M A I N   N E W S

Deadlock as Anna stays put in Tihar
* Police says Hazare can protest for 21 days
* Activist wants permission to fast for 30 days
Sandeep Yadav/TNS

New Delhi, August 17
With the Delhi Police refusing to accept social activist Anna Hazare’s demand of unconditional release and permission to hold an indefinite fast in the National Capital, it is likely that the septuagenarian Gandhian would spend his second night in Tihar Jail.

Although the police today relaxed its preconditions for allowing Hazare to hold fast and agreed to offer him Ramlila Maidan with 21-day permission, it was not enough for the veteran Gandhian who refused to leave the Tihar Jail premises unless he was given month-long permission to hold the fast.

The 21-day offer came late in the evening after Hazare rejected the Delhi Police’s seven-day and then 14-day permission (extendable on day-to-day basis after the stipulated period) to hold the fast. Hazare, however, agreed to Delhi Police’s suggestion to hold fast at Ramlila Maidan because it could accommodate more people.

The change in the government stance came after the UPA government drew flak in Parliament and outside for arresting Anna, which led to peaceful protests across the nation.

In a show of solidarity with Anna, several thousand people thronged the India Gate premises in the evening and held a candlelight march while several hundred courted arrest across the city all through the day. The unprecedented gathering at the India Gate later caused traffic snarls in several parts of New Delhi even as chant “Anna” gathered momentum into the night.

Several rounds of discussion were held between Anna and the police team led by Dharmender Kumar, Special Commissioner (law and order), at the office of DG (Prisons) Neeraj Kumar throughout the day, but no solution to the logjam could be reached.

Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said the negotiations between the two sides were in the final stage and the matter was stuck only on the number of days for which the permission for the fast was being given.

“Anna ji has asked for 30-day permission to hold fast, but the police has offered him seven-day permission. He has refused to leave the jail premises until the government gives him a month-long permission,” said Bedi.

Confirming the police offer to Anna Hazare to hold fast for 21 days, a senior Delhi Police official said it was yet to be agreed to by Anna. “Our officials are in negotiations with Anna regarding an offer of 21 days. Whether he agrees to it or not is still to be seen,” said the official.

According to sources, Anna is likely to agree to the 21-day offer, but he has asked for a written assurance from the Delhi Police and unless it is given, he will not leave the jail. Meanwhile, Anna continued with his fast for the second day and is said to be in good health. “Anna’s health is fine. However, Anna and members of his team do not have access to TV and mobile phone. Although the police claims that he is free now,” said a press statement from India Against Corruption.

The jail authorities also compiled with Hazare’s demand of meeting some of his key aides to plan out his strategy. According to information, Anna had several rounds of meetings with Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar, Manish Sisodia and Swami Agnivesh while Arvind Kejriwal was with him all through the day. The social activist also met Art of Living Foundation head Sri Sri Ravishankar and yoga guru Ramdev in the prison.

Addressing the media after meeting Hazare, Ramdev termed Hazare’s arrest as a “conspiracy in the name of democracy”.

Meanwhile, around 5,000 persons stood outside Tihar Jail throughout the day awaiting Anna’s release, while several thousands carried on with their protest in various parts of the Capital, including Jai Prakash Naryan Park, Raj Ghat, Pragati Maidan. The Delhi Police, which behaved very politely with the peaceful protesters, quietly boarded the people in pre-arranged buses and dropped them to Chhatrasal Stadium that has been converted into a makeshift prison.





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