Indian government caves in over activist's fast

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The Independent Online

The Indian government yesterday caved in to popular fury over corruption and granted permission for a self-styled Gandhian crusader to stage a 15-day public hunger strike.

Anna Hazare was arrested on Tuesday, hours ahead of a planned fast to demand tougher laws against the corruption that plagues India.

But the jailing of the 74-year-old campaigner sparked nationwide protests and put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government on a backfoot, forcing it to relent.

"Anna wishes to congratulate everyone as we have started a great momentum for this fight against corruption," said Arvind Kejriwal, a social activist and close aid of Mr Hazare. "He wants all of us to continue in this peaceful and calm way of protest."

The government, facing one of the most serious protest movements since the 1970s, at first agreed to release Mr Hazare, but he refused to leave the high-security jail until he won the right to lead an anti-corruption protest.

Crowds by the jail erupted in joy at news of the new deal, shouting "I am Anna" and "We are with you" as they sung, played guitars and waved the Indian flag.

The protests across India have not only rocked the ruling Congress party but have sent shockwaves through the political class, with civil servants, lawyers, teachers, business executives and students, taking to the streets.