'Vande Mataram', Hazare tells thin Mumbai crowd

Veteran social activist Anna Hazare began his three-day fast in Mumbai this morning, demanding a stronger lokpal bill, even as political parties sparred in Parliament over the official version of the bill to create a corruption watchdog.

Hazare and his close supporters Arvind Kejriwal, former policewoman Kiran Bedi, and Manish Sisodia – a part of what has become known as team Anna - reached Juhu Beach at 10:00 am, an hour later than the scheduled time, and meditated before a bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

A decorated truck then ferried Anna from Juhu to the nearby MMRDA grounds, where Hazare is holding a three-day public fast as a prelude to a wider agitation. He was cheered with thunderous applause and slogans of 'Bharat Mata ki jai', 'Vande Mataram', and 'inqilab zindabad', which he echoed as he began his hunger protest.

Crowds were however much thinner than those seen during Hazare's earlier protests over the issue. According to initial reports, it was no more than 1,200; but it is expected to swell by evening.

There was drama on way as around 20 men blocked the convoy and heckled Hazare. Waving black flags and the national tricolour, they shouted "Anna Hazare murdabad" (down with Hazare). However, they were soon subdued by the tight security.

Team Anna has continued on a high pitch even as what they call a toothless lokpal bill was introduced in Parliament on Thursday. Hazare has called the proposed legislation an attempt to fool the country.

He and his team have said four of their demands are non-negotiable. Probably the chief among these is that the lokpal be given authority over the Central Bureau of Investigation. This demand has been rejected by virtually all political parties as well as the CBI, and doesn't figure in the official bill.