An hour after his supporters suggested that Baba Ramdev had launched a maun vrat or vow of silence, he proved them wrong. At a press conference in Haridwar, the yoga icon spoke at length to defend accusations that his business empire is based on financial malpractices, and that his remark yesterday on creating an army of warriors is anti-national and could incite violence among his lakhs of followers.
Baba Ramdev announced that in keeping with his “commitment to complete transparency,” he has declared on his website the financial details of his empire, whose turnover is rumoured to run into thousands of crores. The yoga teacher said he had stolen people’s hearts, not money. He has declared the assets of the four trusts he runs. The Baba said that the total capital of different institutions linked to him is Rs. 426 crore, and that his group has spent Rs. 249 crore on charity. “Every penny can be accounted for,” he announced.
However, details of about 30-odd companies linked to him, some of which are being investigated for tax and other violations have not been made public on the website.
Earlier today, administration officials in Haridwar visited the Baba Ramdev to request him to end his hunger strike launched five days ago as part of his satyagraha against corruption. Doctors who conducted his check-up this morning said they are worried about his health.
“He has decided to take lemon water and honey so that his body gets glucose,” Haridwar District Magistrate R Meenakshi Sundaram disclosed after meeting the yoga teacher. The Baba has reportedly lost more than five kilos since his fast began. When asked if he could n be force-fed, Mr Sundaram replied, “We will do whatever is necessary to save Baba’s life.”
The Baba also devoted considerable time explaining his statement yesterday -he had said he would recruit 11,000 young men and women who would reciprocate if attacked. Today, he said his remark had been distorted and misreported. “The words should be used in the right context…I said I will make a force who will not beat anyone but they will not get beaten either,” the yoga teacher said, adding, “what is the harm or wrong if I speak about shaurya (valour)?”
The Baba’s remark – seen as incendiary by his critics – had also provoked criticism from other social activists and a warning of legal action from the government
It has been an all-out war between the government and the yoga icon since the weekend after his yoga camp plus sit-in at Delhi was dismantled by the police, some say with brutal force. 65,000 supporters were teargassed and lathicharged. Four people were seriously injured; one is likely to be paralyzed for life. The government action was described by the Opposition as a “murder of democracy.” Activists led by Gandhian Anna Hazare held a fast in Rajghat yesterday to protest against what happened at Baba Ramdev’s camp, and to pressure the government to bend to their version of a new law against corruption.
In April, a hunger fast by Mr Hazare transformed into a nationwide intervention against corruption in the government. A shower of scandals had exposed blatant misuse of public office by a few ministers and MPs. Corporate India and politicians seemed to be exploiting a mutually-beneficial relationship. Mr Hazare, circled by lakhs of protestors, won the day. The government agreed to immediately draft the long-delayed Lokpal Bill against corruption. Mr Hazare and four other activists were allowed to join five ministers in drafting that bill.
Mr Ramdev’s camp over the weekend was meant to be a sister concern of Mr Hazare’s movement, which is labeled India Against Corruption. Worried that Baba Ramdev, known for his lakhs of followers, would cause the government the same sort of Public Relations nightmare as Mr Hazare’s earlier fast, the government was over-eager to negotiate with him. Four ministers were sent to the airport to receive him -an honour that many pointed out is not accorded to visiting heads of state. Several rounds of negotiations followed. Then on Saturday evening, the delicate peace was shattered.
The government claims that the yoga teacher reneged on a deal that had been struck the evening before his fast began. In exchange for the government agreeing to some of his suggestions on how to check black money, Baba Ramdev had committed to ending his fast early on Saturday evening. When he refused to publicly end his hunger strike, the government moved in.
In recent days, the government has questioned Baba Ramdev’s credibility and intent. Some Congress leaders have alleged that his businesses have broken the law. However, last year, several ministers travelled to Haridwar to inaugurate his Patanjali Ayurveda Hospital. NDTV