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Hazare flays UPA – willing to face bullets for agitation

Mumbai: Lashing out at the government for criticising civil society activists, Gandhian Anna Hazare on Saturday vowed to continue with the proposed August 16 agitation despite "threats" to "crush" it, saying he was willing "to face bullets and not just lathis."

Pointing that laws like Right to Information were enacted because of the pressure of civil society, Hazare said, "If this (pressure on Government over Lokpal) amounts to blackmail, I am willing to resort to blackmail through out my life."

Dismissing criticism by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal on the role of civil society activists on the Lokpal Bill issue, he reminded the Congress-led government at the Centre that it was late Rajiv Gandhi who sought their opinion while enacting the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments for ushering in Panchayati Raj system in the country.

"Rajiv Gandhi wrote letters to over five lakh village heads all over the country, saying his government plans to bring in constitutional amendments regarding Panchayati Raj.

He sought views of the civil society in bringing the landmark legislation," he told reporters after inaugurating the office of `India Against Corruption` in South Mumbai here.

Hazare said his agitation from August 16 in support of a strong Lokpal will herald the "second independence movement". "I appeal to people to switch off their lights from 8 PM to 9 PM on that day and take to the streets shouting slogans demanding an end to corruption."

The activist said he was unperturbed by the veiled threat that his proposed agitation at Jantar Mantar in Delhi will be disrupted.

"They say the agitation will be crushed like Baba Ramdev`s. Is this the Congress of Mahatma Gandhi and Kamraj.

This is not democracy, but dictatorship. I am willing to face bullets and not just lathis."

Hazare justified the civil society pressure on Government to enact a strong Lokpal Bill, saying it is only with the people`s pressure that those in power will bow down.

"When the Government does not work as per expectations, people`s pressure is bound to mount. The Lokpal bill had been brought in Parliament eight times, but nothing has come out of it.

"When corrupt Ministers and bureaucrats go to jail, corruption will stop as it will send a stern message to the society at large," he said.

Reacting to Sibal`s reference to civil society members in the joint Lokpal Bill drafting committee as "unelected group", the septuagenarian Gandhian stressed the civil society was the `malik` (owners), while Ministers and bureaucrats were the "servants".

According to him, `gram sabha` (village assembly) was the `janani` (mother) of state legislatures and Parliament.

To a question on MNS chief Raj Thackeray`s call to him to "expose" Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Hazare said he has no plans to meet either of them. "I have nothing to do with both of them."

Hazare also threatened to launch an agitation in Maharashtra if the state government ignores corruption that has taken place in the Lavasa hill city project.

He said `gram sabha` (village assembly) was the `janani` (mother) of state legislatures and Parliament.

The veteran anti-corruption activist maintained that he has never said he did not believe in Parliamentary democracy. "The need of the hour was to change the perception that politics is for power and money. Lokpal will help effect that change."

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