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Anna Hazare Breaks Fast After 288 Hours, Nation Relieved

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NEW DELHI: Anna Hazare ended his 12-day fast on Sunday morning before thousands of cheering supporters at Ramlila Maidan.

The 74-year-old Gandhian accepted a glass of tender coconut water mixed with honey from a Dalit and a Muslim girl -- Simran and Ikrah -- at 10:20 am on the dais at the Ramlila Ground ending over 288 hours of fast that began on August 16.

After a brief address, Hazare was driven straight to Medanta Medicity run by eminent cardiologist Dr Naresh Trehan who was attending to him along with his team during his entire period of fast. Hazare will stay in the hospital for two-three days.

"I have only suspended my agitation. I will not rest until all the changes that I look to are achieved," he said to a thunderous applause from thousands of his supporters waving tricolour and shouting slogans like 'Anna Hazare Zindabad'.

Flanked by his team members, including Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia, Hazare said what has been achieved in Parliament yesterday is a victory of the people of India, democracy and those assembled in Ramlila Ground.

Maintaining that People's Parliament is bigger than "Parliament in Delhi", Hazare said that is why the Parliament had to listen to people's Parliament.

"This movement has created a faith that the country can be rid of corruption and we can go ahead with implementing laws and the Constitution made by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar," he said.

Referring to Parliament's decision to refer three of his demands - Citizen's charter, inclusion of lower bureaucracy and creation of Lokayuktas through Lokpal bill - for Standing Committee's consideration, he said, the country can be proud of this moment. Thirteen days of agitation has yielded fruits, he said.

Outlining his future agenda, Hazare chose reforms in election and education systems and working for the betterment of farmers and labourers.

He said his fight would now be for Right to Recall and Right to Reject. While Right to Recall would be for those elected, the Right to Reject will be a column in the ballot paper which would ensure the voter has a right to say that he does not like the listed candidates.

"We have to reform electoral system. (we need) Right to Reject. You should be able to reject your candidate in the ballot paper. We have to do that.

"If majority say they do not like any of the candidates in the fray, the election should be cancelled. How much money they (candidates) will distribute? Once the candidate spends Rs 10 crore for one election and if the election is cancelled, then right sense will dawn upon them," he said.

He said they will have to think about farmers' problems as well as the woes of labourers and fight for them relentlessly.

"We are thankful to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he showed remarkable leadership yesterday in the parliament. We are also thankful to all the parliamentarians for listening to the voice of the common man," Kejriwal said.

"The entire country had poured out on the streets, their anger over a corrupt system was boiling over."

"We are thankful to Dr Naresh Trehan and his team from Medanta Medcity for the constant vigil and closely observing Anna Hazare's health. We are also thankful to media who have supported this cause.

"We did not have any funds but it was only due to your generosity and donations that we could achieve all this. We are also very thankful to officials of MCD, Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Police and Delhi mayor. I would also like to mention that all the officials of Delhi Police and Tihar Jail served us very well. Anna never felt he was in a jail. Lastly, we are very thankful to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and all his activists and workers of Art of Living who united for this cause."

Describing them as the backbone of the agitation, Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal had a special word of praise for the over 300 volunteers who worked round the clock for 13 days to the keep the movement against corruption going.

Minutes before Hazare broke his fast Sunday morning, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal said: "The backbone of the protest is our volunteers who were insulted, scolded, treated in a bad way but still they worked efficiently for hours."

"On days when I used to sleep here and sometimes get up at 3 a.m., I used to see several volunteers hushing up at the stairs near the dais. When I used to ask them to sleep, they would say - 'No, we want to protect our Anna', that was their spirit," he said.

From food, ambulance, security, crowd management, maintaining links with the media, and transcribing speeches -- the volunteers from India Against Corruption (IAC) were the lifeline behind the 74-year-old's fast that gripped the world's attention.

Around 80 volunteers were in action at the ground all day and night to provide security to Hazare, said activist Atul Kumar.

These volunteers, both men and women, worked in shifts to ensure that some volunteers were always at Ramlila ground. "We worked in shifts - morning, evening and night," said Praveen Deshmukh, another volunteer.

History was made in Parliament on Saturday when the two Houses bowed to Anna Hazare's campaign, powered by a groundswell of popular support, for a strong and independent Lokpal.

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha unanimously resolved that the Standing Committee would consider Anna's three demands - including the lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal's purview, a central law for creating Lok Ayuktas in states and a citizen's charter for government departments providing public service. This finally paved the way for Anna's 12-day fast to end.

Around 4,000 people stayed overnight at the protest venue while hundreds of others arrived early in the morning.

"I started at around 5 am as I wanted to ensure that I could be in the front row, so that I could witness Anna breaking his fast," said 37-year-old Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Ghaziabad who claims to be a die-hard Anna supporter.

There is a festive atmosphere at the ground, as people are singing and dancing to the tune of drums and celebrating "victory" of Hazare.

Another supporter Vijay Gupta, who had come along with his family from Lucknow said, he was "happy to be part of history in making."

"I am extremely happy that the government has conceded to the demand of Anna Hazare, the corruption is affecting everybody in the society and we want a very strong Lokpal Bill," he said amid chanting of slogans.


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