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Thousands support Hazare with candle light protests, torch rallies

August 20, 2011 - Surat

Thousands of people across India held peaceful candle-light vigils and torch rallies onFriday to support veteran anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare after he walked out of New Delhi's Tihar Jail to carry his fast in public for the enactment of a strong Jan Lokpal Bill.

In Surat, Gujarat, even patients at a hospital shouted slogans in favour of Hazare.You (reporter) have seen in general ward that patients are shouting slogans in favour of Anna. They are not stopping despite our persuasions. It seems that they have gained energy after shouting slogans. They are getting better on their own," said I. C. Mundra, a senior doctor.

In Hazare"s native village of Ralegaon Siddi in Maharashtra, scores took part in a protest rally near a temple to pray for his success and the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

"We have organised a protest rally to pray for Anna"s success. All man and women are offering prayers to goddess so that Anna"s fast should immediately come to an end and the government should get enough wisdom so that it passes the Jan Lokpal Bill soon," said Ananth Matondkar, a villager.

In Agra, Uttar Pradesh, people participated in candle light marches to express solidarity with Hazare.

Several scandals, including a telecoms bribery scandal that may have cost the government up to 39 billion dollars, led to Hazare demanding anti-corruption measures. But the government bill creating an anti-graft ombudsman has been criticized as too weak.

Hazare"s initial demands then mushroomed to catch the imagination of millions of Indians, especially a new middle class angry at constant bribes, from getting a driving license to winning a university place.

A blundering official response has led the Congress Party-led government to face one of the most serious protest movements in India since the 1970s, just the latest in a series of setbacks for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh"s second term that have paralyzed policy making and economic reforms.

In Mumbai, the city"s iconic lunch carriers, known as Dabbawallas, went on strike in sympathy with Hazare. On Friday, some 5,000 people took part in a pro-Hazare rally in the city, local TV reported.

On the fan page of Facebook, Hazare has over 300,000 followers, while the India Against Corruption page on Facebook has more than 370,000 followers where links and messages of support are posted. Several Twitter accounts have been set up by supporters to send out messages of where and when to protest.


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