New Delhi: A defiant Anna Hazare will go ahead with his proposed indefinite fast on August 16. However, on Monday evening he had Delhi Police totally by surprise. Mr Hazare made an unscheduled stop at Rajghat to meditate just hours after he was denied permission for his protest fast at a Delhi park for Tuesday. A big crowd gathered around him as he sat near Mahatma Gandhi's samadhi to meditate. (Read: Anna's surprise visit to meditate at Rajghat)
Earlier on Monday, the 74-year-old Gandhian refused to give a "full and proper" undertaking on 22 conditions laid down by the police for the fast. Two of these conditions include capping the number of days for the protest to three and restricting the number of protesters to 5000.
"They (Team Anna) were told that there are some directions from the court according to which, they will have to give some undertaking. Only then can they hold a procession. We could not permit them for an indefinite fast. We suggested that they keep the whole thing limited to 2-3 days but they rejected the idea. That is why the permission has not been given," said Sudhir Yada, Joint Commissioner, Delhi Police.
Team Anna, meanwhile, dubbed the police's move as unconstitutional and said that they along with their supporters would court arrest tomorrow at the venue of the fast after paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. They said they had given an undertaking to the police accepting 16 conditions, while six of the conditions were "unconstitutional".
"It is now no longer a question of just a fight against corruption...but a fight to save democracy", said social activist Arvind Kejriwal.
The Delhi Police's move comes on a day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a veiled reference to Mr Hazare, said that hunger strikes will not help address the problem of corruption. (Read) | (Watch)
"I am aware of the differences of opinion on some aspects of the bill. Those who don't agree with this bill can put forward their views to Parliament, political parties and even the press. However, I also believe they should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts-unto-death," Dr Singh said.
The PM had, in a response to Mr Hazare's letter on Saturday, asked him to approach the statutory authorities in connection with his fast. The snub came after the Gandhian wrote a letter to the PM to intervene following the Delhi Police's preconditions laid down for his fast. (Read: PM snubs Anna, says approach statutory authorities)
The Congress, meanwhile, hit out at Mr Hazare saying that the police wasn't acting under any political pressure.
"If any one person says that the police is working under political pressure I think he is deliberately trying to misguide wheoever is listening to him... the Lokpal Bill is in Parliament...don't understand why there is so much desperation", said senior party leader Ambika Soni. (Read: Govt justifies Delhi Police rejecting permission to Anna)
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meanwhile, slammed the Congress for behaving in an "undemocratic" manner and trying to muzzle rightful protests.
"Now when they (Ramdev and Hazare) are talking about removing corruption they are being targeted and government is looking for ways to end their agitation...There is a policy that if you hold a protest, we will not allow it. The way this government is working and the statement that the Prime Minister made is completely against democracy," Gadkari said.
The tussle between the government and Team Anna has escalated into a full-blown war after the government's version of the Lokpal Bill was introduced in Parliament on August 4. This did not go down well with the civil society activists who were angered by the exclusion of their suggestions from the draft of the Bill, primary among these being the inclusion of the PM and judiciary under the ambit of the Lokpal. Matters further aggravated after the Delhi Police first denied permission, and then gave a conditional go-ahead to Mr Hazare's proposed fast.
The Delhi Police had given a conditional permission to Team Anna to hold the fast at the Jai Prakash Narain National Park in central Delhi subject to its submitting the undertaking.
The police had sought an assurance from them that the fast would begin at 8 a.m. on August 16 and the park would be vacated by 6 p.m. on August 18, and that the gathering should not exceed 5,000 people. Further, the police wanted the participants to be seated in an organised manner and to not spill out on to the roads.
Team Anna had also been asked to ensure that only a maximum of 50 cars and 50 two-wheelers was parked in the available space around the venue and the remaining buses, trucks and cars are parked along other places earmarked for the undertaking. The police had instructed the organisers to ensure that vehicular flow was not obstructed anywhere.
Organisers of the dharna were also told to ensure that there was no damage to public property, assault on government servants and that no inflammatory slogans were raised within 200 metres of any place of religious worship. The organisers had also been directed to make arrangements for drinking water, first-aid and mobile toilets.
The park has been closed to the public. Police officials said this was part of the Independence Day security arrangements.
(With Agency inputs)