With the Delhi Police refusing permission for a day-long hunger strike at Jantar Mantar tomorrow, civil rights activist Anna Hazare today decided to shift the venue to Rajghat to avoid confrontation.
The announcement was made by his associates Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi, while contending the denial of permission to hold peaceful protest was against the basic Constitutional rights of citizens.
Mr. Hazare and others will launch the day-long hunger strike to protest the crackdown against Baba Ramdev’s congregation against corruption at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday night.
The Hazare-led protest will be held in the vicinity of Rajghat from 10 am tomorrow and will be accompanied by fast, an all-religion prayer meeting and a debate on Lokpal Bill.
“The Delhi Police Commissioner (B. K. Gupta) has told us that there is no permission to sit (on fast) there (Jantar Mantar) and directed us not to sit there,” Mr. Bhushan said about the venue which falls in New Delhi district where Section 144 has been imposed to prohibit gathering of more than four persons at one place.
“We are not fighting with them (police),” he told reporters adding that they had accordingly decided to shift the venue to Rajghat where Section 144 is not in force.
Mr. Kejriwal said, “we have no intention for confrontation. Our intention is only for peaceful protest.”
Violation of rights
At the same time, he said the denial of permission was violation of Article 19(1) and 19(2) which gives freedom of speech to everyone.
Echoing Mr. Kejriwal’s views, Mr. Bhushan said the Delhi Police should not do this otherwise people will have to resort to other means to express themselves
A senior police official today said they have refused permission for the fast at Jantar Mantar while citing prohibitory orders at the site after the police action against Baba Ramdev in Ramlila Maidan on Sunday.
Mr. Kejriwal, who earlier in the day claimed that no one can stop Mr. Hazare from protesting at Jantar Mantar, said their protest will be “very peaceful“.
Earlier in the day, he had said, “from whom should we seek permission? They are not our masters. People of this country are the masters. Government is not our master, unfortunately they have started behaving like they are our masters.”
Justice Santosh Hegde, who is the Karnataka Lokayukta, said he will not join any fast or demonstration till he was holding a public post but noted that the move to impose Section 144 and denying permission to Mr. Hazare “indicates a weakness” on the part of the government.
“The actions of the government against Baba Ramdev shows they are scared of him,” he alleged, adding he was not asking anybody to defy the law.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said the police decision not to allow protest at Jantar Mantar “clearly” showed that the government is neither prepared to engage with the civil society nor it is clear about the strategy with which it has to negotiate on issues which are confronting it.