New Delhi: The hunger strike by the anti-corruption activist, Anna Hazare, is “totally misconceived”, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament on Wednesday. He said the 74 year old was trying to circumvent democracy by demanding an overhaul of an anti-corruption bill.Mr Hazare spent the night inside Tihar jail in Delhi after rejecting an offer by the authorities to release him.
He has said he will remain there unless he can resume the public protest stopped by his arrest on Tuesday.
Protests backing his campaign have been gathering momentum across the country.
Hundreds of people have gathered outside Tihar jail, many carrying the Indian flag and shouting “Down with corruption” and “Hail Mother India”.
Supreme Court lawyers have announced they will march to show their support for Mr Hazare, while auto-rickshaw drivers have gone on strike.
Mr Hazare and at least 1,200 of his supporters were arrested at JP Park in the capital on Tuesday morning, hours before he was due to begin his “fast unto death”.
The Congress-led government denied it was stifling a democratic protest, saying the protesters had been detained because they had not accepted the police’s restrictions on the number of fasting days and participants.
As public anger mounted, officials ordered Mr Hazare’s release. But he refused to leave jail before the police dropped the conditions they set for his freedom.
Speaking in parliament, Mr Singh argued that the arrests had been justified and that Mr Hazare’s campaign amounted to a challenge to the authority of the government, which he was duty bound to protect.
“I acknowledge that Anna Hazare may be inspired by high ideals,” he said. “However, the path that he has chosen to impose a draft of the bill on parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy.