New Delhi, Aug 26: Police used tear gas and water cannons as hundreds of anti-corruption activists led by Arvind Kejriwal staged noisy protests near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s homes. Congratulating the protesters, Anna Hazare said he felt the time “for complete change and a second freedom movement had begun”.
Just 20 days after Hazare’s Team Anna was disbanded, Kejriwal, a member of the former grouping, led hundreds of India Against Corruption (IAC) supporters to besiege the residences of Manmohan Singh, Gandhi and BJP president Nitin Gadkari. However, they were stopped by police and detained. Kejriwal was detained twice, once in the morning and a second time when he led the agitators again to besiege the prime minister and Congress president’s house after noon.
Hazare, in a blog in the evening, congratulated the protesters and said he “felt that the time for change has come”.
Hazare, who sat on four fasts in the national capital to demand a Jan Lokpal bill for creating an ombudsman to tackle corruption, said in the blog that it pained him to watch the youthful protesters getting cane-charged by police. But, he added “In order to succeed in the second war of freedom, one has to get used to beatings, and if it comes to that, then even face bullets. For complete change (in governance) the second freedom struggle has begun.”
Though the IAC had also called for protests outside BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s residence, blaming both the Congress and BJP for the irregular coal blocks allocations, the main focus seemed to be the prime minister and Gandhi.
An official source said Manmohan Singh was at home when the protests took place. “He was busy with work,” the source told IANS.
The one notable absentee Sunday was former Team Anna member Kiran Bedi.
Asked about her, Kejriwal said: “On this issue she probably feels that the BJP can give the country a good government. But the BJP can’t.”
Kejriwal had said Saturday that Bedi was with them, and Bedi had stated she “fully supports” Kejriwal’s protest call.
In a clear sign that IAC was not focussing only on the Congress, its members staged similar demonstrations in various state capitals including Jaipur, Bhopal, Bangalore, Mumbai and Bhubaneshwar, IAC told IANS.
After he was released by police in the morning, Kejriwal and the IAC members marched in separate groups from Jantar Mantar towards the residences of the prime minister, on Race Course Road, towards Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s house on Janpath and BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s house on Tughlaq Road.
This time, police used used water canons on the protesters and lobbed teargas on them and also caned some protesters to disperse the crowd.
Besides Kejriwal, the other IAC members detained were Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas. Hundreds of IAC supporters were also detained and let off later.
Kejriwal told reporters that it was their intention to show the people that “There is no opposition left in this country. All parties are hand in glove with the Congress” over coal allocation.
He called off the protest in the afternoon.
Late in the evening, Kejriwal tweeted that “this political revolution would sweep the whole country in times to come”.
Kejriwal said the “political alternative” started by Anna Hazare would be a party “under law but it would be a political revolution in practice”.
In a late evening statement, Kejriwal voiced unhappiness over “police atrocity in Bhopal” on IAC supporters.
He said that IAC members in Bhopal were beaten up “very badly” while holding protests against corruption by the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He said 25 people, including six women, had been arrested. He announced his intention to sit on dharna on Tuesday outside the chief minister’s residence and “offer himself for arrest” in protest against the police action.