Yoga guru defies Indian government
NEW DELHI - The Associated Press
Baba Ramdev (2nd R) speaks in New Delhi during the second day of his protest campaign against corruption and to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks. EPA photoA popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev urged his supporters to march to India’s Parliament yesterday to intensify an anti-corruption protest and press for a change of government.
Police said they would not allow the protesters to approach the Parliament complex, saying they would be arrested well before they entered the central Delhi district where main government buildings are located.
Ramdev and his supporters haven’t eaten for five days as they push for an end to India’s endemic corruption and the repatriation of billions of dollars in illegal money they say Indians have stashed in foreign banks.
Yogi urged his supporters gathered at a sprawling fairground in New Delhi to throw out the ruling Congress Party and bring in a “clean” government. “Throw out the Congress; save the country,” he shouted as his followers applauded and cheered wildly. “The government has become completely deaf. We have to make them hear us.” Ramdev said.
Ramdev has been demanding a robust ombudsman law to keep checks on government, a strong and independent Central Bureau of Investigation and efforts to act against tax evasion and illegal money sent to banks abroad.
Although Ramdev has often said he is not aligned with any political party, yesterday he was joined by leaders from the main opposition parties. Nitin Gadkari, president of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, and Sharad Yadav of the socialist party were among those who addressed the crowd, promising their support in the fight against corruption.
Millions of Indians tune in every day to watch Ramdev perform yoga exercises on his popular TV show. In the past few years he has used his popularity as a yoga guru to highlight his campaign against corruption.
Ramdev’s protest comes more than a week after the latest hunger strike by anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare failed to attract the huge crowds that had turned out for his past protests.