Unfazed Anna Hazare fasts in police custody as protests in his support spread far and wide
| New Delhi, August 16, 2011 | 07:37
Hazare fasts in police custodyHazare, Bedi and Kejriwal were brought to the Delhi Police Officers' Mess at Civil Lines after their arrest, where the Gandhian launched a fast. Hazare's team said he was not even taking water.
Protests in support of Hazare
Team Anna is planning to move the Supreme Court against the arrests. Meanwhile, there were reports of massive support pouring in for Hazare, with IIT Kharagpur students planning to go on a hunger strike.
Residents of Hazare's village Ralegan Siddhi took to the streets in protest. Scores of people trooped out of their homes soon after news of the arrest of Hazare and his team members reached the village, about 230 km from Mumbai.
There was a spontaneous shutdown in the village. Many villagers, including women, marched to the local Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation bus depot and raised slogans against the government.
Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh said efforts were made in the morning to persuade Hazare to give up his proposed fast, but he refused to relent.
Cops tried to persuade AnnaAccording to sources, senior police officials, including DCP (Crime) Ashok Chand, met with Hazare in the morning at an East Delhi apartment, where he was staying, in a bid to convince him to not go ahead with his planned protest defying prohibitory orders at J.P. Park.
Flaying the police move, Bedi said: "Emergency has revisited the country. This is undemocratic and unconstitutional," she said.
Government has become dictatorial: Prashant BhushanPrashant Bhushan, a key civil society member of the joint Lokpal Bill draft committee, said: "The government has become dictatorial. Democratic rights are being infringed upon, which will lead to more anger among the people."
Anna detention undemocratic: Ramdev
Baba Ramdev said the arrest of Anna Hazare was undemocratic.
Ahead of the proposed fast by the Gandhian, a group of people had thronged the East Delhi apartment where Hazare was staying to pledge their support to his protest. Security personnel, including some in plainclothes and some from the special branch, were deployed around the apartment premises.
Chetan Bhagat, Anupam Kher slam arrest
Author Chetan Bhagat said Hazare's arrest was a disastrous move by the government while actor Anupam Kher called it the saddest day for Indian democracy. Anupam Kher said, "Government has angered the common man."
PM holds CCPA meetPrime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs to take stock of the situation.
After the Delhi Police denied him permission to hold his fast, Hazare had on Monday given a call to his supporters to fill up jails all over the country if he is arrested.
-With inputs from Headlines Today and PTI
Protest is central to a democracy
Gyanant Singh | August 16, 2011 | 08:03
The government may be right in claiming that it was its prerogative to draft or give a final shape to the Lokpal Bill but it will find it difficult to explain the use of its power to regulate protests to virtually stifle dissent being expressed in the form of a peaceful protest.
Since the proposed protest was against inaction on part of the executive, the government dealing with the group should clearly seem to be fair and reasonable.
Despite Anna having compromised on the venue for his much publicised 'indefinite' fast protest beginning today, the Delhi Police restricted the duration of his protest to three days at the 'rear portion' of the Jai Prakash Narayan Park on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg.
Incidentally, the Anna-led group had given up the Jantar Mantar site and had decided to settle for another venue after it was stressed that no 'indefinite' protest could be allowed at Jantar Mantar as many organisations would want to hold protest at the site as the monsoon session of Parliament was in progress.
The new venue was agreed to between the Anna camp and the police after the latter stated that such a long protest could not be allowed at Jantar Mantar in view of the need for equitable distribution of space for protests by various groups.
In a letter on August 16, the Delhi Police said it had 'now been advised' that the venue could not be allotted beyond 'one or two days' due to legal and administrative constraints. It would,
however, persuade the land owning agency to extend the period to three days. To add insult to injury, Anna, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi have been asked to sign an undertaking that they would ensure that "the gathering does not exceed 4000/ 5000 persons". Apart from the fact that it would be beyond their control to predict the number of people unlike in political rallies where supporters are ferried to the venue, restricting the number of people to a maximum of 5,000 would amount to curtailing the rights of thousands of people who would like to voice their concern against corruption by going to the venue.
The right of people to visit the site to support the protest - which may be justified or unjustified - is independent of the right of Anna or his team.
With team Anna terming the restrictions as unconstitutional and gearing up to defy the Delhi Police diktats, Union minister Kapil Sibal quoted a Supreme Court judgment (1973 1 SCC 227) stating that "the right which flows from Art. 19(1)(b) is not a right to hold a meeting at any place and time". Though Sibal stopped at this, the next line of the judgment stresses that the state can only impose 'reasonable' restrictions in the interest of public order.
"Freedom of assembly is an essential element of a democratic system. The basic assumption in a democratic polity is that government shall be based on the consent of the governed," the Supreme Court has said in the judgment quoted by the minister.
It further stressed that free consent implied discussions and the right of citizens to "meet face to face with others for the discussion of their ideas and problems, and public streets are the 'natural' places for expression of opinion and dissemination of ideas." On limiting the crowd, Sibal said it could have been more if he had opted for far off Burari as the venue for protest. If this argument is taken to be valid, one cannot explain the symbolic march of our first freedom fighters from Meerut to Delhi in 1857 and repeated 'Delhi Chalo' refrain by protesters across the country.
Besides, the Delhi Police had initially agreed to venue. Sibal was further joined by his colleagues in the government to question the protest at a time when the Bill had already been introduced in Parliament.
The ministers reportedly stressed that Anna's demand was unconstitutional and his protest at this time was an affront to Parliament.
No doubt Parliament is an important institution but 'we the people' of the country also enjoy a special status in the Constitution.
Such a protest may not be justified in normal circumstances but to prevent it by imposing onerous conditions might be worse.