Just three days away from Anna Hazare`s fast in the Capital to protest against the government`s version of the Lokpal Bill, a war of nerves seems to have erupted between Team Anna and the government.
When Delhi Police had proposed the Jai Prakash Narayan Memorial Park near Ferozeshah Kotla as the venue – having denied Anna Jantar Mantar – Team Anna had accepted the proposal. After making noises, off the record, that they may allow the protest fast to be carried on till August 31, the government agencies have been shifting their stance.
Much of Friday – before the long weekend of Rakhi, Sunday and Independence Day – was spent by Anna`s team members in waiting for permission from CPWD, which in turn sought the views of urban development ministry and Delhi government. As the day progressed, confusion prevailed.
Home minister P Chidambaram was not forthcoming when asked about the protest venue. He said, “I think we are jumping the gun. He wants to have a protest fast and has applied for permission with Delhi Police. The application is under process. The police commissioner has to decide.”
Strangely enough it was Delhi Police which had proposed the venue, a development reported widely in the press. According to sources, the cops had developed some misgivings about the duration of the protest and the implications of a large crowd pitching tent at the venue for a number of days.
Meanwhile, the CPWD was learnt to have written a letter to Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna seeking his views. The agency was reportedly hesitant to give the park for more than three days. This led to another round of meeting till late on Friday night between Team Anna and the joint commissioner of police, Sudhir Yadav. Team Anna was told that CPWD was willing to give the venue for two days only and Delhi Police could extend it by a day. “We have asked them to convey this to us in writing,” Arvind Kejriwal told TOI late on Friday night, without commenting on whether the proposal was acceptable to them or not.
Sources said Khanna had made it clear that the protest should not cause any inconvenience to people, particularly those visiting the hospitals nearby. According to sources, he has also indicated that permission should be given for a specific period in keeping with norms linked to parks. The LG is learnt to have cited orders of Supreme Court and high court on the use of parks. Parks can be given out for public functions for a fixed number of days in a month with an upper limit of around 10 days.