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India Faces More Anti-Corruption Protests

  • Anjana Pasricha

Activists from India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) burn an effigy representing chief of ruling Congress Party Sonia Gandhi during a protest in Noida, Uttar Pradesh on June 6, 2011.

Activists from India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) burn an effigy representing chief of ruling Congress Party Sonia Gandhi during a protest in Noida, Uttar Pradesh on June 6, 2011.

A day after police in India broke up an anti-corruption protest led by a yoga guru, the government faced more protests and questions by the Supreme Court about the police action. This is the second popular campaign held in the capital against graft in the past two months.

Slamming the government for crushing the hunger strike led by yoga guru Baba Ramdev, senior leaders of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party held a demonstration in New Delhi.

Ramdev’s peaceful protest was broken up in a pre-dawn raid Sunday by police, who used batons to disperse the tens of thousands of people who had gathered in New Delhi.

BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani demanded the government convene a special parliamentary session to explain the crackdown.

Advani says the protesters, including children and women, were sitting peacefully when police moved in.

The Supreme Court also stepped in, asking the police and the government to explain their action against the protesters.

Baba Ramdev began his hunger strike to demand the government bring back money illegally stashed overseas, and introduce tough anti-corruption legislation. He wants the death penalty for corrupt officials.

Police has said Baba Ramdev did not have permission to hold such a large protest, and the massive gathering could have posed a law and order problem. The government says the guru went back on promises to call off the hunger strike.

The government’s action took many by surprise, and has been criticized by many political observers. It followed negotiations between the guru and top ministers that appeared to be making headway.

Ramdev is continuing his campaign in Haridwar, the Hindu holy town in northern India where he was taken by police after being detained.

He vowed Monday to build his campaign into a national movement.

He says he has the backing of millions of people deeply upset with corruption.

The yoga guru’s protest began two months after the government was caught unaware by massive popular support for another anti-graft campaign started by social activist Anna Hazare in April.

A former top police official, Kiran Bedi, who was on the frontlines of that protest, announced plans for another one this week.

“It will be peaceful and it will be asserting your own democratic right to make a peaceful protest,” Bedi said.

Political analysts say the decision to break up the protest will bring the government under more pressure as it confronts a huge ground swell of anger against corruption. The several graft scandals being investigated involve kickbacks amounting to billions of dollars in the organization of last year’s Commonwealth Games and the distribution of telecom licenses.

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