Anna ends fast, celebrations across the country


NEW DELHI, Aug 28 (IANS) An unparalleled 12-day movement that coalesced people across India on the need to eradicate corruption and saw the political establishment unite came to fruition Sunday with Anna Hazare ending his 288-hour fast to euphoric cheers. Celebrations that began since parliament accepted his demands continued nationwide.

Tens of thousands had packed into the sprawling Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi, which had become the cynosure of national attention since Aug 19 when 74-year-old Hazare moved from Tihar Jail to continue his fast for a strong, anti-corruption legislation. And many thousands more watched the historic moment unfold on their television screens.

It was the hour of hyperbole and extravagant descriptives. People`s power had triumphed. A peaceful non-violent movement that resonated across India had ended with parliament taking the first step towards framing a strong anti-corruption legislation and broadly agreeing to the key demands put forth by Hazare, a cult hero with his anachronistic white kurta-pyjama and Gandhi cap.

`I am very happy that a movement of this enormity was non-violent. You have set an example to the whole world,` Hazare told the wildly cheering crowd after accepting the coconut water-honey mixture from two young girls – a Dalit and a Muslim.

`I am very happy that a movement of this enormity was non-violent. You have set an example to the whole world,` Hazare told the wildly cheering crowd.

He led the crowd at Ramlila ground to take a pledge not to give a bribe or ever take one. The cheers were deafening as thousands vowed with him not to accept corruption in their lives.

The 74-year-old activist was admitted to hospital soon after he broke his fast. His heart beat was above normal, the principal doctor attending on him said Sunday.

`The heart rate is 94 which is more than normal (around 80). He is very dehydrated and exhausted,` said eminent cardiologist Naresh Trehan, who monitored Hazare`s health during the agitation.

Taken to the Medanta Medicity in Gurgaon, Hazare cautioned against any complacency.

`I have just suspended the fast.. did not end it. The fight will go on till parliament passes the Lokpal bill.`

Doctors said he would be under observation for a couple of days.

The 74-year-old activist`s fast, during which he only consumed water and yet maintained high energy levels, has left many surprised.

Trehan said it was Hazare`s `inner power` that helped him sustain for himself so long.

`He maintained himself, he had some power in him, through which he could regulate his own fluids and has been able to maintain his balance,` he said.

`Medical science may not fully understand but it is `brahmachari shakti` and truly he has managed to live on his own reserves and paid a price for it. He lost seven and a half kgs,` the doctor said.

Celebrations were seen in many parts of the country with many, who had been fasting with Hazare since Aug 16 when he was arrested, also calling off their hunger strike.

In cities and towns across India, sweets were distributed as people danced and sang to celebrate the moment. Hundreds from different walks of life assembled at fasting venues and smeared each other with bright colours, describing the occasion as a victory of democracy.

The nation, particularly the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, heaved a collective sigh of relief at the resolution of the major national crisis.

`Civil society should play an important role in country`s politics and political system. This movement was an example of this,` Law Minister Salman Khurshid said.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called it the triumph of the common man and a victory for parliamentary democracy.

The prime minister Sunday met President Pratibha Patil and discussed parliament`s consensus resolution on the Lokpal bill as demanded by Hazare to end his fast.

The meeting lasted for about half an hour, said a communique from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Thousands of jubilant Hazare supporters continued their celebration at the historic India Gate in the national capital and across the country.

At the India Gate, thousands of Anna supporters including men, women and children danced to the tunes of patriotic songs and waved the national flag.

They were joined by the usual weekend revellers at the venue.

`I am very happy. Anna is doing a great job. But the battle has just started,` said Sharmishtha Neogy, a 25 year old publishing executive from Mumbai.

Vinod Sharma, who was doing a brisk business of selling candles to Hazare`s supporters, expressed concern over Hazare`s health and hoping the government will soon pass the Lokpal bill.

It had been an uneasy tightrope walk for most of the 12 days – and since April when Hazare`s five-day fast had led to the government setting up a 10-member panel, including five members of civil society, to set up a powerful institution of the Lokpal (ombudsman).

As tension escalated with Hazare`s deteriorating health, it took many negotiations between the government and Team Anna to arrive at a rapprochement. Finally, on Saturday, a special session of parliament was called to debate the issue of corruption and the Lokpal bill.

At the end of an intense debate, the opposition and government showed rare unanimity on the parliament`s prerogative to make laws and agreed to an in-principle acceptance of Hazare`s demands — Lokayuktas in every state, citizen`s charters for government departments and inclusion of lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal`s ambit.


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