New Delhi: Anna Hazare, who has become the face of a mass movement named India Against Corruption, has said he will resume his hunger strike at Delhi's Jantar Mantar on August 16. (Forum: Will Anna's second fast galvanise India again?)
The activists who are supporting him shared why. The government "has turned the Lokpal Bill into a Jokepal Bill," said Arvind Kejriwal. (Watch) Today's announcements come after the government said that two drafts of the Lokpal Bill - intended as the basis of a tough new law against corruption - will be prepared, one by Mr Hazare's team and the other by senior ministers.
Mr Hazare warned that activists like him are ready to start a new round of countrywide protests and "face lathicharge or bullets if necessary."
The Congress reacted sternly, echoing the gloves-off strategy that the government has adopted recently with Mr Hazare and other activists who are working on the Lokpal Bill (Citizen's Ombudsman Bill). "Four persons don't represent a civil society of 1.2 billion people," said Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan, referring to Mr Hazare and his four nominees to the drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill. Law Minister Veerappa Moily said, "Nobody can prevent him from going on a fast...but for what?"
In April, Jantar Mantar became the base camp for lakhs of Indians who supported Mr Hazare as he fasted for nearly a week. Satellite protests in cities across India stumped the government, which agreed to Mr Hazare's demands. He wanted a new law against corruption to be enacted, and he wanted activists who represent civil society to formally draft that law. After arguing that legislation was the prerogative of Parliament, the government gave in. Mr Hazare and four activists, including Mr Kejriwal, formed one half of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee; five senior ministers formed the other.
The two sides have not been able to bridge their gap. After the committee's seventh meeting yesterday, both the government and the activists said they would each draft a version of the Lokpal Bill. For the first time in India's history, two avatars of the same bill will be sent to the Cabinet for review. Not by choice, says the government. Mr Moily charged, "Team Anna is not sincere about getting the Lokpal Bill. They are obstructing the war on corruption which has been launched by Sonia Gandhi and the UPA."
The biggest points of difference - like whether the Prime Minister and senior judges should be covered by the Lokpal Bill - were not even referred to at yesterday's disastrous meeting. The activists say even basics like who should appoint the 11 members of the Lokpal remain unresolved. "The government has gone back on its word," said Mr Kejriwal. He also said that activists wanted a national debate on the Lokpal Bill, which the government resolutely opposed.
The government says it stands committed to delivering its version of the Lokpal Bill by June 30 - a deadline that was first set by Mr Hazare. The drafting committee will meet again on June 20 - but both teams concede that a compromise is near impossible.