New Delhi: His crusade
against corruption triggering a virtual tsunami, social reformer
Anna Hazare Thursday vowed to fast until death even as Congress
president Sonia Gandhi urged him to end his hunger strike saying his
demands will get the government's "full attention".
Addressing thousands of young and old who continued to pour into the
protest venue here, Anna Hazare, who began his fast Tuesday, said he
would not eat until the government gave a role to the civil society
in drafting a stringent Lokpal bill to battle the cancer of
"My fast will continue till there is life in my body," Anna Hazare,
sounding firm but looking weak, told a swelling crowd close to the
Jantar Mantar monument in the heart of the city.
His assertion ignited emotive cries of 'Joh kabhi nahi haare, Woh
Anna Hazare!' (One who never gives up is Anna Hazare) and "Bharat
Mata ki Jai!" and cries of Vande Mataram and patriotic songs filled
The 72-year-old, a former soldier respected for his integrity, said
Indian politicians "need to be trained in democracy".
Anna Hazare's refusal to back off followed the failure of two rounds
of talks Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal held with
activists Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh.
By evening, Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the ruling United
Progressive Alliance, stepped in, pleading with the Gandhian to end
"I am pained by Anna Hazareji's fast unto death," she said in a
statement. She promised that his demand for a war on corruption
would be given "full attention" by the government.
"There can be no two views on the urgent necessity on combating
corruption in public life," she added.
The statement had no effect on Anna Hazare, whose campaign has
ignited solidarity rallies all over the country -- from Kashmir to
Tamil Nadu and from Gujarat to West Bengal.
In a first of its kind, Indians settled in foreign countries also
took out protest marches, voicing support to the fasting man.
After his first dialogue Thursday morning, Sibal sounded confident.
"We had a very constructive dialogue. The broad parameters are
generally agreed upon... We want Anna Hazare to give up the fast. We
believe the civil society and the government should sit together and
deal with the problem of corruption through an effective
legislation," he said.
But after more talks, Sibal admitted there was no agreement on the
procedure to set up a panel to draft a Lokpal bill. "We need more
time and we will be meeting tomorrow (Friday)."
As news of the impasse reached the venue, protesters -- whose
numbers have varied from a few hundred to thousands at any given
time -- denounced the government for not taking a firm stand against
In the evening, hundreds holding candles marched to the India Gate
for the second straight day.
Doctors said Thursday that the Gandhian's blood pressure was
slightly high. But the feisty leader appeared unperturbed. He
addressed the media in the evening and constantly waved to the sea
But with the sun beating down, some fell unconscious. Doctors at the
site quickly attended to them.
Anna Hazare asserted: "I am just a little weak, otherwise am fine...
I can continue like this for at least another seven days." He sipped
Political parties voiced support for Anna Hazare but he has refused
to let them hijack his movement.
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Prakash Javedakar said: "The BJP
agrees with the essence of the demand and the Gandhian way of
protest. That's why we have supported him."
In Mumbai, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said that the central
government was not scared of the fast but of the "public anger" it
The Communist Party of India-Marxist sought "a strong Lokpal
authority" to probe corruption charges against public servants and
Bollywood, which normally keeps away from political issues, came out
openly in support of Anna Hazare, an iconic figure in Maharashtra.
Bollywood hearthrob Hrithik Roshan tweeted: "I support Anna Hazare.
Its TIME to make a CHANGE!"
Director Madhur Bhandarkar met Anna Hazare to tell him that the
entire film industry supported his crusade.
Even Gopal Dass, who returned to India Thursday after spending 27
harrowing years in a Pakistani prison, told journalists at the
border that India needed Anna Hazare.
"This India is not that of Mahatma Gandhi. This is the India of
scams and corruption," he added.