After the dramatic twist in the tale about Baba Ramdev’s campaign against corruption in the early hours of Sunday at the Ramlila Maidan, the government seems to have antagonised the civil society members of the joint panel on the Lokpal Bill as well. Justice Santosh Hegde, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and activist Arvind Kejriwal have confirmed that that they will boycott the sixth meeting of the joint-drafting committee on Monday.
Speaking from Bangalore on the phone, Hegde said, “I have cancelled my ticket and will boycott tomorrow’s meeting as a sign of solidarity for the people injured and beaten up last night. I have conveyed this to my fellow panelists. Mr Bhushan has also confirmed that he will not attend tomorrow’s meeting.”
An aide of Arvind Kejriwal said that Kejriwal would not attend tomorrow’s meeting with the government ministers.
Hegde termed the violence unleashed on the people at the Ramlila Maidan as “a blot on Indian democracy”. Expressing anger against the government, he said, “No government has the right to violate fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. Why did the police act after midnight? The situation could have worsened had the people taken law in their hands.”
Bhushan termed the police action at the Ramlila Maidan as a “violation of democratic rights” and a clear sign of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s “duality”. He questioned the government’s actions and intent on solving the corruption issue. He also suggested that the wanton police violence last night could not have been done without the home minister’s approval. He demanded the resignation of Union home minister P Chidambaram.
This episode has become another setback for the UPA government, which was criticised after the last meeting of the joint drafting committee. The government ministers and the civil society members could not reach a consensus on the most important issue of including the Prime Minister and higher judiciary in the ambit of the Lokpal. The cancellation of Monday’s meeting may mean that the Lokpal Bill will not be ready by its deadline of 30 June.
Although Hegde will boycott the meeting, he said the panel should continue negotiating with the government for the people.
Nikhil M Ghanekar is a Correspondent with Tehelka.com