BeyondHeadlines Staff Reporter
New Delhi: No consensus could be reached between Anna Hazare and the government till afternoon today with the Gandhian reiterating that he would not come out of his self-imposed stay in Tihar Jail unless allowed to fast without conditions.
After a meeting with Hazare inside the prison, lawyer and Hazare’s close associate Prashant Bhushan said the government and the police were discussing with them options of a fast venue — JP Park or Ramlila Maidan — where he could launch his fight for a strong Lokpal Bill.
Bhushan said if conditions were imposed, Hazare would continue his fast inside the jail.
Even if it was Ramlila Maidan, their fast would not bow to any conditions set by the government, Hazare’s other aide Manoj Sisodia said.
The government is not ready to allow a fast for more than five days while Team Anna’s relentless demand is permission for a month.
The Gandhian, who continues his fast inside the jail – though he was released last night – appealed to his followers to assemble at India Gate at 4 pm, from where a rally would be taken out towards Jantar Mantar in support of his Jan Lokpal Bill.
Hazare’s aide Prashant Bhushan “invited” all to join the anti-corruption leader’s movement and the team at India Gate.
Hazare also sent out word to his supporters from inside jail, asking them to be calm and to maintain peace.
Till afternoon, while debates raged between the government and the Opposition in Parliament, it was obvious a compromise formula was far from sight, the sticking point now being the length of the fast.
Sources said the maidan had been offered to Anna keeping in mind its expanse and secure environment.
Hazare’s associates had earlier hinted Hazare would come out by afternoon and may go to Jai Prakash Narain Park, his preferred venue for the indefinite fast in support of his campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill.
Hazare, who was ordered to be released last night after a day-long detention before he was to begin his fast demanding a strong Lokpal, had refused to come out of the prison unless he was allowed to protest from JP Park without conditions.
Meanwhile, yoga guru Ramdev and Art of Living Foundation head Sri Sri Ravishankar joined protestors expressing solidarity with Anna Hazare outside Tihar Jail on Wednesday.
Ramdev, with whom Hazare and his associates have differences due to his alleged links with Hindutva elements, reached Tihar Jail this afternoon.
Earlier, Ramdev submitted a memorandum against Hazare’s arrest to President Pratibha Patil.
Addressing protesters, Ramdev termed Hazare’s arrest as a “conspiracy in the name of democracy”.
“Anna is fighting for a strong Lokpal and his dream will be fulfilled. The whole country and all patriotic countrymen are with him in this struggle,” he said.
Activists Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar had earlier joined hundreds of protestors while a large number of the Gandhian’s supporters took out marches across the city.
Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh had announced to the hundreds of supporters waiting since last night that the 73-year-old Gandhian would come come out of prison by afternoon.
“The government has bowed down. We will have to be prepared to go to JP Park in a peaceful manner,” Agnivesh said.
However, lawyer Prashant Bhushan told reporters that “we have no information or confirmation yet whether the government has conceded to demands of Hazare that he will be allowed to sit on fast in JP Park without any conditions”.
Over the last few days, Team Hazare had refused to give a written undertaking that he would end his protest within three days and restrict the number of protesters to 5,000.
Hazare and seven of his aides were picked up from an East Delhi apartment yesterday morning hours before he was to launch his fast at JP Park after Delhi Police failed to persuade him to change his mind.
Police arrested him on grounds that he was about to commit a cognisable offence but in a sudden turn of events, the government decided to release him after protests erupted across the country against its action.
Addressing the crowd outside Tihar Jail, Prashant Bhushan, one of the close associates of Hazare, said: “Today’s protest represents the significance of people’s struggle not just against corruption but for democracy.”
Hazare continued his fast for the second consecutive day as the government was caught in a cleft on how to deal with the embarrassing standoff.
He spent the night in the administrative block of the jail along with his associate Arvind Kejriwal.
Hundreds of people continued their vigil outside the jail premises as Hazare made it clear he would come out of the prison only if he was given permission to stage the indefinite fast.
Hazare’s aide Manish Sisodia, who came out of jail last night, said though the Gandhian was given bail he did not agree to the terms and conditions imposed by authorities.
To a specific question, Sisodia said Anna has told the jail authorities that he will not leave the premises until the police tell him the status of his application for launching a hunger strike at the JP Park.
“He told them very clearly that he wants to sit and fast there with his followers. So this is the status and we are fasting here outside Tihar jail,” he said.
When Hazare’s supporters shouted slogans against HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Sisodia said the Gandhian has given “strict instructions” not to raise any slogans against any person or party.