Friday, August 19, 2011

Jan Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare leaves Tihar Jail to fast at Ramlila Maidan

NEW DELHI: A self-styled Gandhian campaigner who has become a symbol of popular outrage over endemic corruption left jail on Friday to carry on his fast after a beleaguered government caved in to huge protests across the country.

After three days in jail, the government has allowed Anna Hazare to stage a 15-day hunger strike. Hazare, who had been arrested earlier in the week and then ordered released, had refused to leave jail until he was allowed to fast publicly.

Hazare's exit was broadcast live as thousands of supporters thronged outside the jail in a deafening roar of celebration.

Just past the gates he addressed the crowd, raising his hand to the air and shouting "Vande Matram" before slowly winding his way in a truck decorated with flags through massive crowds.

Many supporters had been there overnight and some had offered prayers to gods. Others chanted "the whole country is Anna".

A top Hazare aide said he would first go to a Rajghat and later travel to Ramlila Maidan, where supporters were making final preparations for his fast.

"We have not seen this kind of thing in the last 60 years in India," said S.K. Sharma, 48, a company executive CEO, outside the jail as he waited for Hazare. "If this carries on in this way for the next four days, you will see a new changed India."

A fumbling official response has seen the Congress party-led government face one of the most serious protest movements since the 1970s, just the latest setback for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's second term that has paralysed policy making and economic reforms.

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