Charges that traditional medicines manufactured by a flamboyant television yoga guru contain human skulls and animal parts have sparked a political feud in India, pitting Hindu nationalists against communists and the federal government against a state.
Indian authorities allow animal parts, including pigeon blood, ox bile and even cat testicles, in drugs used for Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu health system.
However, human parts are banned, and the allegation by Brinda Karat, Communist party leader, that Ayurvedic drugs made by Ramdev contain them has enraged his supporters. Hindu nationalist politicians accuse Karat of trying to undermine the Hindu religion.
The charges and countercharges have been splashed across the front pages of Indian newspapers, highlighting the divide between contemporary India’s left-leaning political culture and the subcontinent’s deeply rooted religious traditions.
Since the charges emerged publicly on Wednesday, there have been protests by Ramdev supporters in New Delhi and Bhopal in central India.
The uproar began after Karat had tests carried out on medicines made at Ramdev’s pharmacy in the northern state of Uttaranchal and said traces of crushed human skulls had been found in the treatments. She did not say why anyone would put human parts in Ayurvedic medicine.
The charges were angrily denied by Ramdev, who hosts a popular television yoga show and like many in the region uses just one name.
In an interview with yesterday’s Times of India newspaper, he accused her of conspiring with multinational drug makers who want to put him out of business.
Anbumani Ramadoss, federal health minister, admitted Karat’s test did indicate the presence of human parts in the medicine, but said further tests would have to be conducted on samples collected by officials.
“We’ve referred the matter to the drug controller of Uttaranchal,” where the drugs were made, he said.
If the new tests on the drugs, labelled as purely herbal, were also positive for human and animal parts, criminal action would be taken, he said.
However, state officials and opposition Hindu nationalist politicians have backed Ramdev.
SK Das, Uttaranchal health minister, said tests carried out by the state last year found only permissible animal parts like cow horns. “We found no human parts as had been complained by Karat,” he said.
Ram Madhav, a spokesman for the hard-line Hindu movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has also accused Karat of being part of “a conspiracy hatched by retrograde leftists to demean reputed persons of Bharatiya (Indian) culture”, while Prakash Javdekar, a spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata party, said it was a “motivated attempt to hurt the faith of Indians in yoga and Ayurveda”.