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Central & South Asia
Indian activist ends indefinite fast
Anna Hazare breaks his five-day fast after government agrees to bring in new anti-graft law.
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2011 11:20
Anna Hazare flanked by Swami Ramdev and Swami Agnivesh who supported the Gandhian's campagin [Reuters]

Anna Hazare, a veteran Indian social activist, has ended his five-day hunger strike after the federal government agreed to write a stringent anti-corruption law.

"Our real fight begins now. This victory is a result of your sacrifice," Hazare, 73, told his supporters at his protest site in New Delhi on Saturday morning, private television station NDTV reported.

"If the government does not get the legislation passed, I will hold the national flag and join you people here for another agitation," he said.

Hazare's fast-unto-death had galvanised Indians and thousands - including film stars, academics and civil servants - took to the streets across cities in a rapidly growing movement against graft.

The protests' momentum forced the government to capitulate on Friday with the authorities announcing a joint committee to write the new law, which will be known as the Lokpal (Citizen Ombudsman) Bill. Under the legislation, an autonomous authority will make ministers and bureaucrats accountable for their deeds.

The drafting committee is to include five representatives from Indian civil society, including Hazare, and five government ministers.

The government on Saturday issued a gazette notification on the formation of the committee, which is to be headed by Pranab Mukherjee, the federal minister, according to The Hindu Online, the website of an Indian newspaper.

The notification, one of the key demands of the anti-corruption campaign launched by Gandhian Anna Hazare, has been signed by V.K. Bhasin, the secretary of the legislative department of the law ministry, the paper reported.

Swami Agnivesh, a social activist and an ally of Hazare, said that the government went even further than the activists had hoped.

"The government has agreed beyond our demands. We expected a government order but they have given us a full-fledged gazette notification in just one night. I am very thankful to Manmohan Singh [Indian prime minister], Sonia Gandhi [chief of India's ruling Congress party], Kapil Sibal [Indian telecom and education minister] and the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government, who respected the feelings of the people and brought out a respectful solution," he said.

Focal point

The roadside tent where Hazare had been conducting his public fast since Tuesday became a pilgrimage site for Indians fed up with a string of seemingly unending scandals.

Ram Dev, the yoga guru; Anupam Kher, a Bollywood star; and E Sreedharan, the architect of New Delhi's new metro rail network, joined thousands of people who have been camping in the tent or squatting on the road nearby to offer support to Hazare.

Hundreds of supporters welcome the federal government's assurance on Friday evening as a victory for Indian democracy.

"I am very happy. We all are affected due to corruption and with the assurance given by the government we have been shown a ray of hope that investigation will be done and action will be taken against corrupt people," said Manoj Vishwakarama, a supporter of Hazare from the state of Haryana.

"People will get equal rights and everybody will stay happily in the society, a new awareness will be created among people."

Source:
Al Jazeera
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