Indian Activist Refuses To Leave Jail

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NEW DELHI, Aug. 17 (UPI) — An imprisoned anti-corruption activist, Anna Hazare, has refused to leave jail, despite concessions from the Indian government, officials said.

Hazare, 74, wants the right to fast indefinitely in support of a strong lokpal, or anti-corruption ombudsman, the Press Trust of India reported. Police at first offered to let him have seven days for his protest fast, then 14 days and finally 21 days. Hazare wants 30.

Hazare spent his second night in the Tihar Jail just west of New Delhi.

PTI said the bargaining over the fast occurred as the government came under renewed attack in Parliament over Hazare’s arrest and rallies, and protests across the country, including a huge procession from India Gate to Parliament House, in his support.

Social activists Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar at first told cheering crowd of supporters that Hazare would come out of the jail, they should be prepared to go to JP Park for a rally.

But Hazare had other plans, and called close associates Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Manish Sisodia to discuss strategy, PTI reported.

Bedi came out of the prison complex and told crowds that consultations were ongoing and Hazare was not coming out anytime soon.

Police arrested Hazare and his associates Tuesday on a breach of peace charge.

The Hazare movement comes as the Singh government has been hit by a number of huge corruption scandals and allegations of high-level graft, even as the economy faces serious problems, including high inflation and rising food prices. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally has not been tarnished by any of the allegations, PTI reported.

Proceedings have been seriously disrupted in Parliament, where several critical economic and other reform bills are pending. The masses are irate over what they see as government’s failure to crack down on corruption and other social ills.

Under intense opposition pressure, Singh told Parliament Wednesday Hazare and his supporters have persisted with their demand their bill should be approved.

On Hazare’s arrest, Singh said the activist and his supporters through public statements had made it clear they would defy prohibitory orders under law, leading police to conclude they would commit a cognizable offense.

Singh said the more than 2,600 people detained Tuesday by police have since been released.

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