Thursday, August 18, 2011

Listen to Hope Comes in the Dark/Deal Would Free Indian Activist and Allow Protests



Consider tuning in to to listen to Henk Mustsaers song Hope Comes in the Dark.  I enjoyed the song and the video, especially since the artist urges us to take action.







The New York Times·  

August 17, 2011

Deal Would Free Indian Activist and Allow Protests


NEW DELHI — The protest leader Anna Hazare appeared to strike a deal with the police early Thursday morning that would enable him to leave a local jail and begin staging a hunger strike against corruption later in the day, according to a close aide and reports in the Indian news media.

One of Mr. Hazare’s aides, Kiran Bedi, announced via Twitter that Mr. Hazare had accepted a police offer to limit any hunger strike and mass demonstration in New Delhi to 15 days. The protest would be staged at the city’s Ramlila grounds, and the Indian news media reported that the authorities had relented on Mr. Hazare’s demand that no limits be placed on the number of people allowed to attend.

The apparent breakthrough came as a standoff between Mr. Hazare and the government on Wednesday had become a national political crisis. Mr. Hazare, who was arrested on Tuesday, was refusing to leave Tihar Jail — despite the police’s having already issued an order releasing him — until the authorities agreed to let him go unconditionally.

The deal became public hours before daybreak in India and appeared to have been made possible after an emergency early-morning meeting between Mr. Hazare’s top aides and the city’s police commissioner.

Mr. Hazare’s refusal to leave jail had seemed to jolt his supporters and tapped into a visceral public disgust with official corruption. More than 10,000 people marched through New Delhi on Wednesday afternoon in a peaceful rally that began at the India Gate monument.

College students mingled with retirees and middle-class workers in a throng energized by the moment. People waved banners and chanted Mr. Hazare’s name. One hand-scrawled poster declared “Corruption — Virus, Anna — Antivirus.”

Fueled by obsessive coverage on India’s all-news television networks, the jailhouse protest clearly captured the imagination of the country, and appeared to have backed government leaders into a political corner.

Elsewhere in India, protests were held in major cities, as well as in villages and across many states.

Hundreds stood outside Tihar Jail, where Mr. Hazare was being held, awaiting his appearance on Wednesday. “Anna, you struggle!” they chanted. “We are with you!”

Throughout the day, Mr. Hazare’s allies negotiated with officials over the terms to end the standoff, which began on Tuesday morning when the police arrested Mr. Hazare at an apartment in New Delhi. He had been en route to a city park, where thousands of supporters were expected to join him as he staged a hunger strike as part of his campaign against corruption.

The police detained more than 2,600 of his supporters on Tuesday but later released them. Facing growing criticism for their handling of the situation, government officials later ordered Mr. Hazare’s release, though he refused to obey.

Mr. Hazare’s presence in the jail was especially embarrassing to the government because several politicians charged with corruption are being held there.

By late Wednesday evening, expectations had dimmed that Mr. Hazare would leave the jail before Thursday. His aides said they were still negotiating with officials about where and for how long he would be allowed to stage a hunger strike demonstration in New Delhi. The Indian news media reported that Mr. Hazare wanted permission to demonstrate for 30 days, while the authorities wanted to restrict it to a week or less.

Corruption is a source of growing public anger and frustration in India, and a yoke threatening to drag down the coalition government led by the National Congress Party. Mired in scandals for months, Congress Party leaders have tried to convince the public that they are cracking down on corruption, yet public skepticism remains high.

Mr. Hazare and his supporters are pushing to create an independent anticorruption agency, known as the Lokpal, with sweeping powers to investigate government officials. In April, Mr. Hazare gained national attention when he undertook a hunger strike for a Lokpal — a tactic that forced officials to invite him and his allies to negotiations over legislation to create such an agency.

A bill is pending in Parliament, but Mr. Hazare has argued that the legislation is too weak, especially because it exempts the prime minister and the judiciary from the agency’s scrutiny. As a tactic to pressure the government to amend the Lokpal bill, Mr. Hazare had planned to stage a hunger strike this week in New Delhi. India’s relentless television news channels have covered the situation around the clock for the past two days, heightening public attention around the country.

If Mr. Hazare has won widespread sympathy for his attack on corruption, his tactics have raised concerns. Some political commentators have described his hunger strikes as the equivalent of political blackmail by trying to force the government to capitulate to his demands, rather than allow elected leaders in Parliament to seek a political compromise.

“Anna Hazare may be inspired by high ideals in his campaign to set up a strong and effective Lokpal,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday during an address before Parliament. “However, the path that he has chosen to impose his draft of a bill upon Parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy.”

Even as government leaders were coming under growing criticism for their handling of Mr. Hazare, Mr. Singh and others described Mr. Hazare’s initial arrest as a law-and-order issue. They said the police arrested Mr. Hazare only after he made it clear that he would defy a police decision to deny him a permit for an indefinite hunger strike.

Hari Kumar and Nikhila Gill contributed reporting.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


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