Indian activist ends hunger strike

Hazare claims victory as parliament expresses cautious support for parts of his anti-corruption plan.

    Hazare, says he has not stopped his agitation, he has just given it a break

    Indian reform activist Anna Hazare has ended a 13-day hunger strike after parliament expressed non-binding support for parts of his anti-corruption plan.

    Hazare accepted a glass of coconut water and honey from a five-year-old girl as thousands of supporters cheered him on, waving Indian flags, chanting "Long live India!'' and singing patriotic songs.

    "This is your victory. This is the fruit of your work in the last 13 days,'' Hazare told the crowd in New Delhi on Sunday morning.

    "This movement has made it seem possible that we can build a corruption-free India."

    The 74-year-old, who had become increasingly frail as he drank only water, was expected to be taken to hospital later in the day.

    A day earlier, Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister, told parliament that the "sense of the house" was in support of a series of policies demanded by Hazare.

    "The largest functional democracy of the world is at a very crucial stage," said Mukherjee in a cautious statement that fell short of fixing a time-frame to reach a resolution.

    "[We must] try to find a solution within the constitutional framework without compromising the parliamentary supremacy in the matter of legislation, and at the same time to ensure that we can resolve this impasse."

    Anti-corruption ombudsman

    Just before Hazare ended his strike, one of his aides led the gathered crowd in a pledge: "I take an oath that in my life I will never take a bribe, nor will I give a bribe.''

    Hazare began his strike on August 16, demanding parliament pass his sweeping proposal to create a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman to police everyone from the prime minister to the lowest village bureaucrat.

    The government, miscalculating the popularity of his anti-graft message, briefly arrested him to quash his protest, a move that sent tens of thousands of his angry supporters pouring into streets across the country.

    In the end, parliament expressed support for some of his demands: committing to greater transparency and including low-level bureaucrats and state officials under the watchdog's purview.

    "Some beginning has been made. It's difficult to say what will happen,'' Manoj Kumar, a 24-year-old student, said on Sunday at Hazare's protest site.

    "There is an awakening across the country, so it will now be difficult for the government to ignore people's demands.''

    Several scandals linked to the government, including a bribery scam involving the sale of telecoms licences that may have cost the state up to $39bn in lost revenues, led to Hazare's latest protest.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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