Baba Ramdev. In the recent past this name and the incidents associated with it have reached a zenith of political controversy and confusion in the country. This article is an attempt to reach out to the masses and bring out the salient points of the entire drama seen.
For 8 years now, a bearded man has ruled the morning television showing us how to deflate the spare tyres many Indians have been carrying for decades. It was not an overnight effect, but slowly his fame reached every household with parents asking their children to shift from conventional yoga to modern pranayama. It seemed like a slow yet effective revolution for India which was going into the depths of the 21st century and it would have been wrong to step there without the baton of heritage passed on by one of the earliest civilisations on the planet. All was going well and fine until this bearded man started mixing patriotism with yoga. For a country obsessed with its freedom struggle and religious politics, this man told us things which we love to hear but hate to follow. He talked about removing corruption, bringing back Indian money, creating awareness through local languages, and many more ear-pleasing speeches which put him in the large category of shouters who said they wanted an Indian revolution but didn’t do anything except shout on the television an organise a few rallies now and then. No one ever had any problem with the Baba who taught people how to cure diseases through breathing and sold a lot of his “healthy” stuff like biscuits. Now and then there were controversies by news channels bored with the daily rape stories that the Baba had made billions from by selling these stuffs but no one seemed to mind. We Indians have developed a very peaceful attitude since the days of the British that till someone doesn’t put a foot in our throats, we don’t mind it. Even after that if we choose to mind, we must have the monetary power to speak. If you do have the power, your throat is automatically safe. So the country continued to live in the peaceful manner.
Then one day suddenly the Baba got mad and announced he was going to hold a Satyagraha to make the government accept his demands and put out a long list of 10 demands which had to be completed before the Baba would eat again. Both the people and the Government were confused as you just don’t go up to a state and tell them to give you a life of your choice else you won’t eat again. But this was no ordinary plea. It was a plea by the greatest Baba ever. Thousands of people supported the Baba and his inspiring words. Even the Government was shaken as after 8 years of their own rule in the country, they were not even able to gather a support of people from their own party and this man had gathered a crowd of thousands on seemingly impractical words. Something had to be done. What followed was an epic of a political drama but let’s first see the 10 demands the Baba actually made.
- Declaring property of Indian frauds as national property – This seemed to be a simple thing to do. Naturally, it had many problems behind it. Why should a corrupt man’s family be punished for his crime? Why should he pay more than 100 times of what he earned illegally? What do you mean by “national property”? Seemingly, this was a simple issue but in modern India such a demand can lead to catastrophic results. Sadly our innocent Baba wasn’t aware of this.
- Bringing back money from the Swiss Banks – According to the new UNO charter, countries must bring back their surplus money from foreign banks and keep it in their own states. This was to help the developing nations like India. Somehow, India has billions of dollars stashed in the Swiss banks itself. Now what’s wrong if a person chooses a Swiss bank rather than an Indian bank to keep his money safe? After all there’s a right to choice. But look at it this way. The money stored in a Swiss bank is used by the Swiss people to earn revenue. It’s like your neighbour taking 100/- from you, making 500/- from it and giving you back 150/- and you being content with it. Moreover, the bank accounts are found to be primarily in the possession of Indian politicians. Meaning, the people who pledge to serve the society and make it a better place to live in have billions stashed in their personal accounts rather than helping their own needy nation with it. A question arises. Are they storing the money in a foreign bank for safety reasons, or is it just a means of putting off their monetary investigation for as long as possible.
- Harsh penalty for the corrupt – Point to be noted. The “harsh penalty” here refers to either death or life imprisonment. Many ethical questions are raised by it. Are we punishing more than the culprit deserves? Is it moral to choke someone to death who was just trying to make 20 extra bucks for his hungry children at home? Is this a real necessity in the “honest” bureaucracy our country holds?
- Making a strong Lokpal – To comment anything about what and why a Lokpal is, will have to go into an entirely different story. For now I’ll ask my readers to be satisfied with only the knowledge that Lokpal is the “stuff” Anna Hazare has been trying to implement, so it must be a good thing as Anna too went on a fast and wears white clothes. For more information, there’s always Google.
- Speeding up the judiciary – How long does it take to convict a man captured killing civilians by the country’s best commando force? Exactly 1 year 5 months and 10 days. And another 291 days to act upon the sentence. India is a country where the civil cases run longer than the civilian. In such a scenario, Baba asks for a “faster” judiciary. By faster he means clearing all cases within 365 days. Apparently, the Government has other plans.
- Banning 500/- and 1000/- notes – This has been called the most idiotic demand of Baba Ramdev and most of the allegations on him are based on this demand. Let me just clear up the air on why the Baba was adamant on this. It was simply because these are the prime currency notes used for bribery. Moreover, these have a small silver strip which makes them unallowable to be taken on foreign lands without customs duty. Those of you who have had an opportunity to visit foreign lands might be aware of this. Personally I support the idea that this is a very foolish and impractical demand, but I don’t mind it.
- Education in Regional languages – Pros. Increasing awareness all across India so each child woman and villager will be able to read and write in their own language which they’ve spoken and heard since childhood. Increasing awareness will make farming more scientific, people more aware about their rights and duties and automatically build to a better nation. Cons. If everyone chooses to study in their own language, there will not be any unity and India shall become a second China with a fifth of the world’s language problems. Plus being an IITian I can say that encouraging engineering education in regional languages is not a good idea because it will lead to entrance exams in local languages which will make it impossible for national colleges to function. If that happens, the education system at the grass root level may improve but on a higher level will be tarnished.
- Direct election of the Prime Minister–India works on a party system where the people directly vote for political parties and the winning party decides amongst themselves who shall be the Prime Minister. Though there aren’t many principles on which this system can be shown as a poor one, but time and again examples have shown that election of a person is better. In small societies in India, people prefer to elect people rather than smaller groups. In Gujrat, the name NarendraModi catches more votes than any party and it has led to a prospering and developing state which holds a big chunk of industrial India. In the most stable democracy in the world, there is a system of electing a direct President and people are always satisfied with it.
- Banning land acquisition Act – This is a very old law which blankly gives the state government the power to acquire any land from any individual or company. It can be seen in the recent Singur case. It was originally used by the British to snatch away the land from farmers in India. Apparently, our Baba seems to think that this law has no place in modern India.
10. Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act – Lastly Baba wants an act by which if a public servant fails to serve the public, he shall pay to the concerned person in monetary terms on a daily or weekly basis as a part of his or her punishment. This shall ensure a fast and efficient process of Public Service Delivery.
And with these 10 demands, Baba went on a fast on June 4th, 2011. But there was some incidents which happened before the fast took place. There has been a lot of controversy over how the Baba went on fast and I wouldn’t go into every interpretation and reference made. I focus only on the events and facts which took place and leave the interpretation to my readers.
- Baba Ramdev booked the Ramleela ground for a Yoga camp. The Baba was all over the media and the government that he was about to go on a Satyagraha and it doesn’t take a political Einstein to figure out what Baba was actually going to do with the ground. Also, Delhi Chief Minister Sheela Dixit personally ensured that the ground was fit for the activity, a bit unusual check for a normal Yoga camp.
- When Ramdev entered Delhi through Delhi airport on June 1st, 2011, four central ministers from the centre were there to receive him and talk to him. As I said, I will not comment on any interpretation of this activity regardless what the Baba or the government said. It’s just a fact that 4 central ministers; cabinet finance minister Sri PranabMukharjee, cabinet minister of human resource and development Sri Kapil Sibal, central representative of Chandigarh constituency Sri Pawan Kr. Bansal and central representative of Ranchi constituency, Sri Subodh Kant Sahay were present to receive Baba. A statement was issued by the government later that it was an act of one’s own will and had nothing to do with the government. I’d add an afternote that even after this statement, I always see Sri Kapil Sibal handling the media about the Ramdev incident.
- Baba Ramdev had a meeting with central ministers at Claridges, a 5 star hotel in Delhi on June 3rd, 2011 which lasted for 5 hours. This was just a day before the fast was about to start. It may also be added that this was after the airport incident and Kabil Sibal was the spokesperson to the media by the Congress after the meeting.
Finally as we know, the Satyagraha began. At 1600 hours, the government, again represented by Kapil Sibal, made public an undertaking. A picture of the letter made public is given below.
“In agreement to worship able Swami Ramdevji, the issues which we presented before the government, the government has provided us with answers to them in writing.
We agree that the government shall not only think on these issues seriously but also given the confidence that to bring forward these issues strong steps will be taken.
There are disagreements on a few issues but we have faith that the issues on which we have agreement upon, the government will go by its word and within a given timeframe will complete the work on the issues.
With these factors we shall do a tap from 4 to 6 and will announce about this publicly tomorrow.
The rest, as they say, is history. At around 0100 hours of June 5th, 2011, a large number of policemen (the number varies from 200 to 5000 according to different sources) and policewomen ransacked the Ramleela ground with a single intention to capture Baba Ramdev. Salient features of the event are listed below.
- Several people including Baba Ramdev report of a lathi charge by the police. However, no footage of a lathi charge is seen in any of the videos released by news channels. Still, truth might be more than what meets the eye.
- The police fired tear gas on the public. This was to move the public out of the ground without having to physically injure any person. I was reminded of the 26/11 Mumbai incident where the police had not used tear gas bombs saying that it could harm the people inside the Taj hotel. Perhaps 5 star dwellers were fragile and could break down with the tear gas. The village crowd which supported Baba would be able to handle it.
- Baba Ramdev was captured after 2 hours of searching. He was found hiding amongst the women in a salwar-suit hiding his beard and moustache.
- The stage was set on fire on which Baba had spoken and excited the masses all day.
- A lady went into paralyses with half her body immovable after the event. Doctors say that it happened due to having to sustain a crowd literally everywhere around her crushing her from all sides. Her family is uncertain if they should complain to the police for what happened.
- A man’s skull bone ruptured and had to be taken to the hospital immediately via an ambulance. Thankfully, he lived.
- A large number of people suffered minor injuries and Delhi hospitals exploded with business that night. Personally, I do not think they would have asked for the police to come as in usual cases of physical damage, a police case first needs to be filed.
After Baba was captured, hell broke loose and the news gained national status. Opposition parties to the government attacked from all sides and a big political chaos was created. The police issued a notice asking Baba to stay away from Delhi for the next 15 days. They said that they’d take Baba to his ashram in Haridwar and took him in a helicopter. Later a plane landed in Dehradun from which Baba emerged and he was taken to his ashram in Haridwar via road where Baba held a press conference and said whatever he had to. To be unbiased I again shall not go into what he said there. I shall comment on what the police had to say after the incident. Obviously they had a lot of explanations and justifications to give, which they did. Below is the list of explanations the Delhi Police quickly came up with.
- When the permission of Baba Ramdev was cancelled, instead of coming gracefully he tried to evade the police and jumped into the crowd. This led to a stampede which resulted in injuries to the people. The funny thing about this is that our so honest and dutiful police went with the permission cancellation notice to Ramdev at midnight, when everyone was deep asleep. I suppose it was the best time to do it. After all, the police know best don’t they?
- The media has said that the Police went ahead with a lathi charge on the public. There was no Lathi charge. Only 8 tear gas shells were fired and that too after the public started throwing bricks, pots and furniture on the police. The brick throwing was pre-meditated. Baseball bats were found with men afterwards. Okay. Accepted that the media showed no footage of a lathi charge inside a smoke filled Ramleela ground from which people including media-persons had to come out soon. But is this lack of evidence proof enough to contradict the verbal account of hundreds of people? Further, India has a specific law according to which there’s a limitation on the dependence of video as a proof as it might have missed some key aspects of the story. I believe the constitution makers had something in their minds when they made this clause. Again by the same argument, the media never showed a brick throwing rampage by the public on the police in any footage. Yet, the police says that their lathi charge is false while the public’s bricking is true. The police say that the tear gas shells were fired after the bricking started. So if the public was prepared with the bricks, so was the police with the tear gas shells and probably with the lathis too. And wouldn’t it be more natural of Indians to hit the police with cricket bats rather than baseball bats? I don’t think baseball bats are even easily available in India. Yet the police found baseball bats in the hands of men. Weird!
- No channel has shown the manhandling of ladies. We had a large number of lady police officers and all the handling of women was done by lady police. Alright. Let’s talk about the lady who was paralysed and is in the hospital today fighting for her life. The lady gave her son a cup of tea yesterday, and is on blood herself today. Maybe the police didn’t hit her. But the police say that they had special arrangements for ladies. They knew that there was a large crowd (see point 5) and obviously there was going to be a stampede on the use of tear gas shells. If the arrangements by the police were proper, the woman wouldn’t have been hurt.
- Ramdev caused harm to women by asking them to make a cocoon around him. Even the elders were instructed to do so. And while Ramdev was handing out all these instructions in the time of chaos, our well trained armed police could not catch him. They waited for the cocoon to form and then broke it down. Smart!
- Ramdev exceeded the capacity of the Ramleela ground by 400%. The ground was not made to handle such a capacity and it could have been difficult to handle the crowd which happened that night. Yes. The police gave a brilliant example of how the crowd got out of hand in the Ramleela ground. It seems interesting that all seemed so peaceful till Ramdev was in control of the crowd. Suddenly it became ugly when the Police chose to intervene. At that time, crowd handling was certainly a problem.
- We got a report from the intelligence that Ramdev was in mortal trouble as in the large crowd it would have been easy to kill him. HE had to be taken out of the Ramleela ground as soon as possible for his own safety. I somehow find it unbelievable that all this had to happen exactly on the same time. As if God had planned out the biggest coincidence of the 21st century especially for Baba Ramdev. Also I cannot think of anyone who’d be an enemy of Baba Ramdev except the Government to whom Ramdev was a constant threat and the boy who had to drink Alovera juice every morning because his parents believed what Ramdev said about Alovera being good for the health. Maybe it was the latter. I wanted to kill Baba once when I was made to drink the juice, but with age I grew out of that.
- Baba had booked the Ramleela ground for a Yoga camp and was illegally having a conspiracy against the government there. First of all, I believe that the government and the police knew it from beforehand that it was not going to be a simple Yoga camp. Had it been one, Sheela Dixit, Kapil Sibal and Pranab Mukharjee would not have intervened in the first place, the paper would not have been signed by Aacharya Balkrishna and the police would have driven out Baba under the Sun. They chose to do it under the Moon. Secondly, in a democratic country like India, people have the right to have a large gathering and a non-violent protest against the government or any of the government’s policies. The Satyagraha was by all means legal and perfectly constitutional. People had come and stayed by their own will and no one was forced to do anything. It was in the times of the British when the government had a law of punishing any 4 or more Indians if found together. This law should have gone with the British. Sadly, it still remains in the heart of our elected government.
But these were the answers the Police had to give. What followed was the continuation of Baba’s Satyagraha in Haridwar. Very soon Baba’s health deteriorated. India’s biggest Yoga Guru who claimed he could go on for weeks without food and had not touched wheat or rice for years now could not stand a month of fasting. His supporters say that it happened due to all the physical and mental stress of the arrest and protest against the Government’s autocracy. I’m no one to give a comment on this but I’d like to remind the readers that Bhagat Singh fasted for 56 days in jail where he was whipped and chained and beaten and did not die. And Bhagat Singh was no Yoga master. Ultimately die to medical reasons and public pressure, plus the request of the highly revered Sri SriSri Ravi Shanker who is considered an incarnation of God on Earth by millions worldwide, Ramdev broke his fast. It is said that the Government requested Ravi Shanker to ask Ramdev to break his fast. Ravi Shanker made a statement that thought the government said to him in a telephone conversation that “it would be good if the fast breaks,” the choice of convincing Ramdev to break his fast was one made by Ravi Shanker’s personal will. Besides you do not question a man who has ruled the heart of millions across the globe world-wide for decades now and practically looks like what one would imagine Jesus Christ or Bramha or Zeus to be.
During the Satyagraha, where Baba was apparently the target of an assassin as told to our Police force by its intelligence, a host of enquiries began on Ramdev. First the government launched its pet probe; the CBI wentinto deep analyses of Baba’s life. At the same time a team of Income Tax Officers raided Baba’s finances and his sources of income like PatanjaliYogPeeth and Baba had to provide an exhaustive list of all his financial details to the public which he readily did. However, I am still waiting for the same to be done by the forbearers of our country’s parliament. Many small politicians opened their big mouths against many of Ramdev’s views. Some of the attacks made on Ramdev are given below.
- Links with RSS and BJP – Many politicians, particularly Sri Lalu Prasad Yadav, said that all Ramdev’s actions were those actually done by the RSS with the face of Ramdev. Ramdev has himself made it very clear that he is neither a part of any political party, or wants to be a part in the future.
- Rupees 1,10,00,00,0000 Empire – If you care to count the zeroes, that would be 1.1 Arab rupees. It’s alleged that he has an empire spanning from Scotland to India with revenues worth 1.1 Arab rupees.
- Labour law violations – It’s been said that the workers making of Ramdev’s Divya Yogi Mandir Trust were being paid less than normal labour wages and were being forced to work in inhuman conditions.
- Animal parts in medicines – It is said that Ramdev puts animal parts in his medicines and cheats the public by calling them “ayurvedic”. Ramdev made a statement on this saying that firstly, there was nothing put in his medicines except pure herbal and organic raw materials. Secondly, you don’t know what is put in the conventional allopathic medicine and so his medicine is still, if not better, at par with the conventional medicine.
- Views on homosexuality – It’s a well-known fact that Ramdev doesn’t tolerate homosexuality and considers it as a disease which can be cured by Yoga. Though these are personal views, they are in contradiction to not only Indian laws but also according to the views on homosexuality by the UNO.
- On replacing Sex Education – Ramdev wishes to replace sex-education in schools with Yoga education and is very vocal about it. He believes children should not be exposed to such knowledge at a tender age and that this was leading to the westernization of India which could have adverse effects on the rich tradition and culture India holds.
- On curing diseases – Lastly, Ramdev claims his Yoga can cure diseases like Cancer and AIDS, which is deemed impossible by modern medicine. He continuously slams modern medicine with Yogic knowledge and has been given a legal notice to stop making such statements on national television as it has adverse effect on the viewer being exposed to false knowledge.
- Income Tax Raid – Swami Ramdev also faced an income tax raid and had to make public all his financial details in a press conference.
So ended a great struggle of Satyagraha which lasted a full 9 days and had an entire nation on its toes and eyes glued to the television which was comparable only to when India won the World Cup in cricket this year. I hope I have bought satisfaction to the readers’ mind. I’ll say for the last time that I’ve refrained from any allegations or personal views on the most part to give an unbiased article and apologise if any citizen of India feels offended by my words. With this I take your leave. Perhaps this will bring about a change in your heart as I did in mine while I wrote. Or maybe you just won’t mind it.
The author is currently a student pursuing Aerospace Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. He is a poet and ambigrapher and his work can be found on his personal blog vishalwillpower.blogspot.com. He is a secular person and has unbiased views on politics. He loves to read books and to listen to slow classical music. Other interests include politics, astronomy, history, philosophy, food and science. He can be contacted on [email protected]