Anti-corruption activist, Anna Hazare, has accepted the offer from the New Delhi Police to leave prison and go on a hunger strike for 15 days. Despite the government’s offer to release Hazare before, Hazare had earlier vowed to remain in Tihar prison unless he could resume his public protest against corruption.
Hazare, along with at least 1,200 of his supporters, was arrested on Tuesday at JP Park, hours before a planned “fast until death” against graft. His arrested has sparked controversy in the world’s largest democracy, with reports of protests across the country demanding his freedom and for tougher action against corruption.
Anna Hazare has quickly become a modern day Mahatma Gandhi for millions of Indians tired of corruption. Social media has played an important role as a platform for many Indians to voice their support for Hazare, in addition to public demonstrations.
For example, Anand Mahindra, one of India's leading businessmen and managing director of conglomerate Mahindra Group, wrote on Twitter: "Democracy means no voice, however small, must go unheard. The anti-corruption sentiment is not a whisper-it's a scream. Grave error to ignore it."
"These protests are part of a global phenomenon, thanks to technology and a more proactive media," said N. Bhaskara Rao, social researcher and chairman of independent think-tank Center for Media Studies.
The Congress-led government has denied that it was stifling a democratic protest, stating the reason for Hazare’s arrest as a violation against the police’s restrictions on the number of fasting days and participants.
"I acknowledge that Anna Hazare may be inspired by high ideals," Singh said. "However, the path that he has chosen, to impose a draft of the bill on parliament, is totally misconceived."
Report: Anna Hazare fast 'totally misconceived' – Indian PM [Guardian, 17 Aug 2011]
Hazare’s protest is aimed against the Lokpal (Citizens’Ombudsman) Bill, an anti-corruption bill which exempts the prime minister and senior judges from scrutiny.
The government agreed to draft the bill following a hunger strike by Anna Hazare in April. Though the final bill incorporates 34 of the 40 principles set out by Hazare, he has rejected the final version, calling the anti-corruption bill a “cruel joke”.
A string of high-profile corruption scandals this year have marred the reputation of Mr. Singh’s administration. The scandals include a telecoms bribery scam that cost the government an estimated $39 billion and allegations of financial malpractice during the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.
India was ranked 87th in Transparency International’s index on corruption in 2010.
Analysis: India Risks Facing its own Arab Spring [Reuters, 17 Aug 2011]
Report: India Corruption: Anna Hazare accepts release offer [BBC, 18 Aug 2011]
Opinion: Anna Hazare's fight for change has inspired millions of Indians [Guardian, 17 Aug 2011]
Report: India corruption: Protests swell in support of Hazare [BBC, 17 Aug 2011]