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|August 18, 1999||
Hazare calls off fast, not crusade
Michael Gonsalves in Pune
Activist and crusader against corruption, Anna Hazare called off his 10-day hunger protest over the "growing corruption in the functioning of the judiciary" today, but vowed to continue his crusade against corruption in the higher echelons of government.
"I will soon begin my tour of the entire Maharashtra state to create awareness among the voters that they hold the key to a good government," said a frail-looking Hazare, addressing a gathering of his supporters at the temple town of Alandi, near Pune.
"By electing good candidates, voters can usher in a pro-people government," he said, stressing that voters should vote not for the party but just honest candidates.
Hazare, who had earlier announced he would end his life because his crusade was not yielding enough results, said, "I am calling off my indefinite fast because numerous social leaders and activists from various walks of life, including the Pune district collector and my villagers, have been persuading me to end my fast."
Hazare said that he would not campaign for any political party during his tour of the state. "But it is the right time to educate voters to be conscious of their strength and urge them to cast their vote only for the right, honest and able candidates and not for a party," he said.
"After the elections, my crusade will focus on urging the government to make necessary legislation with regard to right to information so that the citizens had easy access to vital information," Hazare said, adding that banning the Official Secret Act, a powerful weapon in the hands of the British, would also be on his agenda.
"I had been persuading Hazare to end his fast as he had demanded nothing specific of the state government," Pune District Collector Vijaykumar Gautam told rediff.com.
Hazare broke his fast at 4 pm today after receiving a glass of fruit juice from eight-year-old Urshita Gautam, the collector's daughter.
Hailing Hazare as the messiah of the rural poor, Gautam said," He is a true saint, working relentlessly for the upliftment of the rural poor. He is the only spiritual leader in Maharashtra who can inspire awe in all sections of society. And the society needs him more than anybody."
Ever since Hazare began his hunger protest, there had been a groundswell of support for his campaign to clean up the state administration.
Well-known citizens of Pune like actor Shreeram Lagoo, socialist leader and former leader of the Opposition in Maharashtra State Legislative Professor G P Pradhan had also joined the protest in support of Hazare's effort to fight corruption in society.
The 62-year-old Gandhian social reformer was rushed to the Sassoon General Hospital, Pune, last Friday after he complained of pain following fluctuations in his blood pressure.
Vijaykumar Gautam and another official, Gulabrao Pole, had convinced Hazare that he had to be taken for medical treatment.
After leaving the hospital on Saturday, Hazare had resumed his hunger strole at Alandi. The Pune district administration had posted a fully equipped ambulance with doctors and equipment near Hazare.
Hazare launched his hunger protest on August 1 in Alandi, expressing shock over the alleged nexus between the Maharashtra government and the Bombay-based magistrate K H Holambe-Patil.
Holambe-Patil had held Hazare guilty of defamation and jailed him for three months for calling a Maharashtra minister corrupt. Hazare was however released after serving just two weeks in the Pune Yerawada Central Prison.
Hazare had distributed to reporters copies of a letter written by the Maharashtra government to Holambe-Patil's mother, Shevantabai Holambe-Patil, informing her that she had been allotted an apartment from the chief minister's discretionary quota. Hazare had questioned the sequence of events leading up to the allotment of the apartment.
Noted actor Shreeram Lagoo, well-known activist against superstition and editor of the Marathi weekly, Sadhana Narendra Dabholkar, and his wife, Shaila, had also fasted for three days in support of Hazare.
"I was very disturbed when I read that Hazare had undertaken a fast against growing corruption in society. Why should a person like Hazare express a death wish? Everybody must fight corruption and support Hazare," Lagoo said.
"What Hazare is fighting for is more important and difficult than the Kargil war. Here is a man fighting against immorality of his own countrymen without resorting to violent means," Lagoo said.
Earlier, Hazare's 80-year-old mother Laxmibai had joined the fast at Alandi last Friday. She, along with over 100 residents of Hazare's native Ralegan-Siddhi village, also asked him to call off his fast. They had told him that if he did not pay heed to their request, all the villagers would also fast at Alandi from August 19.
While talking with his villagers, Hazare had indicated that he may fast unto death and said that his mortal remains should be buried at the entrance of the Yadav Baba temple, his residence.
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