Fresh row brews as cops put curbs on Anna Hazare protest

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Anna Hazare - Delhi

Image by vm2827 via Flickr

Government and Team Anna hurtled towards a confrontation on Friday whenDelhi Police issued orders to prevent activist Anna Hazare from sitting on an indefinite strike at Jantar Mantar.

The order came a day after the civil society group attacked the Lokpal Bill approved by the Union Cabinet, describing it as a cruel joke on the public and raising the prospect of a fresh anti-government mobilization by civil society activists.

The government bill excludes the office of the prime minister, judiciary, lower bureaucracy and conduct of MPs within Parliament from the anti-corruption legislation.

Wary of attracting the charge of being “authoritarian”, Delhi Police has stopped short of banning Hazare’s protest outright. Instead, it said Hazare can hold his protest at Jantar Mantar – the launch pad for his first agitation which forced the government to speed up the drafting of the Bill – only for a day and on the condition that the turnout does not exceed 2,000. The conditions were unacceptable to civil society activists who have conceived the fresh Anna fast as a tactic to get the government to accept its suggestions on the Bill. Police also said they would take action to enforce orders.

Although Delhi Police cited security concerns in the light of the ensuing monsoon session of Parliament and said the Gandhian could move his protest to Burari on the outskirts of the capital or to Ajmal Khan Park, the Hazare camp reacted with indignation to what it called the “undemocratic” move of the government. Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the move was unconstitutional and in violation of people’s fundamental rights.

To add to the spat, a police order from Connaught Place sub-division on Thursday evening mentioned Jantar Mantar as one of the areas being put under prohibitory orders from July 30 to September 9 – the duration of the Parliament session. This implied that any kind of protest at the site would be deemed illegal. On Friday, however, the police clarified that Jantar Mantar was not among the areas where Section 144 of CrPC was being imposed and that it had been included in the list by mistake.

But the other restrictions on the protest mentioned earlier would apply. Team Anna is now weighing options on whether to launch “civil disobedience” and court arrest on August 16 or move the courts against the decision to restrict the protest at Jantar Mantar.

Political reaction was swift too. The BJP attacked the government for allegedly seeking to suppress dissent, but the Congress said the law permits the government to impose prohibitory orders.

Police’s objections to Hazare’s fast are the same as the grounds used to evict Baba Ramdev’s supporters from Ramlila Maidan in June this year. Team Anna was informed by the police that since the House would be in session and activists assembling in large numbers near Parliament could raise security concerns.

The police also ruled out Rajghat – where Hazare had protested against crackdown on Ramdev supporters – as a venue for the agitation, citing an assessment that Anna’s supporters may be mobilizing over 30,000 supporters. Sources said that by the standards of the police, this was an unusually generous estimation which suggested that grounds were being prepared for denial of permission.

The Hazare campaign has also been asked to take a no-objection certificate (NOC) from NDMC for the Jantar Mantar protest.

Although the police said this was not a final decision and the department was still in talks with Hazare’s team, they made it clear that it would not compromise on security because of the Parliament session. “We have neither denied nor given permission as of now. We have asked for some clarifications for which we are waiting for a reply,” said Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat.

Additional Commissioner of PoliceNew Delhi, K C Dwivedi told TOI, “We have not stopped Anna Hazare from protesting. We have suggested to the organizers that an indefinite strike is not possible at Jantar Mantar.”

Police officers claimed that during Parliament session, an average 25 groups come from various parts of the country to Jantar Mantar every day for protests and they won’t have space if thousands of Anna supporters are allowed. “It will create law and order problems. There are chances of stampede and massive traffic jams if such a large crowd is allowed for too many days,” said a senior officer.

Meanwhile, police commissioner B K Gupta met home minister P Chidambaram and is learnt to have briefed him about the preparedness to deal with the situation if Hazare insists on continuing with his agitation from August 16.

Hazare had sent his request to the Delhi Police 13 days ago after which the police sent him a letter with two queries – duration of his protest and expected gathering. After a meeting with Delhi Police on Friday, Neeraj (member of Hazare’s team) told TOI, “We told the police that there would be no fixed duration for the agitation and that we cannot stop people from coming to our campaign so we cannot give an exact number.”


One Response

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  1. MAHATMA GANDHI kicked out BRITISH Laws and Rule, CONGRESS implemented it back. SHAME SHAME…In Congress rule Indian Democracy is only for traitors like FAI, GEELANI, ARUNDHATI ROY etc…and not for Patriotic ANNA. Syndicate of Criminals are in Politician’s Mask, must be Exposed and send to TIHAR. Delhi Police & CBI are used as State Sponsored Terrorists on Tax-Payers money. Congress is Anti-National, implied undeclared Emergence and using India’s LOOTED money against Indians. Support ANNA for Better India. Jai JAN LOKPAL BILL, Jai ANNA Hazare, Jai HIND.


    July 30, 2011 at 4:50 am

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