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India: Activist Arrested for Planning Hunger Strike

Indian anti-corruption activist arrested for planning a public hunger strike, begins fast behind bars.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/16/2011, 10:53 PM

An anti-corruption activist in India, who was arrested Tuesday for planning a public hunger strike, began his fast behind bars, The Associated Press reports.

The activist, Anna Hazare, has demanded for tougher anti-corruption laws in India and has received support from many residents fed up with the seemingly endless scandals exposing bribery and favoritism among the government members.

Hazare, a 73-year-old social activist, has become an anti-corruption icon by channeling the tactics of freedom fighter Mohandas Gandhi, AP said.

In April he used a four-day fast to force the government to draft legislation to create an anti-corruption watchdog.

Hazare had planned to begin another public fast Tuesday to press for a stronger bill but police barred his protest after organizers refused to limit the number of fasting days and participants.

“Protests are perfectly permissible and welcome, but it must be under reasonable conditions,” India’s Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram was quoted by AP as having said.

Hazare vowed to carry on regardless but was arrested before leaving for the protest site. He began his fast at a police mess hall to which he was taken, and was subsequently taken to New Delhi’s Tihar jail for seven days of detention.

In response his supporters rallied across the country, carrying placards calling for a “Revolution Against Corruption” and taunting authorities to “Please Arrest Me.” They decried Hazare’s arrest, calling it an anti-democratic affront to civil rights.

Police rounded up at least 1,200 protesters in New Delhi and more than 3,000 in Mumbai, AP said, but many were later released.

Chidambaram, meanwhile, said the government was only seeking to maintain order in arresting Hazare.

“We are not prohibiting a peaceful democratic protest,” he was quoted by AP as saying. “Nowhere in the world is a protest allowed without any conditions.”