The police had disallowed Baba Ramdev to hold a rally at Ramlila Maidan. He was allowed only to conduct a yoga camp. Later the police gave him permission to hold his protest rally and fast at the ground. The ground was dug up, coolers and air conditioners were installed, any number of toilets was set up. The government cooperated by allowing transportation for thousands who arrived from outside the capital to join the rally. When Baba Ramdev arrived by jet aircraft four cabinet ministers greeted him at the airport. Subsequently cabinet ministers held parleys with him. His demands were discussed. It was claimed that agreement was imminent. Baba Ramdev committed himself to ending the fast only after written acceptance of his demands was delivered.
At midnight the police revoked permission for the rally and descended on the ground to detain Baba Ramdev and forcibly evict his supporters including women and children. Those who resisted were lathi-charged.
Under what law
did the police do this?
There is nationwide disgust with political corruption. Corruption was exposed after the Supreme Court pressured probe agencies to do their job. Corruption became a burning issue. Anna Hazare started his fast against corruption. India’s prime TV channel gave 100 hours of uninterrupted coverage of the fast. NGOs all over the nation swung into action. A middle class protest gathered strength.
Had anyone cracked the whip?
Despite this, Anna Hazare’s protest is erroneously described as being “spontaneous”. The Lokpal debate helped the government. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi backed it. The Lokpal demand diverted attention from the ongoing corruption cases. Rootless people claiming to represent civil society started helping the government to draft the Lokpal Bill for parliament. The whole issue was farcical. The drafting committee got divided. The draft floundered. Lokpal Bill became a non-issue.
Yoga Guru Swami Ramdev had also taken up the corruption issue. He offered lip service to Anna Hazare. Both presented a united front against corruption. But Sonia Gandhi never backed Swami Ramdev. The RSS did. Soon Hazare and Ramdev started to distance each other. They offered different views about how to tackle corruption. Swami Ramdev launched his own fast. It was Hazare’s turn to offer lip service support. The government and Ramdev reached tacit understanding regarding ending of the fast behind the curtain.
The government had agreed to formally declare that black money abroad was India’s wealth. Ramdev said that this was sufficient to end his fast. It was a meaningless demand. Declaring that black money abroad was national wealth would do nothing to help bring it back. For dealing with current corruption this was as irrelevant as the Lokpal Bill. Curiously, neither Hazare nor Ramdev publicly demanded that the government release all the names provided by Germany related to illegal bank accounts held by Indians in Lichtenstein. Then in the midst of this soap opera Mr. Kapil Sibal disclosed a secret understanding with Ramdev. A letter by Ramdev’s aide pledged ending of the fast by a given time. By Sibal’s disclosure Ramdev felt betrayed. By Ramdev’s delay in ending fast the government felt betrayed. The police launched its crackdown against Ramdev after midnight.
Former Law Minister Mr. Shanti Bhushan said that the midnight arrest reminded him of the Emergency. He echoed the sentiments of many. Conditions to justify the police action against Baba Ramdev and his followers did not exist. They were not threatening violence.
Could the police action have been taken not because the government feared a nationwide protest but because it actually wanted it? Does government seek to create conditions that justify the imposition of Emergency? Or is the government unbelievably stupid?
Recall the old saying: Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. Those who rule this nation seem to have gone mad.
How and why did this happen?
It happened because the government is led by a Prime Minister who is continuously disgracing his office by acting as the dummy of an extra-constitutional authority. That alone explains the mixed signals emanating from the government and its confusion. While cabinet ministers were negotiating with Ramdev and the talks seemed to be proceeding satisfactorily, general secretaries of the party were badmouthing him and threatening a probe into his assets followed by legal action. After detention Baba Ramdev was transported by the government to Haridwar. He has announced continuation of his fast and intensification of the fight against corruption. The government has created an icon for the masses that conceivably could unite the opposition against it. By the televised police operation against a peaceful crowd including women and children led by a Yogi the government has created public revulsion against itself.
Where will all this end?
An unprecedented fluid situation has been created that has the potential of altering the face of Indian politics. The corruption issue could now flare up to ignite revolutionary protest. Ramdev, Hazare and most opposition parties could unite thanks to the government’s heavy handedness. Ramdev may not fill the vacuum created by the collapse of the government. He could certainly become the instrument to destroy it.
The government has provided full opportunity for India’s Jasmine revolution. Thinking people should start creating an alternative while people bring down this government. The Congress is not only bringing down government but is also digging its own grave. It has all but destroyed the system. What India desperately needs at this crucial juncture is the creation of a modern 21st century political party that can reclaim the spirit of the Constitution and restore democracy. It remains to be seen how the nation responds to this challenge.