Hazare supporters to observe countrywide hunger strike

New Delhi: Agitated over the treatment meted out to Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare-led civil society on Sunday announced a day-long nationwide hunger strike on Wednesday in protest and decided to boycott the meetings of Lokpal drafting committee in another showdown with the government.

Accusing the government of having suspicious intent with regard to dealing with corruption, Hazare said the civil society would defy prohibitory orders on Wednesday at Jantar Mantar to protest the police action against Baba Ramdev`s movement.

However, Hazare said he has "some issues" with the yoga guru and would not share the dais with him at Jantar Mantar.

"We have been interacting with this government in the Joint Committee for the last one and a half months. The incidents of the last night and the proceedings of earlier meetings clearly make government`s intentions in dealing with corruption suspect.

"The government has been trying to crush anti-corruption movement. We have therefore decided not to attend Joint Committee meetings," he told a press conference.

Hazare said his side was writing a letter to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is the chairman of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill, asking the government to make its stand public on some of the key issues related to the anti-corruption legislation.

"We have already made our stand clear on these issues.

After we receive government`s response, we will decide whether any useful public purpose would be served in attending joint committee meetings," he said.

On Ramdev, the Gandhian said he has to "sort out" the issues with the yoga guru before sharing the same platform for any protests. However, he was quick to add that he supported the issue of black money raised by Ramdev.

Asked how he plans to go ahead with his June 8 protest, Hazare said, "How can the government stop anyone from protesting? The land is not their `father`s property`. The citizens are the masters and the ministers are their servants".

Hazare also put another pre-condition for attending the joint committee meetings. "In view of government`s barbaric actions, since its intentions to remove corruption have become suspect, we will attend any future meetings of the joint committee only if they were telecast live."

"If the Government hesitates in bringing a strong Lokpal Bill, we will be left with no option but to go back to Jantar Mantar," he said.

He said, if the government does not learn the lesson, a bigger agitation will be launched, emphasising the need for launching a "second freedom struggle".

Comparing the government`s crackdown on Ramdev`s supporters to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the Gandhian said, "What is the difference between the British autocracy and today`s democracy? In Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Britishers fired on the people and here "kaale angrez" (Black English) did the same thing last night."

When asked if the government should resign over last night`s incident, Hazare said, "What would happen if the government changes? They are all the same. The new leaders will be the brothers of the old one."

Joint Committee co-chair Shanti Bhushan demanded that the PM explain the reasons that provoked the police action on Baba`s supporters last night and said if the government doesn`t make its stand clear, another nationwide agitation will be launched.