Baba and his Fast

“As I pen down this piece Rajbala Malik is critically injured in the police crackdown and doctors say she may be paralyzed for life.” We all at Viewspaper completely sympathise with her.

Let’s first flashback  to the spectacle and dwell into the rage to riches story on anti-graft guru Swami Ramdev. Born in a rustic village in Haryana to illiterate parents, he is trained in the ancient discipline of yoga. He has glided from being a spiritual scholar to a household name with a eclectic mix of yoga and social crusades. He heads a $ 40 million-a-year yoga empire, owns an isle, Wee Cumbrae.

Let’s first be very clear about what baba wants:

•    Ordinance declaring accounts of Indians in tax havens as national property
•    Stashing away black money in tax havens to be declared national crime
•    Death penalty or lifetime imprisonment for the corrupt
•    Enactment of a strong Lokpal proposed by Anna Hazare’s team
•    Setting up of fast track courts in all states to deal specially with corruption removal of high denomination currency notes (1,000 & 500) from the economy
•    Curriculum of professional courses (engineering, medicine, agriculture) in native Indian languages
•    Direct election of PM for greater political stability
•     Enactment of a strong Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act Repeal of Land Acquisition Act

It all started with fast of Social Activist, Anna Hazare. Baba who in the past one year has taken a crusade against corruption and black money, found a golden opportunity to put more pressure on government to tackle both the issue, and rightly so. In the process he announced high profile, ‘subject to personal view,’ satyagrah to end corruption in a jiffy. Meanwhile accusation and counter-accusation started to pile up. Many opposed his ideologies, views or methods and begin to call him a hypocrite, charlatan, ruffian, thug, hoodwinker etc. On the other hand many had huge aspiration embodied in the Baba’s fight against corruption and they begin to support him.

What began to unfold was quite melodramatic and reminiscent of a Bollywood film. The protagonist being Baba Ramdev. And the ruffian being the UPA government Bound by corruption scandals. The Manmohan Singh government left no stone unturned in laying out a red carpet for Baba Ramdev, dispatching in hastiness four ministers, including finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, to deter him from his protest fast, but to no benefit.

Meanwhile in SUSPENSE back-channel talks continued. Top ministers continued their frenetic efforts to persuade Ramdev to call off his fast and engaged him in back-channel negotiations on Thursday. The government and top Congress leaders also went into a disarray to take stock of the situation.

After Ramdev returned to the Ramlila ground from the hotel, he made it clear that although 90% of his demands had been met, he was not going to relent till the government accepted all of them.

The government has already accepted his demand of “declaring the illicit funds as national asset“, but avoided the death for-corruption demand. Instead, it talked about “exemplary punishment\”.

The maximum punishment for corruption would be “increased substantially”, the PMO release said, spelling out the measures taken so far to fight black money.

In spite of all these Yoga gurus, Baba Ramdev stuck to his decision to begin his satyagrah from Saturday morning, despite a series of measures announced by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday.

Then came the CONFLICTING VERSIONS Govt cancels permission for Baba’s ‘yoga camp’ – late night drama at Ramlila. In a climactic late night development, the government reportedly annulled the permission for Baba Ramdev’s yoga camp at Ramlila Maidan. Five paramilitary companies were driven to the spot. Baba Ramdev was seen appealing to his supporters to maintain peace. Delhi police said they had ordered Ramdev to leave the city. Earlier in the day, just as the face-off between the government and Baba Ramdev inched towards a settlement, negotiations hit a impinge with the yoga guru alleging treachery by government negotiators and the Centre warning that it could take inflexible measures.

The vibes between the two sides soured dramatically, dealing a blow to the prospect of an early settlement.

Accusation against Baba Ramdev

•    Congress party officials have asked him to choose between yoga and politics, while others have balked at his connections with far-right Hindu nationalist organizations like RSS,  Bazarang dal etc.
•    Government agencies have started to delve into the financial health of his charitable trust, and raised questions of how he acquired the land on which two yoga institutes are built.
•    Others simply point to Ramdev’s apparent contradictions, such as television pictures of the guru who advocates the boycotting of foreign imports stepping down from his US-made private jet at New Delhi’s airport on Wednesday.
•    In the meantime there were rumors of BABA’S POLITICAL TWIST in the media that Ramdev breaks ranks with Anna group ‘No Need to Bring PM, CJI under Lokpal Ambit which he latter clarified that he wants good discussions on the topic.
•    A fresh effort for resolution was afoot with the government sending the yoga guru an assurance in writing that it would soon bring a law declaring ill-gotten wealth to be a national asset, providing for its confiscation as well as harsher punishment for the graft.

In turn, it expects the Baba to call off his satyagrah. Ramdev, however, said he would announce his next course of action only after “I hear from the PM.”

The government’s expectation of a Ramdev announcement by mid-day that he would end his fast after being assured on his demands did not fructify. This led Kapil Sibal to reveal Baba’s handwritten assurance to end his protest in two days. As per the letter given to the government on behalf of Ramdev, he was to turn the fast into a meditation session before winding up on Monday.

However, Ramdev did not comply, because of what he termed a lack of clear commitment to proclaim an anti-black money law.

Statements made by various leader and civil society members:-

•    “Ramdev has a lot of land and assets worth crores. These should be probed as well,” said Puri Shankaracharya Swami Adhokshjanand Tirtha.
•    “Balkrishna is a Nepalese citizen. He committed a crime there and came to India. He also has a Nepalese passport,” said Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh
•    Will scrutinize the drug business of Baba Ramdev.-, we will look at these issues separately once the dust settles down,” said Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
•    PM can’t be left out of Lokpal Bill: Aruna Roy
•    PM politically dishonest says Ramdev
•    “All medical expenses of Rajbala and other people injured during police action at Ramila Maidan will be born by the Patanjali,” said Ramdev

“The RSS was not behind the stir launched by Ramdev seeking repatriation of the black money stashed illegally in foreign banks but have extended all support to it (agitation),” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said while addressing the outfit’s workers at Reshimbagh ground in Nagpur, “RSS cannot remain a mute spectator to the socialrevolution taking place against corruption and black money. Therefore, it has asked its cadres to join the agitation,” Bhagwat said.

•    “Baba Ramdev is not a saint, but a dhongi and is doing politics in saffron robes,” said the Congress General Secretary, in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, BK Hariprasad
•    Kamal Nath, during his speech at Ramdev’s yoga camp two weeks ago, had said the UPA government will be part of Baba’s satyagraha
•    Tell me which demand I raised is unreasonable. Seeking gallows for those who committed corruption to the tune of Rs 10 cr, Rs 50 cr, Rs 1,000 cr or Rs 1 lakh cr? said BABA RAMDEV
•    If Congress was scared, Ramdev would have been put behind bars. There is no fear, that is why he is out in the open said DIGVIJAY SINGH

•    “I will support Ramdev so that the govt doesn’t do what it did when we were fighting… Sign papers, make promises. Once the time passes, they will do what they want to” said ANNA HAZARE
•    The Delhi government will provide all basic amenities at the Ramlila Grounds, the venue of Baba Ramdev’s Yoga Shivir, said chief minister Sheila Dikshit.
•    “Fasts cannot end corruption in the country,“ said party general secretary Digvijaya Singh
•    “As a responsible and sensitive government, we are engaging everyone constructively to find practical and real solutions in national interest. This should not be mistaken as a sign of weakness or fear,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

Nilaya Mitash Shanker