New Delhi: Anna Hazare is under arrest and has been produced before a magistrate. His plan to fast at Delhi's Jai Prakash Narain Park was foiled, but the 74-year-old has not eaten or even had water since early morning. (Read: Who is Anna Hazare)
Mr Hazare's "preventive arrest" came after three hours of his being under "preventive detention." The Opposition has slammed the government, saying it is Emergency again. The government says there is nothing illegal about it, but in a very high-level huddle, senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram are meeting Rahul Gandhi right now.
At 7.30 am on Tuesday morning, minutes before Mr Hazare was to set out for his fast against corruption, about a dozen policemen in plain clothes detained him at Supreme Enclave in Delhi's Mayur Vihar, where he was staying. They tried to whisk him away in a white Innova car, but hundreds of angry protesters ensured that the car could barely move for over an hour.
Mr Hazare, with several of his key aides who are now also under arrest, was taken to the Delhi Police Mess near Oberoi Maidan in north Delhi and was produced before a special executive magistrate there. (Do you agree with Anna Hazare's fast?)
Under attack from all quarters, the government has justified the police action on Anna. Union Home Secretary RK Singh said he was detained because he said he would defy prohibitory orders. Senior Minister Ambika Soni said the arrest was not unconstitutional and that Mr Hazare could have waited till Parliament was not in session to protest.
Parliament opened to chaos on Tuesday. The BJP gave a notice for suspension of Question Hour to discuss the Anna Hazare issue. The government said it was ready for a discussion after Question Hour, at noon. There is no meeting ground - the Rajya Sabha was adjourned till noon, the Lok Sabha at first till 11.30 am and then till noon. Home Minister P Chidambaram has offered to make a statement in Parliament. The Opposition says it will settle for nothing less than a statement from the Prime Minister.
Anticipating arrest, Anna had recorded an appeal to people to come forward for what he called the "second freedom struggle" in peaceful protest and said a second line of leaders would continue to lead the movement. But on Tuesday morning, this second line and core members of Team Anna - Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Kiran Bedi- were detained too and taken to the police mess. Eminent lawyer Shanti Bhushan was detained at Rajghat.
A third line of crusading leaders went underground to gather support using mobile phones and social media and surfaced a little before noon to decry Mr Hazare's arrest and to exhort people to come out in large numbers in protest. In Mumbai supporters in big numbers are courting arrest, in Bangalore, they are lining up to join the India Against Corruption movement. There is massive support in Kolkata too. In Chennai, Mahatama Gandhi's personal secretary Kalyanam is among about 300 people on hunger strike; 30 people have courted arrest. There are protests in Lucknow too.
In the capital, the supporters that followed Anna's car as he was being taken away vowed they would move to Rajghat, where Anna was to have gone before setting out for JP Park where he planned to fast. Sources say about 3,000 Delhi University students are expected to assemble at Rajghat too. As they heard of the detention, many office-goers said they were not attending work and would join the protest.
Delhi Police has imposed Section 144 at several places in the Capital, including central Delhi, JP Park, Rajghat and Dilli Gate. At Rajghat, the police is not allowing people to gather in large numbers. Any large groups are being disbanded, put in buses and taken away to Chhatrasal Stadium in Model Town, north Delhi.
At JP Park, where Anna was to sit on fast, protesters are pouring in ready to court arrest. Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan said youth from Delhi University would court arrest at 12.30 outside the Chhatrasal stadium. And that at 4pm today, protesters would march from the Pragati Maidan metro station to JP Park. He also announced that at 4 pm on Wednesday, a big march would be organised from India Gate to Parliament House. He appealed to all people to join the march and asked government employees to take mass leave for a day.
Team Anna has asked people to wear black bands and to use social media and SMSes to help gather more people.
Amid widespread protest, the police say if Anna had agreed to the 22 conditions that it had set, he would have been allowed to fast. But the Gandhian had declared on Monday that these were unconstitutional demands and that he had no fear of police restrictions. "I am starting my fast tomorrow. It is just the start of a struggle for change. We have to fight a long battle. It's going to be a fight to bring about change in India."
BJP, Left slam government
The NDA met before Parliament convened today to decide on its strategy and the Opposition has asked for a discussion in Parliament. But in swift reaction to the police action, the BJP slammed the UPA government for detaining Anna Hazare. BJP patriarch L K Advani said he was not surprised at the detention. "I am not surprised at this development. This is the direction in which this government is moving. Instead of dealing with the problem of corruption and owning responsibility, it is trying to find scapegoats and stopping peaceful protests," Advani said. (Read: Advani slams Govt)
The Left criticized the detention as an attack on the democratic right to protest peacefully, but the CPI also appealed to Anna Hazare not to fast and to have faith in Parliament. (Anna's detention unconstitutional: Left)
A CPM statement read: "This is an attack on the democratic rights of citizens to protest peacefully. It shows how the Congress leadership is intolerant to any anti-corruption movement as their government is itself steeped in high-level corruption. The Polit Bureau reiterates that the official Lok Pal Bill presented in parliament is weak and inadequate."