Yoga guru Ramdev stirs thousands to violence

A popular yoga guru retreated to his plush ashram Sunday claiming the Indian government was out to kill him after police forcibly removed the televangelist from a “fast-unto-death” hunger strike against corruption and scattered tens of thousands of his followers.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The showdown in New Delhi had been building for days, after the saffron-robed, barefoot guru Ram Krishna Ramdev, known as Baba Ramdev, went ahead with his threat to lead a mass hunger strike in the capital.

Police in protective gear moved in early Sunday, using truncheons and tear gas against his followers and sparking panic in and around the massive tent they’d put up at the Ramlila Ground.

By afternoon police were still closely guarding the empty tent and the hospital where injured supporters were taken, in a bid to prevent further gatherings. As an uneasy calm ensued, both sides were left wondering whether they’d overplayed their hand in a political showdown that’s bordered on farce.

“Whether Ramdev is really fighting corruption or just looking for publicity is a question,” said Pran Chopra, a political analyst. “But there’s no justification for destroying the meeting. The government very badly mishandled it.”

In the land of Mahatma Gandhi, who famously used fasting as a pressure tactic against the British colonial rulers, hunger strikes remain an effective political threat.

But Ramdev, who has vowed to launch another fast, is hardly Gandhi. His two trusts own 1,000 acres of prime land and enjoy at least $245 million in annual revenue, allowing him to travel by private plane and retreat to a private island off Scotland. His controversial claims include statements that homosexuality, and AIDS, can be “cured” through yoga.

Ramdev’s huge following — up to 20 million tune in daily to his early morning television in India alone — as well as support from right-wing Hindu nationalists have led to dreams of his own party.

All of which has made Ramdev a threat to the ruling Congress party, for which corruption is a sensitive issue. India has weathered a rash of graft scandals involving billions of dollars over the last year in the telecommunications, sports and defense sectors.

India Today says:

The midnight police swoop on Baba Ramdev and his supporters has prompted a flurry of reactions from almost all political parties and prominent leaders.

A majority of the Opposition bigwigs called the crackdown brutal and undemocratic.

Some of the harshest comments came from Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati.

Mulayam said the UPA government has “lost its mental balance and is attacking its own citizens”. It was the Congress, he said, which was the ” biggest thug”, referring to party leader Digvijaya Singh’s jibe at Ramdev.

In another article the publication also says “the government’s midnight swoop on Baba Ramdev was prompted by the home ministry’s assessment of a huge swelling of numbers at the Ramlila Maidan on Sunday.”

Reuters writes:

The campaign by Ramdev, who plans to launch a political party ahead of the 2014 general election, followed allegations of kickbacks at the Commonwealth Games and a telecoms scam that may have cost the government $39 billion.

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 that he and thousands of supporters started in New Delhi on Saturday in a marquee the size of four football pitches.

“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 Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.

Baba Ramdev plans to set up yoga retreat on remote Scottish Island

Baba Ramdev plans to set up yoga retreat on remote Scottish Island

One of India’s most controversial television lifestyle gurus, Swami “Baba” Ramdev, who claims homosexuality can be “cured” by yoga, plans to transform a remote Scottish Island, Little Cumbrae, into a yoga and traditional teaching centre.

Ramdev, a bearded yogi who claims his branch of pranayama yoga cures everything from Alzheimer’s to acne, attracts up to a 20 million viewers to his yoga show broadcast every lunchtime on India TV.

The Scottish owners of Little Cumbrae plan to transform it into a centre for yoga and traditional teaching under the guru’s direction, reports have suggested.

The world’s most popular Hindu guru will attend a ceremony on Little Cumbrae to bless the new project, the creation of an “international base” for his expanding yogic empire.

The tiny island was bought recently for about £2 million by two Scottish followers, Sam and Sunita Podda.
[…]

– Source / Full Story: Baba Ramdev plans to set up yoga retreat on remote Scottish Island, Andrew Hough, Telegraph, Sep. 8, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Controversial yoga guru to turn Scots beauty spot into Peace Island

Ramdev is a national celebrity in his homeland, where he has been photographed with Bollywood stars including Shilpa Shetty.

But he is also a controversial figure. His claims that yoga can treat cancer and HIV have been blasted as “quackery of the highest order” and he has been slammed for giving “false hope to ill people”.

The couple who bought Little Cumbrae, Sam and Sunita Poddar, insist that Peace Island will be an asset to Scotland.
[…]

The Poddars run the Patanjali Yog Peeth (UK) Trust – a registered charity and sister organisation to Ramdev’s movement in India.

Their website says their mission is “to make a disease-free world through a scientific approach to Yog and Ayurved (alternative medicine)”.
[…]

Hundreds of Ramdev’s followers are expected to travel to the island for the opening ceremony.

His critics are unlikely to be happy to see him expanding his global presence.

Mohammed Abbas, of the Indian Medical Association, has blasted Ramdev’s claims for the benefits of yoga.

Abbas says that although yoga is good exercise, “it cannot be used to make ridiculous claims about curing HIV or cancer.

“This is false hope for ill people”.

Another critic, Sanal Edamaruku of the Indian Rationalist Association, has called for Ramdev to be prosecuted for “peddling quackery of the highest order”.

He said: “Claiming such absurdities is against the law.
[…]

– Source / Full Story: Controversial yoga guru to turn Scots beauty spot into Peace Island, John Ferguson, The Daily Record, Sep. 3, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Yoga guru sets up base on Scottish isle

Baba Ramdev’s current headquarters, a 500-acre site in Haridwar, a pilgrimage town built on a propitious spot where the Ganges emerges from the Himalayas, are likely to provide the model for Peace Island.

The Haridwar site includes a dental clinic, an eye clinic, a surgery for minor operations and a large organic farm that specialises in growing medicinal plants. A pathology lab contains the latest machines from Germany and Japan and workers produce books, DVDs, CDs, soaps, oils and even a soft drink for sale online.
[…]

The accusations against Baba Ramdev have done little to blunt his popularity in India, where he is one of a group of elite gurus gaining traction both commercially and ideologically. He has popularised yoga through plain speaking, diatribes against Western lifestyles and a cable TV channel that attracts 20 million daily viewers.

While attacking overseas businessmen — last year he told The Times that Western companies were “looting” India — he has grown a nonprofit organisation that will turn over at least £20 million this year.
[…]

– Source / Full Story: Yoga guru sets up base on Scottish isle, Rhys Blakely, The Times, Sep. 8, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The Times story also includes a roundup of other ‘Superstar Swamis.’

Scottish isle is guru’s choice for global healing

The island was bought this summer by Sam and Sunita Poddar. The couple head the Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust (UK), a sister organisation of Divya Yoga, a group Mr Ramdev established in India 15 years ago.

The group’s website says it aims “to make a disease-free world through a scientific approach to Yoga and Ayurveda”.
[…]

Intriguingly, Guru Ramdev, who says he overcame paralysis through yoga’s powers, is not the first aesthetic to have been lured to Little Cumbrae. History suggests that a seventh-century nun known as Saint Veya established a religious group on Little Cumbrae. History does not record, however, whether Saint Veya was as flexible as Guru Ramdev or whether she had such kind and generous friends.

– Source / Full Story: Scottish isle is guru’s choice for global healing, Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, Sep. 8, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See also:
Yoga is no panacea: Physicians