Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and his team changed the venue for their hunger strike on June 8 from Jantar Mantar to Rajghat in the national capital on Tuesday.
The change in venue was decided after the Delhi Police denied Hazare permission saying that Section 144 of the CrPC, which disallows any public gathering, was in force.
Hazare’s team made it clear that the civil society would go ahead with the fast as planned except the venue. RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, a key aide of Hazare and a member of the Lokpal Bill draft committee, said the team was even ready to court arrest.
“To impose article 144 is unconstitutional. Our aim is to sit peacefully on anshan. Now we will sit at Rajghat instead of Jantar Mantar, morning till night. We are not in favour of confrontation,” Kejriwal said adding that the representatives of the society would not leave the Lokpal Bill panel and attend its meeting from June 15.
Denying the Hazare team permission to hold the protest at Jantar Mantar the Delhi Police reasoned that since prohibitory orders were in force in New Delhi district, five or more people could not be allowed to assemble. Jantar Mantar falls in the New Delhi district, where Section 144 is in force till June 11. The prohibitory order was imposed in two police districts – Central and New Delhi – following the eviction of yoga guru Baba Ramdev on Saturday midnight.
Kejriwal also demanded live telecast of the meetings of Lokpal Bill draft committee.
Reacting to Union Minister Kapil Sibal’s doubts about the Lokpal Bill panel Kejriwal said, “They are putting words in our mouth. There was never any plan of leaving Lokpal panel.”
Backing Kejriwal, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said, “At no stage did we say that we are leaving Lokpal panel. We are speaking up against corruption… It was huge misinformation.”
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is also on the Lokpal Bill draft committee, slammed the government for imposing Section 144 at Jantar Mantar.
“Imposing Section 144 at Jantar Mantar is violation of our fundamental right as Anna’s anshan does not pose any threat. We had mentioned in our letter to Delhi Police about wanting to express our protest against what happened at Ramlila Maidan,” Bhushan said.
Hazare had on Sunday announced a day-long nationwide hunger strike on Wednesday to protest the eviction of yoga guru Baba Ramdev during his satyagraha at Delhi’s Ramlila grounds. He had even decided to boycott meetings of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee.
Accusing the government of suspicious intent on dealing with corruption, Hazare said the civil society would defy prohibitory orders on Wednesday.
“We have been interacting with the government for the last one and a half months. The (Ramdev eviction) incident and the proceedings of earlier (Lokpal draft panel) meetings clearly make the government’s intentions in dealing with corruption suspicious,” he said.
“The government has been trying to crush the anti-corruption movement,” he alleged.
Hazare had in April staged a successful fast unto death agitation at Jantar Mantar to push the government to draft an effective Lokpal Bill.
The agitation drew the support of thousands across the country and forced the government to set up a Lokpal Bill drafting committee, comprising civil society members as well. India Today