Anna still in jail despite govt. concessions

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NEW DELHI, August 17(agencies): Hectic negotiations were on Wednesday night to break the logjam in Tihar jail from where Anna Hazare has refused to come out despite government climbing down on issues like the venue and period of protest over which it had earlier put stiff conditions.

There were reports that agreement was reached between the two sides on the venue where Hazare could hold his indefinite fast — shifted from JP Park to more spacious Ramlila maidan — but by evening the negotiations were said to be stuck on the number of days he would be allowed to stage his protest.

Senior Delhi Police officials were in discussions with team Anna as Mr. Hazare was in Tihar jail till late in the evening and the civil society activists were said to be insisting on being allowed to stage his fast for a stronger Lokpal for a longer period than the seven days that Police was inclined to allow him.

Highly placed sources said all members of the Hazare team were agreeable to the seven days limit with a rider that the situation could be reviewed everyday thereafter but one activist — Arvind Kejriwal — was not agreeable to it.

Another close associate of Mr. Hazare, Kiran Bedi, admitted as much when she told crowds outside the Tihar jail that negotiations were still on and Hazare was unlikely to come out anytime soon.

Through Delhi Police, the government is understood to have conveyed to Mr. Hazare’s team that Police would no longer insist on restrictions on the number of people which could attend the fast and movement of people.

Earlier in the day there were strong indications that Mr. Hazare, who started his fast yesterday morning and was continuing with it in jail, could walk out during the day.

Activists Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar had told cheering supporters outside the jail that the social activist would be in their amidst shortly and that they should be prepared to go to JP Park, the original preferred venue for the fast, in a peaceful manner.

However, it was not to be with reports coming from inside that team Anna kept escalating the bargain making it clear that there should be no limit on the period of his fast or the number of people that can gather at the venue.

In between, the Police, which had arrested him on Tuesday on apprehension of breach of peace, agreed to the shift of venue to Ramlila maidan where cleaning up operation has already begun. It was at this venue, a protest campaign against blackmoney by Yoga guru Ramdev in early June was foiled by Police.

The stand-off continued even as government came under renewed attack in Parliament from Opposition parties after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a statement in both the Houses.

Dr. Singh maintained that Hazare was trying to impose his version of Lokpal Bill and his “totally misconceived path” was fraught with “dangerous consequences” for Parliamentary democracy.

Making similar points at the end of the debate on Prime Minister’s statement in the Lok Sabha, Home Minister P Chidambaram said the Hazare has “undoubted right” to protest “as long as he wants” but subject to certain conditions.

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