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Anti-graft wars: Empire strikes back at Team Anna

Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 6 Sep 2011 12:57 GMT
Author: David Lalmalsawma
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David Lalmalsawma is a Reuters correspondent. Any views expressed are his own.

They rode a popular wave of discontent over spiralling corruption to force the government to bend to their demands and led an otherwise fractious parliament to arrive at a consensus on an anti-graft bill, in the process becoming media celebrities — their figurehead even hailed a national hero.

But now, activists led by Anna Hazare, whose campaign against corruption captured the imagination of millions across the country and prompted round-the-clock media coverage, say they are being targeted by official machinery for ruffling important feathers.

Hazare’s aides Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan have all received breach of privilege notices from parliament for derogatory comments they reportedly made against legislators.

Kejriwal has also received another notice from the IT department asking him to pay 9.27 lakh rupees ($20,196) in dues for alleged violation of bond clauses while serving in the government.

Bedi received the privilege notice for accusing politicians of wearing “several masks”, while Bhushan is said to have accused MPs of taking bribes to pass laws, though he denied this.

Anna Hazare himself has been accused of misusing a trust fund headed by him. Media reports said a government task force found the expenditure of 2.20 lakh rupees on Hazare’s 60th birthday celebrations amounted to misapplication of funds of the Hind Swaraj Trust.

The whole affair has a precedent. In June, the government began probing the assets of popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev, whose $40 million-a-year yoga empire hadn’t raised official eyebrows till then, after he launched an anti-graft agitation.

The government denies targeting anyone, but activists insist the timing, for instance, of the IT notice on Kajriwal smacks of a “vindictive attitude“.

With ‘Team Anna’ threatening more activism in future, they will invite more scrutiny of their personal and public life, their past history and dealings dug up for any skeletons (deservedly or not).

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