Indian anti-corruption activist ends hunger strike

An Indian reform activist whose protest galvanized the nation's anger against corruption ended his 12-day hunger strike Sunday after forcing Parliament to throw its weight behind his crusade.

Seventy-four-year-old Anna Hazare accepted a cup of coconut water and honey from two children 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, filled with supporters wearing the white cloth caps, reminiscent of India's independence leaders, that have become the protest's signature.



Hazare, who was later taken to the hospital, said that though he had ended his fast, he would not back down from his fight for reforms. He lost more than 15.5 pounds (7 kilograms) during his fast.



"This movement has made it seem possible that we can build a corruption-free India," Hazare said, surrounded by children on a stage above the crowd.



Hazare began his fast Aug. 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 protest was fueled by months of scandals — illicit mining deals, the dubious sale of cell phone spectrum — that have tarred the ruling coalition and opposition parties alike. Even as Hazare was fasting, four politicians were charged with buying and selling votes in Parliament.



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.



Hazare, who claims inspiration from liberation icon Mohandas K. Gandhi, eventually was given access to a fairground in the capital, New Delhi, which attracted tens of thousands of protesters from India's growing middle class fed up with paying bribes for everything from getting a driver's license to enrolling a child in nursery school.



"People are suffering from corruption, and there seems to be no end," said Prabhat Tiwari, a 25-year-old businessman who came to the protest ground every day for a week.



As the protest dragged on, and Hazare's weight plunged, government ministers and protest leaders haggled over how to end their standoff.



Officials said Hazare's draft bill — which would put the prime minister, judiciary and state bureaucrats under the ombudsman — was unconstitutional and branded his methods as parliamentary blackmail. The protesters complained that the government's own bill was toothless and would do nothing to battle corruption.



In the end, Parliament held a nine-hour debate Saturday that ended with a nonbinding "sense of the house" expressing support for some of his demands: committing to greater transparency and including low-level bureaucrats and state officials under the watchdog's purview.



Just before Hazare broke his fast Sunday, 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."



The plan for a government watchdog — which had languished in Parliament for more than four decades — will now go to a legislative committee to work out the details and try to resolve competing visions for the proposed office.



It seems almost certain, however, that lawmakers will now have to take the issue of corruption seriously or risk further protests.



Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this past week that the protest had awoken the government to the need for reform. Rahul Gandhi, a top official with the ruling Congress Party who is seen as a potential future prime minister, proposed sweeping reform in everything from the electoral system to the graft-riddled mining industry.



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



Hazare — a former army truck driver credited with organizing his drought-prone village to harvest rain water and use solar power — enchanted many Indians with his stubborn stance against the political system and left them with a rare feeling of empowerment.



"(The protest) has broken that sense of helplessness that large numbers of people were feeling in this country. It brought a glimmer of hope that we can bring about change," said Neerja Chowdhury, a journalist for The Indian Express newspaper.



The Times of India newspaper credited Hazare with channeling the public anger into "a mass movement that has shaken the government to its foundation and placed the entire political class on notice."

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue