August 16, 2011
Indian police have arrested a prominent social activist as he was preparing to push ahead with a hunger strike to demand tougher anti-corruption legislation.
Activists say Anna Hazare was arrested early Tuesday at his New Delhi apartment, as hundreds of his supporters protested outside.
Hazare and his followers want Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to enact tougher legislation to fight widespread corruption in the country.
Earlier this month, Mr. Singh’s ruling Congress party introduced an anti-corruption bill in parliament that would create a civil organization, or lokpal, with the powers to investigate ministers and bureaucrats.
But Hazare said the bill does not hold the prime minister or judiciary accountable, and had vowed to resume his “fast unto death” on Tuesday.
A similar hunger strike by Hazare in April fueled a media frenzy and a wave of popular demonstrations across India.
Late Monday, police detained dozens of Hazare’s supporters who were preparing to take part in the fast. Police banned the gathering, saying Hazare had not agreed to limit his hunger strike to three days or limit the gathering to 5,000 people.
Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Singh vowed that his government will take the “strictest possible action” to counter corruption. While Mr. Singh said there is “no magic wand” to solve the issue, he said the government was fighting graft on many levels and appealed to all political parties to join the fight.
Prime Minister Singh also appealed to Hazare to abandon his hunger strike, saying only parliament can decide what kind of anti-corruption bill India will have. He said those who have differences with the proposed law should not resort to protests and hunger strikes, but instead make their views known through parliament, political parties and even the media.
Several high-profile corruption scandals have made headlines in India over the last year. They include the sale of telecommunications licenses at below market value, numerous financial irregularities in India’s hosting of last year’s Commonwealth Games, and land and real estate projects.
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