Anna breaks fast after 288 hours
New Delhi, Aug 28: An unparalleled 12-day movement that coalesced people across India on the need to eradicate corruption and saw the political establishment unite came to fruition Sunday with Anna Hazare ending his 288-hour fast with a sip of coconut water and honey to euphoric cheers.
Tens of thousands had packed into the sprawling Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi, which had become the cynosure of national attention since Aug 19 when 74-year-old Hazare moved from Tihar Jail to continue his fast for a strong, anti-corruption legislation. And many thousands more watched the historic moment unfold on their television screens.
It was the hour of hyperbole and extravagant descriptives. People's power had triumphed. A peaceful non-violent movement that resonated across India had ended with parliament taking the first step towards framing a strong anti-corruption legislation and broadly agreeing to the key demands put forth by Hazare, a cult hero with his anachronistic white kurta-pyjama and Gandhi cap.
"I am very happy that a movement of this enormity was non-violent. You have set an example to the whole world," Hazare told the wildly cheering crowd after accepting the coconut water-honey mixture from two young girls - a Dalit and a Muslim.
Celebrations were seen in many parts of the country with many, who had been fasting with Hazare since Aug 16 when he was arrested, also calling off their hunger strike.
In cities and towns across India, sweets were distributed as people danced and sang to celebrate the moment. Hundreds from different walks of life assembled at fasting venues and smeared each other with bright colours, describing the occasion as a victory of democracy.
The nation, particularly the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, heaved a collective sigh of relief at the resolution of the major national crisis.
"Civil society should play an important role in country's politics and political system. This movement was an example of this," Law Minister Salman Khurshid said.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called it the triumph of the common man and a victory for parliamentary democracy.
It had been an uneasy tightrope walk for most of the 12 days - and since April when Hazare's five-day fast had led to the government setting up a 10-member panel, including five members of civil society, to set up a powerful institution of the Lokpal (ombudsman).
As tension escalated with Hazare's deteriorating health, it took many negotiations between the government and Team Anna to arrive at a rapprochement. Finally, on Saturday, a special session of parliament was called to debate the issue of corruption and the Lokpal bill. At the end of an intense debate, the opposition and government showed rare unanimity on the parliament's prerogative to make laws and agreed to an in-principle acceptance of Hazare's demands.
Hazare's key issues were having Lokayuktas in every state, citizen's charters for government departments and inclusion of lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal's ambit.
Addressing a sea of people, many wearing the Gandhi cap with 'I Am Anna' inscribed on them, Hazare thanked his supporters for the "success" of his nationwide anti-corruption campaign.
Hazare, who was later taken to the Medanta Medicity in Gurgaon to recover from his 12-day fast, cautioned against any complacency.
"I have just suspended the fast.. did not end it. The fight will go on till parliament passes the Lokpal bill."
His aide Arvind Kejriwal also thanked Manmohan Singh and the parliament for the "grand victory of the people".
"We are thankful to our prime minister because he took the initiative and wrote to Anna, agreeing to our demands. We are thankful to the parliament. This is a historic moment."
He led the crowd at Ramlila ground to take a pledge not to give a bribe or ever take one. The cheers were deafening as thousands vowed with him not to accept corruption in their lives.
Ramlila Maidan was not the end, people were told. Another demonstration was planned at India Gate in the evening. The party would continue. There were disagreements, even amongst civil society members, on how events had panned out in the last few days.
But on this one thing there was near unanimity - the momentum of a movement for a cause that had struck such a chord nationally should not be allowed to falter. IANS
Lastupdate on : Sun, 28 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 28 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 29 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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