A veteran Indian social activist has been arrested and 1400 of his supporters detained as authorities defy a protest to force tougher laws against corruption.
Anna Hazare, 74, was taken into custody early Tuesday as he prepared to lead a parade to a public park in New Delhi where he was to begin a “fast unto death”.
Police released Hazare later on Tuesday, but he refused to leave saying he want to continue his fast without any conditions, Al Jazeera’s Prerna Suri reporting from New Dehli.
Hundreds of of his supporters gathered outside the building as he was driven away.
“Police have detained us,” Arvind Kejriwal, an aide to Hazare, told NDTV broadcaster before being taken away by plainclothers police in a white car early on Tuesday.
In a pre-taped appeal, Hazare urged his supporters to protest despite his arrest.
“My dear countrymen, the second freedom struggle has begun, and now I have also been arrested. But will this movement be stopped by my arrest? No, not at all. Don’t let it happen,” he said.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram said organisers had refused to guarantee to obey police orders that the rally would be limited to 5,000 people and that it could only last three days.
He denied the government was quashing dissent and stressed that “this government is not against peaceful protest”.
Many of the 1,400 detainees arrested in New Delhi were driven to a sports stadium in northern New Delhi where a large crowed gathered outside in a tense stand-off with police, AFP reported.
Police on Monday denied Hazare permission to fast near a cricket stadium because he failed to meet certain conditions, including ending his fast in three days and ensuring not more than 5,000 people took part.
Hazare ended a four-day hunger strike in April after the government set up a committee to draft legislation to create an anti-corruption ombudsman. The committee included Hazare and other non-elected
The legislation was introduced in India’s parliament earlier this month but Hazare demanded that it be made tougher to include the prime minister and the judiciary in its remit. The current draft of the law does not include them.
Hazare’s protest has tapped into deep public anger against corruption in India as the Congress party-led government battles a series of graft scandals.
These include the sale of mobile phone licenses and the hosting of last year’s Commonwealth Games, which together lost the country as much as $40bn, according to government auditors.
The Indian parliament has been paralysed by anti-corruption protests for two weeks, stalling crucial legislation.