India yoga guru detained at anti-graft rally

Celebrity activist Baba Ramdev arrested after speaking to 10,000 supporters during anti-corruption protest in New Delhi.

Baba Ramdev has called his supporters to "remove the Congress Party and save the nation" [EPA]
Baba Ramdev has called his supporters to "remove the Congress Party and save the nation" [EPA]

Indian yoga guru and his supporters have been arrested en route to parliament by authorities during an anti-corruption protest march in the capital, New Delhi, putting pressure on Congress Party-led federal coalition government.

“Remove the Congress Party and save the nation,” he said at the start of his “protest” walk on Monday afternoon with thousands of supporters, as opposition political leadership rushed join him.

Addressing a crowd of 10,000 people, he urged an effort to bring in a “clean” government, as they applauded and cheered.

Despite not being aligned to any political contingent, he was joined by a leader of the main right-wing opposition party, Nitin Gadkari, and Sharad Yadav of socialist JD(U) party.

A Congress spokesman called the rally a political stunt.

As Ramdev was led away by police, he shouted slogans urging his supporters to fight the nation’s corruption and to seek the repatriation of billions of dollars in illegal money that he claims Indians have stashed in foreign banks.

The Hindu guru, who practices yoga exercises daily on national television with a viewership of millions, has used his popularity to highlight his campaign against corruption and black money.

Tax evasion

Ramdev, whose real name is Ramkishan Yadav, had been on hunger strike for the past four days, expected a response from the government on Sunday.

Waving flags and shouting slogans, the demonstrators climbed into a row of police vehicles parked around a sprawling New Delhi fairground, Ramlila Ground, which Ramdev and his supporters had occupied.

Authorities said the protesters would be taken to a stadium on the outskirts of the city and would likely be released by Monday evening.

The bearded, saffron-clad yogi warned his followers to prepare for jail but appealed for calm and refrain from violence as police removed them from the Ramlila Ground.

The celebrity campaigner has demanded the implementation of new laws to regulate the government and a strong and independent Central Bureau of Investigation in a bid to act against tax evasion and safeguard illegal money in offshore accounts.

Ramdev’s anti-graft campaign is loosely aligned with a message by social activist Anna Hazare, who staged a hunger
strike last summer against corruption that roused public ire against the government.

Hazare and his supporters said they would give up agitating and join politics instead.

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