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Talks back to square one, says civil society

By The Assam Tribune
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NEW DELHI, Aug 24 � Talks between government and Team Anna Hazare ended in a deadlock tonight with the two sides failing to resolve the key issues, prompting the civil society to declare that they were �back to square one�, reports PTI.

The virtual breakdown in talks led to sparring betweeen the two sides with Hazare apprehending that he would be forcibly arrested and removed from the fast site and gave a call for �Chalo Delhi� and gherao of Parliament and MPs.

Government�s chief negotiator Pranab Mukherjee sought to reject claims of team Anna representatives, saying they were �distorting� facts on discussions.

Upset at the lack of progress, Anna Hazare�s three representatives � Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi � said after another round of talks with government interlocutors headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that difference between government�s attitude yesterday and today was marked like �day and night�.

They were of the view that talks were �back to square one� although the government said another round of discussions will be held tomorrow.

While the civil society side appeared to be escalating confrontation, Union Minister Salman Khurshid said the discussions had ended with the two sides agreeing that they would meet again tomorrow at noon.

Immediately after the talks, the civil society representatives claimed a U-turn in the government�s attitude today and accused it of going back on assurances given yesterday.

However, Mukherjee said neither was going back to square one nor had the government changed its attitude. �If the government had changed the attitude, there was no reason to have dialogue....They are trying to put words in my mouth.�

Referring to demands put forward by the civil society yesterday that the government Bill be withdrawn, Jan Lokpal Bill be introduced and passed without reference to the Standing Committee, the Finance Minister said the government had given no assurance yesterday.

He termed as �distorted version� the contention of the Hazare team that the government had pushed them back to square one.

�Yesterday, I told them that I cannot respond to these questions till I talk to the Prime Minister. Today, I informed them that the government considered these

proposals and at this stage it is not possible to do that,� Mukherjee said.

But at the same time, Mukherjee said that the Prime Minister had given assurance to Hazare in a letter that the Jan Lokpal Bill could be sent to the Standing Committee which could be asked to expedite the process.

�I also told them that the government will act in the spirit of the all-party meeting. On the basis of that, we appealed that Anna should end fast. Not only we, all the political parties requested Anna to end fast,� the Minister said.

On Hazare�s apprehensions of arrest and eviction tonight, Mukherjee refused to comment, saying it was for the Home Minister or the Delhi Police.

Appearing on the stage at Ramlila Ground before midnight, Hazare said the government�s attitude today exposed its �true face� and called them �black Britishers� with dictatorial tendencies.

He said they have come to know that he could be removed and taken to jail and asked his supporters not to resist it. He also gave a call to his supporters throughout the country to march towards Delhi and gherao Parliament and Members of Parliament.

He also said once he goes to jail, �not a single jail should remain empty�. Hazare appealed to his supporters to maintain peace and not to engage even in a single act of violence because that will �hurt� him and give an excuse to the government to crack down on them.

In a confirmation that Parliamentary procedures cannot be short-circuited, a point underlined by major political parties, Mukherjee said after the meeting that the government had hoped that Parliamentary process will be allowed to complete its exercise and make recommendations on Jan Lokpal Bill for its adoption.

Referring to recommendations of the all-party meeting that due consideration should be given to Jan Lokpal Bill so that the final draft provides for a �strong and effective� Lokpal, he said the government is committed to implementing the spirit of the decision.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his letter to Hazare yesterday, had �assured� that the Jan Lokpal Bill would be referred to the Standing Committee and to make its recommendation, the process would also be expedited as per the discretion of the Standing Committee, Mukherjee clarified.

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Talks back to square one, says civil society

NEW DELHI, Aug 24 � Talks between government and Team Anna Hazare ended in a deadlock tonight with the two sides failing to resolve the key issues, prompting the civil society to declare that they were �back to square one�, reports PTI.

The virtual breakdown in talks led to sparring betweeen the two sides with Hazare apprehending that he would be forcibly arrested and removed from the fast site and gave a call for �Chalo Delhi� and gherao of Parliament and MPs.

Government�s chief negotiator Pranab Mukherjee sought to reject claims of team Anna representatives, saying they were �distorting� facts on discussions.

Upset at the lack of progress, Anna Hazare�s three representatives � Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi � said after another round of talks with government interlocutors headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that difference between government�s attitude yesterday and today was marked like �day and night�.

They were of the view that talks were �back to square one� although the government said another round of discussions will be held tomorrow.

While the civil society side appeared to be escalating confrontation, Union Minister Salman Khurshid said the discussions had ended with the two sides agreeing that they would meet again tomorrow at noon.

Immediately after the talks, the civil society representatives claimed a U-turn in the government�s attitude today and accused it of going back on assurances given yesterday.

However, Mukherjee said neither was going back to square one nor had the government changed its attitude. �If the government had changed the attitude, there was no reason to have dialogue....They are trying to put words in my mouth.�

Referring to demands put forward by the civil society yesterday that the government Bill be withdrawn, Jan Lokpal Bill be introduced and passed without reference to the Standing Committee, the Finance Minister said the government had given no assurance yesterday.

He termed as �distorted version� the contention of the Hazare team that the government had pushed them back to square one.

�Yesterday, I told them that I cannot respond to these questions till I talk to the Prime Minister. Today, I informed them that the government considered these

proposals and at this stage it is not possible to do that,� Mukherjee said.

But at the same time, Mukherjee said that the Prime Minister had given assurance to Hazare in a letter that the Jan Lokpal Bill could be sent to the Standing Committee which could be asked to expedite the process.

�I also told them that the government will act in the spirit of the all-party meeting. On the basis of that, we appealed that Anna should end fast. Not only we, all the political parties requested Anna to end fast,� the Minister said.

On Hazare�s apprehensions of arrest and eviction tonight, Mukherjee refused to comment, saying it was for the Home Minister or the Delhi Police.

Appearing on the stage at Ramlila Ground before midnight, Hazare said the government�s attitude today exposed its �true face� and called them �black Britishers� with dictatorial tendencies.

He said they have come to know that he could be removed and taken to jail and asked his supporters not to resist it. He also gave a call to his supporters throughout the country to march towards Delhi and gherao Parliament and Members of Parliament.

He also said once he goes to jail, �not a single jail should remain empty�. Hazare appealed to his supporters to maintain peace and not to engage even in a single act of violence because that will �hurt� him and give an excuse to the government to crack down on them.

In a confirmation that Parliamentary procedures cannot be short-circuited, a point underlined by major political parties, Mukherjee said after the meeting that the government had hoped that Parliamentary process will be allowed to complete its exercise and make recommendations on Jan Lokpal Bill for its adoption.

Referring to recommendations of the all-party meeting that due consideration should be given to Jan Lokpal Bill so that the final draft provides for a �strong and effective� Lokpal, he said the government is committed to implementing the spirit of the decision.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his letter to Hazare yesterday, had �assured� that the Jan Lokpal Bill would be referred to the Standing Committee and to make its recommendation, the process would also be expedited as per the discretion of the Standing Committee, Mukherjee clarified.

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