, "If anybody tries to violate it (law) knowingly" the law and order machinery will have to act.

Replying to questions on Anna team's contention that its right to protest cannot be taken away, Soni said everybody has got a right to protest but permission has to be sought keeping in mind law and order and other factors.

Soni dismissed allegation of civil rights activist Arvind Kejriwal that the police set the conditions on them at the behest of politicians saying any person making such allegation is "deliberately trying to mislead."

She said if anybody wanted to end corruption, some mechanism will have to be built and wondered "why there is this panic and desperation. Why can't we wait when we are going to take such a historic measure (brining Lokpal)."

Soni said MPs will also give their views on the bill when it goes to Parliament. "Let us see what suggestions they give, what amendments they bring," she said.


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