Protests erupt across India after police arrest anti-graft activist
NEW DELHI (BNO NEWS) — Thousands of protesters were arrested across India on Tuesday after social activist Anna Hazare was detained by police to prevent him from defying a ban on a planned anti-graft fast, local media reported.
Hazare, 74, was arrested and sent to prison for seven days of judicial custody, where he began a hunger striker. “Anna Hazare refused to sign a personal bond and has been sent to seven days judicial custody,” Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat told reporters, describing it as a preventive arrest.
Both houses of the Indian Union Parliament were paralyzed over the detention of Hazare and his supporters, according to the Hindustan Times. About 1,400 supporters were arrested across the capital, while mass detentions were also reported in other cities.
Hazare and one of his associates were arrested as they stepped out of an apartment in east Delhi on their way to Jai Prakash Narayan Park where they were planning to hold their strike against the government’s version of an anti-corruption bill. Hundreds of Hazare’s supporters gathered outside the apartment complex and shouted anti-government slogans.
“We have denied them permission to protest at JP Park. Section 144 that restricts a gathering of people has been imposed at the park and all roads leading to it. If anyone tries to defy the orders, the punishment can vary from preventive custody to arrest,” Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said on Monday, as cited by local media, warning the activists.
Just before his arrest, Hazare said in a recorded video message: “Don’t let my arrest stop this movement. This is the nation’s second struggle for freedom.” As news of his arrest spread, thousands took to the streets in Delhi, Mumbai, and many other cities across the country, according to the Hindustan Times. Some reports said as many as 4,400 people were arrested across the country.
Earlier this month, supporters of Hazare burned copies of the government’s version of the Lokpal bill and slammed the legislation for exempting the prime minister, the judiciary and lawmakers. They called it the “anti-poor” law for excluding the office of the Prime Minister from the purview of a new ombudsman.
Hazare threatened to continue protesting the exclusion of some recommendations made by civil society representatives from the bill until August 16. The Gandhian social activist also went on a hunger strike in April to force the government to form a joint panel of ministers and activists to draft the Lokpa bill.
The bill follows a series of corruption scandals involving government officials. Transparency International ranked India, one of the few countries yet to ratify the United Nations convention against corruption, at 78, placing it below neighboring China.
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