Yesterday India celebrated its 64th anniversary of gaining Independence from British rule after a long struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violence movement.

Barely 24 hours later, today we have the elderly Anna Hazare following Gandhian way of non-violent protest being arrested in the national capital and sent to 7 days judicial custody. His crime? Wanting to start a peaceful protest against rampant corruption in the society and against the government’s inability to introduce a strong anti-corruption Lokpal bill to fight this menace of corruption in the country.

Mahatma Gandhiji and his followers wanted India to gain Freedom from British rule. Anna Hazare and his followers want India to gain freedom from Corruption. The entire nation supported Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle. The entire nation is supporting Anna Hazare today in his fight against corruption in public life.

Mahatma Gandhij carried peaceful non-violent protests and was arrested by British several times. Anna Hazare was carrying out a peaceful non-violent protest following Gandhian way and got arrested today. Mahatma Gandhiji was arrested by the British. Anna Hazare is arrested by fellow Indians.

And all this under the rule of the government led by the Congress Party which never misses an opportunity to tell the Indian citizens that Gandhiji was associated with their party. If Gandhiji were alive today wouldn’t he have gone on fast against the corruption in the society? Would the government have then arrested Gandhiji?

What Anna Hazare and the country are demanding today is for the same principles and values which Mahatma Gandhiji stood for and taught us more than half a century back – “accountability in public life”. And by arresting Anna Hazare today the government has arrested the same principles and methods of protest which Gandhiji taught us.

Anna Hazare has been sent to jail no. 4 in Tihar Jail. This is the same jail where Suresh Kalmadi (of CWG Scam) is lodged.

Arvind Kejarwal is kept in jail no.1  where A Raja (of 2G Spectrum Scam) is lodged.

Supreme court of India sent the corrupt politicians to these jails, and the Government of India sent those fighting against the same corruption to these jails!

Sri Anna Hazare with Gandhiji in the background

The Reason for Anna Hazare’s Fast

Anna Hazare and other members of the civil society want the government to introduce a strong Lokpal bill (called Jan Lokpal Bill) into the parliament which will create an independent institution called Lokpal with adequate powers to prosecute and punish corrupt people in public life. Government on the other hand has tabled a weak Lokpal bill in the parliament which does not give enough powers to the to be formed Lokpal institution to prosecute and punish the corrupt. For a detailed explanation, read the difference between the government’s version of the bill and the civil society version.

When Anna Hazare started the fast earlier this year in April, to introduce a more powerful Jan Lokpal Bill – stung by the nation wide support to Anna’s movement the government formed a committee comprising of civil society members and parliament members to work out a mutually agreed draft of the Lokpal Bill. However later the government went back on its word of arriving at a mutually agreed draft and instead has gone ahead and tabled its own version of the Lokpal Bill in the parliament.

Hence Anna Hazare has resorted back to his indefinite fast since Aug 16 2011 (Today) and the entire nation is out on the streets supporting the movement and wants government to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in the parliament instead of its own weak version of the bill.

Venue of Anna Hazare’s Fast and Arrest

Anna Hazare wanted to conduct his peaceful protest and indefinite fast at JP Park in New Delhi and had sought permission from Delhi Police to organize the movement. However Delhi Police laid out 22 conditions to allow the fast of which 6 were rejected by Anna’s team. Now look at some of the conditions laid down by the police which were rejected by Anna’s team.

  • Number of vehicles in the Parking lot cannot be more than 50 cars and 50 motor cycles!
  • The Protest cannot be held beyond three days!
  • The number of protesters cannot be more than 5000!
  • No tent should be erected in the protest area!

Come on, any person who has attended the meeting or rally of any political party in this country knows that none of the above numerical restrictions are applicable to them. There are scores of political protests in this country which have gone for more than three days. In this rainy season if protestors  are not allowed to erect tents, then what does it mean? Don’t come here and protest, isn’t it?

Why is the restriction imposed on protests led by Anna, while political parties face no such restrictions in the country? Each and every rally of political parties claim to have been attended by thousands of participants. Its a known fact that for almost every single rally organized by a political party in this country people are ferried by the parties in lorries and trucks. And here we have a movement led by Anna where people are willingly participating, and the police deny permission for that!

The simple logic behind imposing all these restrictions and arresting Anna Hazare is that the government is simply scared of the massive public support this movement has got and is clueless about the way it needs to handle the movement. Arresting Anna Hazare will only make the movement even strong. All those passive supporters who were still undecided about joining the movement are now becoming more sympathetic towards the movement. The biggest PR blunder by the government is to have touched the emotions of the people of this country. How do you respond when you hear

“An old man in his seventies who was PEACEFULLY fighting for the future of the youth of this country who are in their twenties and thirties and teens and yet to be born, has been ARRESTED by the government”.

Reasons offered by UPA Government for tabling its own Lokpal Bill

The Government says that parliament is the final authority on deciding any law or bill in a democracy and Anna Hazare’s movement is a threat to democracy because it undermines parliament and wants to impose its own version of the bill.

The matter of the fact is Anna Hazare has on record said that, all we want is to introduce our version of the Lokpal bill in the parliament and let the parliament debate and discuss the pros and cons of our version of the bill and decide whether to pass it or not. All they want is for the government to just introduce the Civil Society’s version of the Lokpal Bill in the parliament. So where is the question of undermining parliament or democracy?

Here is what Anna Hazare said today

Our Prime minister said that Lokpal Bill will be sent to Parliament and we will have to abide by whatever Parliament decides. We have full confidence in Parliament but bring the right bill before the Parliament

Sounds fair isn’t it? Why is the government then so scared of introducing the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Anna Hazare and team in the parliament? Because it fears that the opposition members in the parliament will unite to pass the civil society’s version of the bill and if that happens then a strong Lokpal institution will ensure that more skeletons get exposed from the government’s closet. Already four members of parliament from the ruling alliance are in jail following allegations of corruption.

Arrogance in the Government

Inspite of being bogged down by massive corruption scams and having seen its ministers get arrested and sent to jail, there is still a too much of arrogance in the present government. Their rule of thumb seems to be, if you are against us then you will be detained, arrested and deported. They did it with the supporters of Baba Ramdev at midnight. They did it with the Anna Hazare and his followers today. Otherwise how can you see any reason of ARRESTING a person who just wanted to carry out a peaceful non-violent protest? Come on now, has protesting peacefully become a crime in this country today?

The massive corruption present in the public offices of this country today represents a total lawless situation in the country. Corruption itself means there is no law in the country, because if the elected representatives were living by the law and the spirit of democracy and respected their oaths in the parliament then there would have been no corruption in the country. So fight against corruption is fight against lawlessness in the country. So if the administration feels that by imposing section 144 and arresting a couple of people, they will establish law and order in the society, then there is no bigger irony than that. You cannot treat a peaceful protest against lawlessness in the society as a law and order problem. That shows the government’s immaturity. Now that the protests are spreading across the country, will the government then impose 144 section all over India?

Even in London which was recently rocked by riots and vandalism the police response was much more mature. Compare that with the peaceful protests by the responsible citizens of the country who have taken their time out from their daily work for a cause – a national cause, and you deny them a space for their protests and arrest the leaders?

The government says that “Everybody has a right to protest, but this is not the right way to protest”. I am lost, what are they trying to infer? If protesting peacefully is not the right way to protest, then what is? The Egyptian way? If the government snatches away even the space to peacefully protest, then what I am left with? Where is my fundamental right to freedom of expression?

On the one hand you have Ambika Soni from the government saying “The Central government has no role in the arrest of Anna Hazare”.

On the other hand Kiran Bedi has said that “When Anna asked what are the charges against us, the police said that they have been instructed to do so.”

The matter of the fact is that the Delhi Police take their orders directly from the Home Minister of India, unlike other police forces in the country which report to their respective state governments. To say that in India police act without any political influence is another cruel joke. If the government had left the choice to the police, then Anna would not have been arrested. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives every Indian a right to stage a peaceful protest.

For a Frustrated Indian, this is yet another frustrated day, but with a ray of hope that the massive public support to Anna’s movement will be able to bring about the required change in the society. Also read Shiv Viswanathan’s Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India.

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