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Indian activist ends hunger strike

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

Seventy-four-year-old Anna Hazare accepted a glass of coconut water and honey from a five-year-old girl 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," Mr Hazare told the crowd, filled with supporters wearing the white cloth caps, reminiscent of India's independence leaders, that have become the protests' signature.

Mr Hazare is expected to be taken to hospital later in the day.

Mr Hazare began his fast on August 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 government, miscalculating the popularity of his anti-corruption message, briefly arrested him to quash his protest, a move that sent tens of thousands of his angry supporters pouring into the streets across the country.

Mr Hazare, who claims inspiration from liberation hero 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 Mr Hazare's weight plunged, government ministers and protest leaders haggled over how to end their standoff.

Officials said Mr 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.

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