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Indian PM Calls on Anti-Corruption Activist to End Hunger Strike


Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare (C) is examined by a team of doctors in front of a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi on the eighth day of his fasting at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi, Aug. 23, 2011.

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare (C) is examined by a team of doctors in front of a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi on the eighth day of his fasting at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi, Aug. 23, 2011.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called on activist Anna Hazare to end his hunger strike being conducted to call for tougher anti-corruption legislation.

Singh made the appeal in a letter released Tuesday.

Government officials plan an all-party meeting on Wednesday to discuss the standoff in what appears to reach a compromise to slow down the anti-corruption protests.

On Tuesday, crowds gathered in New Delhi in support of Anna Hazare, who says he has denied himself food for eight days. He has vowed to starve himself to death if the government does not submit a strong bill to establish a new anti-corruption agency.

Hazare spoke out to adoring followers Tuesday, telling the crowd he is doing fine after eight days of fasting. Hazare says he is drinking water and has lost nearly six kilograms, but he has excellent medical supervision.

Vowing to fight on, the 74-year-old called on supporters to protest in a way lawmakers would be unable to ignore.

Hazare appealed to the crowd in Hindi, saying that if by August 30 there is no movement on the anti-corruption law in parliament, his supporters should take the protest to the homes of lawmakers. That, he said, might help enlighten them.

Similar protests in support of Hazare have gained strength in the southern Indian cities of Bangalore and Mumbai, and elsewhere around the country. They are fueled by widespread anger, particularly among India's growing middle class, at a government seen as unable or unwilling to stop one high-profile scam after another.

Speaking in front of a giant photo of modern India's founding father Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hazare called on supporters to wage this "second battle for independence" in a manner consistent with Gandhi's ideals.

He says this movement must stick to the path of non-violence. If there is any violence, he says, the government will crush it. But, he says, the government is not able to do so because our campaign is non-violent.

India's ruling Congress party has submitted its own version of the anti-corruption bill demanded by Hazare. However, he says it is far too weak, and demands that a new anti-corruption agency have the power to investigate members of the judiciary and the prime minister himself.

Both houses of parliament were once again adjourned early in an uproar of shouts over the Hazare protests. The main Indian opposition party, calling the government's draft bill "useless," says it is organizing a nationwide protest for Thursday in support of Hazare.

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