Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Baba Ramdev

Did Baba Ramdev offer to be arrested? If so, the Congress must resign

Eight days after the Ramdev incident of 5 June, I've today read something published on 8 June 2011 that has made me truly angry and upset.

A little while agoSandeep Shelke of FTI pointed out a newsreport by Rajat Sharma in which the reporter says:

I heard Swami Ramdev sitting on the shoulder of one of his supporters telling the police: “Do not beat the people here, I am ready to court arrest”.

If what Rajat Sharma is saying is true (I'd need to see further substantiation of this statement through more witness statements)  then I will remove my post in which I suggested that Ramdev had behaved like a coward. [I've since removed it] This (Rajat Sharma) evidence turns the table entirely on the information available so far. Ramdev behaved honorably. Instead, it was the police that behaved as cowards by beating up his non-violent supporters and behaving like the mafia. 

[This portion (in blue highlight) has since been verified by a commentator on this blog – hence is provided only as an archive]

I'm unfortunately unable to confirm the veracity of Rajat Sharma's report. It sounds plausible and in a court of law it will have great credibility. However, the combined story of events of that night needs to be reconstructed. The footage on Youtube of Ramdev's jumping off the dias (provided by Dr Gogoi in a comment that I've seen a few minutes ago) does not indicate that the police were attacking him at the time he fled. 

Nonethelss, this article by Rajat Sharma opens up a VERY SERIOUS line of investigation for the people of India.

If it is true [Yes it is] that Ramdev had offered to be arrested, then governance in India has reached a nadir. To allow violence to be perpetrated  (or threat of violence used against his followers) on someone who is undertaking a non-violent protest and who has OFFERED TO BE ARRESTED is nothing short of criminal.

If this report is true , (Yes, it is) I call for the resignation of the Congress Government.

No government has a mandate to ATTACK innocent citizens. 

The Government has, if this report is found to be true (Yes), committed a heinous crime, FAR GREATER THAN CORRUPTION. A free society needs a government to DEFEND its life and liberty, not to attack its innocent citizens.

If this report is true [Yes it is], I must also apologise to Ramdev and his followers for my earlier comments that were based on newsreports that did not point out that he had OFFERED TO BE ARRESTED, but showed, instead, that he had fled and hidden behind women – something that is totally dishonorable. 

To clarify matters I call for major and urgent judicial inquiry, to find out the truth about what transpired that night.

In this day and age with video cameras widely available, it should not be too hard to produce a judicial report on what happened. Let's know the precise truth about Ramdev and the Congress. Then we can decide.

The beginning of the end of the Congress?

In 1975 Indira Gandhi was brutalising India. Sanjay Gandhi was violently attacking the poor and sterlising them forcibly. That is the time I made this painting, below, in May 1975, just before Indira imposed the Emergency. In 1977 the country threw her out.

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If it turns out to be true [Yet it is] that Ramdev had OFFERED to be arrested, then the Sonia-MMS-Rahul combine is FINISHED. I don't care how incompetent a government is, or how corrupt. One thing we can't condone AT ANY TIME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE is violence against innocent citizens.

Addendum

Let me also note that I'm very pleased that Ramdev has called off his fast. Fasting unto death is NOT the way to resolve the problem of corruption. I suggest he consider following the suggestions I have made here.

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Giving Ramdev credit where it is due

As expected, I've received a fair bit of hate mail from Ramdev's followers after calling a spade a spade on two occasions recently (here and here) with regard to Ramdev. His followers fail to note that I have  suggested a way for Ramdev to redeem himself and even recover the momentum of his movement – but in a different way. 

I know his followers are disappointed at the way things have turned out, but the truth is that while Ramdev is a good man (as I write this, I have not seen evidence of any chicanry or fraud on his part) the policies he is advocating are not well-thought out and his strategy is inappropriate. His mission is therefore destined to fail – if he doesn't change his methods and strategy.

But leaving aside his political foray which he might revive in the future – hopefully with more substance and sense in it – there is something valuable I have definitely learnt about him. (Presumably) born on 25 December 1965 (as mentioned on the internet, but not on his Wikipedia entry), he is 45 years old at present, six years  younger than me. But by all accounts he is way healthier than me! And so he comes out as a very impressive role model for physical fitness

I've not paid much attention to him (only a few things I've read occasionally about him, and one or two videos), but I did recently read a portion of an interview with him by Shekhar Gupta (transcript here) which has stuck with me, and so I'm mentioning it here, as well:

This is what Ramdev said:

I wake up at 3 a.m. and sleep by 10 in the night. On an average, I sleep for 4-5 hours. Today, I still sleep on the floor. At 11 in the morning and at 7 in the evening, I eat a small meal. I don’t eat any foodgrain. I just have a glass of milk and some green vegetables and seasonal fruits. I learnt yoga when I was nine. 

If nothing else but to motivate us to pay more attention to our health, and to follow the practice of yoga AND a modest diet, he brings great lessons to all of us. 

I do a bit of yoga (very useful for RSI) once a week, but I don't watch my diet properly. His physical practice and dietary discipline is an object lesson for me. I definitely admire him for what he is doing in terms of improving the health of everyone in the world. Not only will I now buy some of his DVDs (on yoga) when I next go to India, but I would encourage all readers of this blog to do so. We must give credit where it is due and learn from those who know more than us.

His yoga teaching is very important for India, so I do hope that he breaks his pointless fast and takes a step back to think things through before re-emerging in the political space. The political space is a policy space. It needs different kind of thinking and knowledge. He must realise that just as I have to learn yoga and physical fitness from him, he MUST start paying attention to learning about good policy from those who have spent thirty years thinking and learning about it. And he MUST show respect for India's democracy and not try to work outside its well-defined constraints.

But yes, in the field he is good at (yoga), I'm happy to be his student. 

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Hazare does the right thing by dissociating with Ramdev

Social crusader Anna Hazare on Thursday slammed fellow anti-graft campaigner Baba Ramdev's call to arms, saying he abhorred violence and would not associate himself with a man who planned to raise a militia of volunteers. Hazare said he would not meet the yoga guru for some time as it could be construed as support for the plan to train volunteers.  [Source]

Now the IMMEDIATE task of IAC is to officially remove all references to Ramdev from their website – unless Ramdev follows the points I've suggested here. AND to remove the picture that shows Hazare in front of Gandhi [See this blog post] That is VERY offensive. Hazare is nowhere in the league of Gandhi. Let's not lower Gandhi's image to this level.

Finally, I'd urge IAC to do the following, if they wish to be supported more widely (or at least by me) again:

1) IAC should NOT use fasting unto death – ever again. Other methods of protest exist.

2) IAC should  consider more sensible ways to remove corruptoin, such as those provided in detail in my book, BFN

3) Let IAC members join FTI and work together to change the laws through the electoral system. 

If they haven't tried the electoral system they have no right to create chaos in India. Let DEMOCRATIC methods be used. Let us support and build India, not destroy India.

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Let Baba Ramdev break his fast and bring calm and order to the situation

Baba Ramdev has done too many things in the past few days to badly sully his reputation. In this process he has let himself down, and worse, created a situation where people can no longer trust his good judgement. He has shown disregard for basic concept of law and order. That is step too far for anyone to take.

He can redeem himself even now, but only if he completely changes his methods. The following steps are suggested:
 
1) As a first step let him withdraw his fast. This idea is stupid and not necessary. There are many good ways to eliminate corruption. Fasting unto death is not one of them.
 
2) Let him apologise for his idea of a "sena" and send everyone who has come to him for arms training, away.
 
3) Then let him remain silent for a while and contemplate his actions. His methods of removing corruption could NEVER have worked. So let him consider more sensible ways, such as those provided in detail in my book, BFN
 
4) Let him move into PROPER, ELECTORAL POLITICS. Let him use the polling booth to promote his ideas.
 
By cooperating with the government to the extent he can, and using CONSTITUTIONAL methods, he will bring calm and order to the situation, and people can then focus on the key issue – of corruption.
 
Currently, he has himself become the centre of discussion, not the issues he wants to resolve. 
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