On the festival of Raakhi, thousands in Delhi used the holiday to attend activist Anna Hazare's camp in Delhi, where the 75-year-old and his aides are on an indefinite hunger strike against corruption.
Amid growing concern about their health, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar urged Team Anna to end its fast. A group of prominent citizens including Justice Santosh Hegde and General VK Singh, who retired recently as the chief of the Indian Army, has written to Anna, urging him to form a political party.
"The ongoing fast represents a voice of conscience...the political establishment has not cared to listen, leave alone to respond, to this voice," their letter says, urging Anna and his associates to "form an alternative political force."
It's a request the activists seem to be considering. The official twitter handle of India Against Corruption (IAC) as well as its website today asked the public: "Should Annaji provide a political alternative to the country? Reply YES or NO to this tweet." A tweeted link points to a page which asks two questions: "Do you have any hope from the existing political parties" and "Should Annaji provide a political alternative to the country?"
Anna has been fasting since Sunday; his aides, Arvind Kejriwal, Gopal Rai and Manish Sisodia, have not eaten in nine days. The Delhi Police asked them last evening to check into hospital, reminding them that they had agreed in writing to seek medical attention if their health deteriorated. That assurance was made in an affidavit submitted by the activists to the police in exchange for permission to hold their protest in Delhi till August 8. But Team Anna says its own doctors have said there is no cause for alarm just yet. Doctors appointed by the police to check on the fasting activists had a different verdict last night. They said it was time for the hunger strike to end on medical grounds.
Mr Kejriwal warned the police against removing him from the camp or force-feeding him. "This is a do-or-die fight," he said.
Security at the protest camp at Jantar Mantar has been increased after four bombs exploded last night in Pune, one near a demonstration organised by supporters of Anna. The Pune police has cancelled the permission for that demonstration.
Led by Anna, the activists want the government to urgently deliver a historic new law against corruption. The Lokpal Bill - which they campaigned for with massive public support last year - creates a national ombudsman agency empowered to investigate and prosecute corrupt government servants. The government says the activists unreasonably accusing it of lacking the will to set up the Lokpal. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December and was passed there, months after Anna ended a 16-day fast on the condition that Parliament would urgently debate the proposed legislation. But the Rajya Sabha or Upper House is yet to sign off on the bill.
This time around, the government has made it clear that health concerns of Anna and other fasting activists will not provoke offers of negotiation or discussions. Ministers have said they have tried to engage repeatedly with Team Anna, which remains unbending in its demand that its vision of the Lokpal must be what is cleared by Parliament.
The stand-off has worsened after the activists publicly blacklisted the Prime Minister and 14 other ministers for corruption. They have demanded an independent inquiry against each of the ministers. The government has refused.