18 Aug 2011

Indian activist allowed to stage hunger strike

8:00 pm on 18 August 2011

Jailed Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare has agreed to a police offer that will permit him to go on hunger strike in a park for 15 days.

Mr Hazare has become an inspiration for millions of Indians fed up with rampant corruption, red tape and inadequate services.

Writing on the social networking site Twitter, his aide Kiran Bedi said Mr Hazare would begin his fast on Thursday, the BBC reports.

Mr Hazare had previously vowed to remain in custody in a Delhi prison unless he was permitted to resume the protest, which triggered his arrest on Tuesday.

His detention sparked massive rallies throughout the country, including Mumbai Chennai, Bangalore and Calcutta. At India Gate in Delhi, people shouted slogans and held placards demanding he be freed and that the government act on corruption.

Correspondents say hundreds of his supporters greeted the new of the deal outside the police station where the 74-year-old is being held.

Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused Mr Hazare of trying to circumvent democracy by demanding the overhaul of an anti-corruption bill.

The prime minister told parliament on Wednesday Mr Hazare's hunger strike was ''totally misconceived'', but his speech was constantly interrupted by opposition MPs, many of whom jeered and shouted ''shame''.

In April, Mr Hazare called off a hunger strike after four days when the government said he could help draft legislation to create a special ombudsman, (lokpal), an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

The final version of the bill was presented in early August, but Mr Hazare and other activists rejected it because the prime minister and senior judges would be exempt from scrutiny.

The BBC reports India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals.