Thousands of people across India have flocked to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the arrest of anti-corruption advocate, Anna Hazare – with many taking to the cyber world to express their support.
Hazare was detained Tuesday morning, hours before he was to start an indefinite hunger strike in an attempt to gain tighter restrictions on Parliament’s version of the Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill).
The anti-corruption bill was drawn up by notable civil society activists, who sought the appointment of a Jan Lokpal – a separate body that would investigate corruption cases and complete the probe within one year, with a trial to follow over the next year.
A joint committee composed of equal members from both the government and the civil society worked together to draft the Lokpal Bill. However, after several meetings neither side could agree on fundamental elements and both groups drafted their own versions of the bill.
The government recently introduced their “Lokpal Bill” in Parliament, which Team Anna called the “Joke Pal Bill.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused the 74-year-old activist of trying to thwart democracy by urging Parliament to pass a version of the bill that he supports, according to AP.
Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered at the jail where Hazare was holding his hunger strike, chanting “Down with Corruption” and “Hail Mother India” in a show of support.
Singh told Parliament that it was Anna Hazare’s right to express his views of the draft bill, but he was undermining the role of government representatives by trying to force them to pass his own version of the anti-corruption bill.
"Those who believe that their voice and their voice alone represents the will of 1.2 billion people should reflect deeply on that position," Singh said. "They must allow the elected representatives of the people in Parliament to do the job that they were elected for.”
Regardless, thousands have gathered and the protests continued for a second day. Many of the activists were wearing headbands that read: “I am Anna.”
The campaign against corruption has also taken to the Internet. The Times of India has received over 25,000 comments on the web page dedicated to the Jan Lokpal Bill.
KOVIL, and SUHAS wrote, “We are with the GREAT ANNA to get another total independence, we need corruption free government.”
“It is necessary that the support of Jan Lokpal Bill to be seen EVERYWHERE. All people who support it cannot participate in rallies, however they may wish. But I have an idea. Let us have BUTTONS which read "I SUPPORT JAN LOKPAL BILL". People will wear it on their dresses and be seen everywhere,” sudhirdivadkar said.
Vilas wrote, “If we want free from Bhrastachar. Support ANNA HAZARE. Because government is not able to fight corruption.”
According to IBN Live, Hazare urged supporters to maintain peace. Prashant Bhushan quoted Anna as saying in a message from Tihar jail, “I appeal to people to maintain peace and calm and join us in the fight against corruption.”
The government has denied the claims that it was stifling a democratic protest and said that protestors were detained because they were not adhering to restrictions on the number of participants and fasting days.
Authorities have said they have offered to release Hazare, but he refused to leave the Tihar jail until he is allowed to continue his indefinite fast and that the pre-conditions have been withdrawn.
On Wednesday Delhi Police have reportedly granted permission for Hazare to hold his fast in Ramlila Maidan and for the most part withdrawn the pre-conditions for Anna to fast; easing six of the 22 conditions.