Dropping the yogic metaphor in his war on corruption, Baba Ramdev on Wednesday declared that he was cobbling together a militia of volunteers, and exhorted youth across the country—20 from each district—to reach his ashram by mid-June for training in both shastra (arms) and shaastra (scriptures).
“Peetenge nahin par pittenge bhi nahin (we will not beat anyone, but we won’t be beaten either),” declared the yoga guru at his morning satsang at the Patanjali Ashram. The army of 11,000 volunteers he wants to collect will train in martial arts, traditional as well as karate, and learn to wield the lathi. He also dropped dark hints about this struggle being taken up by the young whether he is around to see it or not.
Reacting angrily, home minister P Chidambaram warned that Ramdev would run foul of the law. “Let him do that, the law will deal with that,” Chidambaram said. He said by exhorting youths to take arms training, he had showed his “true colours and true intention”. But Ramdev’s call to retaliate with violence in case of another Ravan-lila at a potential Ramlila was greeted with eager cries of “vande mataram” and “Bharat Mata ki jai” by the usual crowd of yoga disciples, students, volunteers, and supporters at his satsang.
Four days after he was bundled out from Delhi’s Ramlila grounds and his flock dispersed by the teargas-using police, Ramdev remained belligerent. He called for a “missed call strategy” from his supporters. Those fasting in solidarity in districts, he said, should send a missed call to the ashram so the organization could notch up numbers. “Pradarshini bhi zaroori (it is important to make a public display too),” he said. Ramdev, who so far had appropriated the role of Vishwamitra for himself to justify a yogi taking to activism, brought Ram and Krishna as well into his allusions. “Though I haven’t achieved even half of what they have,” he hastened to add.
Ramdev has been at pains to defend his secular credentials, claiming that he has followers among every religion. His trump card is the presence of a motley group calling itself the Bharat Muslim Manch whose banner demands the ouster of non-Indians from the country.
Incidentally, other spiritual organizations which are warily watching Ramdev’s agitation to decide on whether, and how, to support him may not react well to his call for arms. The Art of Living is one such group theoretically supportive of his right to protest, rallying around his protest gatherings occasionally, but has yet to decide on the nature of its support.
Ramdev’s call to arms is deplorable. It doesn’t strengthen the movement against corruption and black money, it actually weakens it. If civil society has held the moral high ground on this issue, it has been to a large extent because of the peaceful nature of the protests. Anna Hazare, a Gandhian, has scrupulously adhered to non-violence. Ramdev’s proposal to raise a militia, even if it’s for self-defence, will only give ammunition to those opposed to stronger anti-corruption laws to attack the movement. They have been trying from the very beginning to portray the movement as reckless vigilantism by those who have no patience with democracy. Ramdev’s statement plays right into their hands. Anna Hazare and all others who value the gains made by the movement in a short time must distance themselves from such an irresponsible and dangerous stance. TOI