Indian activist's hunger strike goes on amid talks

AP News
Posted: Apr 08, 2011 10:11 AM
Indian activist's hunger strike goes on amid talks

A 73-year-old Indian activist on a hunger strike to combat government corruption on Friday defiantly rejected government efforts to negotiate a compromise to end his high-profile protest.

Public support for Anna Hazare continued to grow, with thousands of people _ including film stars, government bureaucrats and a famed yoga guru _ pledging their support as his fast entered its fourth day Friday.

While the government has agreed to some of Hazare's demands on setting up a committee to formulate a new anti-corruption law, the two sides disagree on the mandate of the drafting body.

Hazare told supporters his hunger strike would continue.

"We will not bend before the government. If the government is deaf, the people will teach it a lesson," Hazare said to loud applause from thousands of people who have thronged a park in central New Delhi.

The roadside tent in the park where Hazare has been conducting his public fast since Tuesday has become a pilgrimage site for Indians fed up with a string of seemingly unending scandals.

Yoga guru Ram Dev, Bollywood star Anupam Kher and the architect of New Delhi's new metro rail network, E. Sreedharan, joined thousands of people who have been camping in the tent or squatting on the road nearby to offer support to Hazare.

Public protests and fasts were being held in state capitals across the country.

Public anger with corruption has been growing in the wake of recent scandals, including an investigation into the sale of cell phone spectrum in 2008 that reportedly cost the country tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue. The telecoms minister had to resign and is currently in jail pending a probe into the losses.

The ruling Congress Party has also come under fire for mismanagement and corruption allegations tied to last year's Commonwealth Games and the takeover of valuable Mumbai apartments intended for poor war widows by powerful bureaucrats and politicians' relatives. The country's top anti-corruption official was forced to resign last month after the Supreme Court ruled that graft charges he faced disqualified him from holding the office.