Indian churches welcome release of activist

Published August 16, 2011

A social activist was arrested and later released for protesting alleged massive corruption involving the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi. Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic

Bangalore, India — Churches in India have expressed relief after the government decided to release anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare hours after he was arrested on Aug.16 in an escalation of confrontations with the government over alleged corruption.

"We welcome the release of Hazare. The decision to arrest [him] was wrong," Methodist Bishop Taranath S. Sagar, president of the National Council of Churches (NCCI), told ENInews.

Earlier, the NCCI, which represents 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches, had joined in the chorus of protest against Hazare’s detention as candlelight vigils and other demonstrations spread across the country. "Everyone has the right to protest," said the NCCI in a statement.

Hazare was detained in New Delhi hours before he was to begin an indefinite fast at a park to demand enactment of stringent legislation against rampant corruption. "This drama could have been avoided," Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, told ENInews. "The government should not have curbed the right to hold peaceful protests," he said.

The federal government justified the arrest as "preventive detention" as Hazare had refused to abide by conditions police had laid down for him to launch the fast along with his associates and supporters. Police also detained more than 1,400 Hazare supporters in New Delhi and other cities for protesting the arrest.

A Gandhian social activist, Hazare galvanized the nation last April with a fast that ended after five days when the government agreed to set up a joint panel of federal ministers and Hazare’s team to draft strong anti-corruption legislation.

Hazare and his team announced the second protest fast after the meetings ended with the government rejecting some of the provisions suggested by the social activists.

Hazare’s crusade is a response to reports of massive corruption amounting to billions of dollars in wireless telecom licensing and in the preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi.


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