A Sip of Water Ends A Fast, But Not The Debate

Indian activist Anna Hazare ends hunger strike, parliament pledges to fight corruption

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Indian activist Anna Hazare ended a hunger strike after 13 days on Saturday, having won a pledge from the country's parliament that it would take new steps to fight corruption. Hazare's demonstration prodded lawmakers to establish a "lokpal," or ombudsman, to investigate misdealing, though the Los Angeles Times noted that there are some doubts about whether the new entity will prove powerful enough to make major changes.

Whether or not the new agency has teeth or ultimately does much to stem endemic corruption remains to be seen.

What is clear, however, is that Hazare has rattled the political establishment by tapping a wellspring of public frustration over graft in ordinary life.

"I have only suspended my agitation," he told cheering supporters. "I will not rest until all the changes that I look to are achieved."

The end of the fast brought jubilation.

"We are lucky to witness a moment when we are all standing together in this scorching heat, sweating profusely for a law that can end corruption in India," Alpana Sahai, a 20-year-old biology student, told AFP.

There were notes of discontent about Hazare and his hunger strike, however. The Times noted the activist's skillful manipulation of press coverage and social media to maximize public attention. That extended to the very breaking of the fast itself, which was accomplished, on-camera, with a sip of coconut water and honey.

The end of the hunger strike underscored the media skills that Hazare and his "Team Anna" advisers have displayed throughout the two-week standoff. The coconut water and honey he downed on national TV was fed to him by two children, one a Muslim, the other a dalit, or so-called untouchable, to suggest the broad-based nature of his movement.
He delayed eating by more than 12 hours after the deal was struck, which helped maximize media coverage. And throughout the standoff, his team has used Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites to great effect.

Others expressed concern at the spectacle of a single individual seemingly bending the nation's constitutional process to his will. "Comparisons with Gandhian struggle are not correct," said Ashish Gupta in The Hindu. "... I do not want to destroy the constitutional mechanism and institutions of which I am proud of, notwithstanding their shortcomings."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.