M A I N   N E W S

Govt climbs down, lets Hazare have his way
Anna gets spacious Ramlila Ground for his fast instead of the smaller JP Park
Sandeep Yadav
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
In a major victory for Team Anna and his followers, the Delhi Police today allowed the Gandhian to hold a 15-day fast in support of a strong Lokpal Bill at the historic Ramlila Maidan here from tomorrow.

A compromise to end the three-day standoff was reached in the wee hours today after a meeting between Police Commissioner B K Gupta and four key members of Team Anna -- Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia.

As per the agreement, the police permitted the 73-year-old Gandhian to hold a fast for 15 days, subject to certain conditions which have been accepted by Team Anna. “We have been given the Ramlila Maidan for 15 days with an assurance by the Delhi Police that if we need the ground for more days, we can stay there. The conditions imposed on us earlier have also been withdrawn,” said Kejriwal while addressing supporters outside Tihar Jail this morning.

However, since the Ramlila Maidan needs to be prepared for the protest, Anna will remain on the jail premises for the third consecutive night. After arrangements like the erection of tents, setting up of temporary toilets and provision of water have been completed by tonight, the crusader against corruption is expected to reach the venue tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Team Anna gave a fresh undertaking to the Delhi Police for holding the fast. “There is no such thing as complete liberty. Of course, the organisers have given us a signed undertaking on all 22 conditions put up by us,” said a senior Delhi Police official, explaining that the conditions remained but they have been changed to the convenience of both parties.

The organisers will not be allowed to use loudspeaker after 10 pm, nor will they be permitted to gather more people than the capacity of the ground. The signed undertaking also says that Anna’s check-up will be conducted by government-appointed doctors as well as his private doctor.

“Earlier we were permitting them to hold their fast for three days but now it’s 15 days. Similarly, since the JP Park is small, we were allowing them a gathering of not over 5,000 people and now the crowd limit has been increased to 50,000 since the Ramlila Maidan can hold these many people. All this has been taken by us in writing,” said the official.

Regarding several rounds of negotiations stretched over two days to reach the compromise formula, the official revealed that Anna had agreed to seven days’ fast yesterday morning but Arvind Kejriwal had put his foot down, saying it should be for at least 15 days.

“Anna is an honest and naïve man. He saw point in our argument that if it was a dharna then demanding 15 or 30 days would have been fine but since he planned to sit on fast, he was likely to be shifted to hospital within a week considering his age. However, Arvind Kejriwal, insisted on 21 days and it is after a lot of persuasion on our part that he agreed to make it 14 days,” revealed the official, adding that a verbal agreement was given to Team Anna on the Tihar premises around 10 pm by Special Commissioner (Law and Order) Dharmender Kumar.

Team Anna too softens stance

n Says Anna will be on hunger strike only till his health permits

n Hints that it might not insist on inclusion of higher judiciary in the Lokpal Bill if the government brought a "good" Judicial Accountability Bill

n Requests that the Jan Lokpal Bill should at least be brought to Parliament for consideration 





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