Indian anti-graft activist Anna Hazare vows ‘wave of protest’
NEW DELHI: Indian anti-graft activist Anna Hazare on Monday threatened a “wave of protest” that would bring down the government on the second day of a hunger strike to push for stronger anti-corruption laws.
More than 3,000 people carrying banners and shouting slogans in support of Hazare’s campaign gathered at the protest venue in central New Delhi where he launched his “fast until death” on Sunday.
The 75-year-old former army truck driver wants parliament to strengthen a pending anti-corruption bill and also create a special team to probe possible graft allegations against 15 ministers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“The way this wave of protest against corruption is building in the country, I am getting this feeling that the government would have to bring a strong Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill or else it will have to go,” Hazare told the cheering crowd.
Hazare became an unlikely national hero last August when he led protests that tapped into a rich seam of public anger at endemic corruption and drew millions onto the streets in cities across India.
During a 12-day hunger strike in New Delhi, he was feted as a latter-day Mahatma Gandhi and mobbed at a triumphal procession through the capital.
His current fast has failed to galvanise the same mass support and the national media coverage has been relatively critical, with accusations that he is trying to hold parliament to ransom.
Hazare’s main demand focuses on a new anti-corruption bill that would set up a federal ombudsman, or Lokpal, with powers to probe official corruption.
Hazare insists the draft of the bill currently before a parliamentary committee is too weak to be effective.
Despite the smaller crowds than last year, his supporters on Monday said the national mood was firmly behind their hero.
“People are with Anna Hazare. Everyone is sick of corruption and even if they do not show up at the protest venue, they still stand by him,” said Ramesh Chand Dhawan, 65, a retired government employee.
“We all love and respect Hazare and will fight against corruption till the very end.”Sagar Sehgal, a 24-year-old financial consultant, said he and six friends had taken the day off work to come and show their support.
“It is time to come out of our offices and houses to prove that we are with Hazare. The government should wake up or they will be wiped out in the next elections in 2014,” Sehgal said.