Tuesday 21 November 2017

Yoga guru arrested over mass protest fast

Devidutta Tripathy in New Delhi

INDIAN police broke up a mass fast against corruption led by India's most famous yoga guru yesterday.

A senior ruling party figure said the saffron-robed Swami Ramdev had used the anti-corruption event to incite people.

Police detained him and flew him to the northern Indian centre of his €30m-a-year global yoga and health empire.

The campaign by Ramdev, who plans to launch a political party ahead of the 2014 general election, followed allegations of bribes at the Commonwealth Games and a telecoms scam that may have cost the government €29bn.

Political analysts said the police action could spark protests by Ramdev's millions of supporters and dent the government's popularity in electorally important northern states.

Ramdev accused the police of brutality when they broke up the hunger strike which he and thousands of supporters started in New Delhi on Saturday in a marquee the size of four football pitches.

Agitation

"The permission was for a yoga camp for 5,000, not for 50,000 people for agitation. We have cancelled the permission and asked them to move out," said a Delhi police spokesman.

Police said 39 supporters of the guru and 23 policemen were injured in the pre-dawn raid.

"My hunger strike has not ended. I will continue fasting," Ramdev later said.

Ramdev carries such weight in India that four government ministers met him when he arrived in New Delhi.

Tapping into spiralling voter anger at corruption as Asia's third-largest economy booms, the guru has called on the government to pursue billions of dollars in illegal funds abroad and the withdrawal of high denomination bank notes.

Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, who had earlier questioned the Swami's luxurious lifestyle, accused Ramdev of inciting people.

Ramdev's fast came after a similar one by activist Anna Hazare, whose campaign forced the government to make concessions on an anti-corruption bill.

Irish Independent

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