Baba Ramdev

Swami Ramdevji or Baba Ramdev, as he is popularly known, is one of India’s most popular spiritual leaders in the field of Yoga, Ayurveda and social activism. Millions watch him every day on television as he teaches simplified Yoga and Pranayama to the masses, giving them the gift of well-being, health and peace and spreading the message of righteous living. Arguably, no other Swami in recent time has been so successful in making the art of Yoga a common practice in every household, and especially among India’s huge middle class population.


Baba Ramdev

Baba Ramdev


Baba Ramdev’s Early Life and Education:

Baba Ramdev was born as Ramkrishna Yadav to Ram Nivas Yadav and Gulabo Devi in the Alipur village of Mahendragarh district in Haryana state of India.


After finishing his basic education in a village school, at the age of 14, he was admitted to a Gurukul, traditional Hindu school at Kalwa, near Jind in Haryana. At the Gurukul, Ramdev studied Sanskrit and Yoga under his master Acharya Baldev, and earned a postgraduate degree with specialization in Sanskrit grammar, Hindu philosophy, Yoga, Vedas and Upanishads. Besides, Ramdev was deeply inspired by the life and teachings of Maharshi Dayanand, and the writings of Maharshi Patañjali, the foremost exponent of Yoga and author of the Yoga Sutras.

Along with Yoga and Sanskrit, Ramdev was also drawn towards Ayurveda, and studied the ancient Indian medical system thoroughly.

The Young Swami’s Goal in Life:

Baba Ramdev realized very early on in life that he was born to become a Yogi and a spiritual leader, which made him practice asceticism and celibacy right from adolescence. After serving as a Yoga teacher at various Gurukuls, he embarked on a pilgrimage to Gangotri, high up in the Himalayas, far from the madding crowd. In the peace of solitude, and through continuous meditation and disciplined penance, Ramdev attained his vision and mission of life: First, Reaping the benefits of Yoga and Ayurveda, and taking them to the common mass; and second, reforming the social, political and economic system of our motherland.


Baba Ramdev’s Main Focus: Yoga & Ayurveda:

Baba Ramdev’s main focus has been to demystify and popularize Patañjali’s Yoga. Along with his able accomplice Acharya Balkrishna, Ramdevji has also taken over the responsibility of restoring people’s faith in Ayurveda and the effectiveness of this ancient Hindu system of medicine. Baba Ramdev’s non-sectarian mission has since been teaching the whole world to make Yoga and Ayurveda an integral part of their lifestyle.


Baba Ramdev’s Mantra for a Happy & Healthy Life:

In his yoga camps, attended by thousands of participants from all parts of the country, he emphasizes on doing eight Pranayamas: Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, Agnisara, Ujjayi, Anulomaviloma, Bhramari, Udgitha, and Pranava. According to him, if you do these pranamyas along with some light exercises and Yoga asanas, and takes the benefits of some simple ayurvedic home remedies, you could be free from major ailments and live a happy and healthy life. His books, TV programs, and DVDs are among the most popular and authentic training and reading materials available on Yoga and Ayurveda today.


Baba Ramdev’s Foundations:

In 1995, Baba Ramdev founded the Divya Yog Mandir Trust at Kankhal, Haridwar, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Since its inauguration in 2006, it has been one of the largest centers for research on Yoga and Ayurveda in the world. This was followed by a meditation center at Gangotri in the Himalayas, the Divya Yog Sadhana Patañjali Yogpeeth Trust in Delhi in 2005, Patañjali Yogpeeth in Haridwar, the Bharat Swabhiman Trust in Delhi, and a number of Ayurvedic medical centers and Gurukul educational institutions, and publications.

Patanjali YogPeeth has acquired a Scottish Island for about £2 million which was donated by Mr. Sam and Mrs. Sunita Poddar, originally from India and living in Scotland for 25 years, have been running the UK branch of the Patanjali Yoga Peeth Trust. The Little Cumbrae Island, off the fishing town of Largs in Scotland, will also serve as the Patanjali Yog Peeth’s base overseas, where yoga will be taught. This project will be run by Patanjali Yogpeeth (UK) Trust. They have plans to set up a wellness retreat there.


Honors and Awards:

In 2006, Swami Ramdev was invited by the United Nations to participate in a poverty eradication program. He has also been awarded a number of honors and honorary doctorates by universities around the world.


Protests against black money

Baba Ramdev raised the issue of black money publicly in Ramlila Maidan on 27 February 2011. Estimations indicate a total of Rs. 400 lakh crore, or nearly 9 trillion USD, of Indian black money outside the country. It is claimed but not proven that this is so much money that every Indian constituency could get up to 50 thousand crore for development. The money has been pulled outside the country via physical and technical means, with hawala, under/over invoicing being some common methods. Money laundering has been happening on a large scale since 1990.

In April 2011 Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, confirmed that there are Indian names on Swiss bank accounts. Switzerland is not the only tax haven where Indian black money is stashed. Other tax havens include Dubai, Liechtenstein, USA, UK, and others. Switzerland has officially rejected any “fishing expeditions” by the Indian government but are willing to be more cooperative in investigations where specific evidence is provided. An approach had been made by Indian government but was refused on the basis that it was a fishing expedition without any evidence. Baba Ramdev has said that most of the money belongs to the ministers, government officials and bureaucrats.

Apart from this, there is an estimated Rs. 100–150 lakh crore of black money in India’s internal economy. India’s total GDP is in the range of 60 lakh crore and at least twice of this amount is circulating in black, which is roughly between 100 and 150 lakh crore. Ramdev has suggested many measures to curb the amount of black money circulating inside the internal economy. Baba Ramdev pointed out that total currency note circulation in India is 10 lakh crore. If the GDP is 60 lakh crore, then currency note circulation should be 1/50 of that amount, which is only 2 lakh crore. A common thumb-rule of macroeconomics is that a currency note can travel 50 to 100 transaction points over a year. Hence if RBI has circulated 10 lakh crore of currency then the total Indian economy should be at least 50 × 10 lakh crore = 500 lakh crore. This clearly indicates that there is huge amount of black money circulating inside the internal economy and an equally high amount of unaccounted wealth is being siphoned out of the country every year by corrupt ministers and bureaucrats.

Swami Ramdev has been associated with the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement and was involved in the Jan Lokpal agitation, which was focused on having a strong lokpal.

In February 2011, he gave the following steps for eradication of black money:

  1. Declare all Indian wealth lying outside the country as national wealth.

  2. Agree to and accept the U.N. Convention against Corruption – pending since 2006.

  3. Access, monitor and disrupt payment gateway servers enabling corrupt people to manage money in tax havens.

  4. Scrutinizing accounts of people having credit/debit cards of foreign banks without any foreign work/relation.

  5. Disabling operations of any bank from a tax haven country.

  6. Withdrawal and demonetizing of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes – so as to avoid misuse of unaccounted money and quick arrest of the entire locally circulated black money, bribing, and fake note traffic.

  7. Death penalty provision for the corrupt persons in Indian Penal Code.

Many countries like USA, Germany and other smaller African countries have attempted to adopt certain steps to recover their black money yet at the same time they have retained their own havens, for example, the USA has Delaware, the UK has the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, France has Monaco. However in India the government calls Ramdev’s idea as impractical as many of Indias largest corporations trade in Switzerland and much needed investment into India from overseas funds is routed through Mauritius. The practicality of such steps has been called into question.

He has raised the issue of Indian money stashed away illegally in Swiss banks, which is estimated to be anywhere between 1 and 1.5 trillion USD. He says that the government must take immediate action and bring back the money as it belongs to the people of India. Not only this, he openly charges that this black money has been taken out of the country illegally and also very strongly demands a capital punishment to all those Indians or non-resident Indians, who acquire, handle and stash black money.

He suggests that the Mauritius route is a tax haven for black money operators in India and this route should be cut effectively by the Indian government but ignores the fact that all UK and US funds use Mauritius to invest in the Indian stock-market and in India. He had also demanded (as early as September 2009) the removal of currency of denominations of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000, saying that this would curb corruption, black money and terrorism.

Anti-corruption rally on 27 February 2011 at Ramlila Maidan

On 27 February 2011 Baba Ramdev held a large rally of over 1 lakh people at the Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi to protest against corruption. Those present at the rally included Baba Ramdev, Acharya Balkrishna, Ram Jethmalani, Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and many others. All members spoke and explained how corruption was rampant in the country and how the government itself was indulging in it. The most highlighted topic was Indian black money lying in tax havens of Switzerland. A striking feature of this rally was that all the major media houses boycotted it.

Bhrashtachar Mitao Satyagrah 4 June 2011 at Ramlila Maidan

Preface

Baba Ramdev launched the Bhrashtachar Mitao Satyagrah which was held at Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi on 4 June 2011. Key demands were:

  1. Declare all illegal wealth/black money lying in foreign countries, which belong to Indians as National Property.

  2. Declaring money laundering as a National Crime and should be punishable.

  3. Investigate and shut down the Mauritius route of foreign investment.

  4. Sign and ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, pending since 2006

  5. Recall Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes to curb corruption, bribery and illegal flow of money in the internal economy of the country.

  6. Enact a strong Lokpal bill.

  7. Establish infrastructure to deliver medical and engineering education in Indian Languages.

  8. Enact Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act to enable all citizens to avail government/public services easily and quickly

  9. Enact the Kisan Vetan Ayog to establish standards for payment of wages to farmers and classify farming as skilled labour.

Protest at Delhi

Baba Ramdev declared to go on an Anshan (indefinite fast) on June 4, 2011 at Ramlila Ground Delhi to pressure the Central Government to root out corruption from India and bring back the black money stashed away in various financial institutions abroad. After this declaration the government was said to have set up a panel to suggest steps to curb black money and its transfer abroad, in an apparent bid to placate Ramdev.

When Ramdev arrived at Delhi airport on June 1, four senior ministers of the UPA government met him on the airport and tried to persuade him by telling of the government’s initiative on corruption. On 4 June morning 65,000 followers of the yoga teacher had gathered at Ramlila Ground By noon queues extending up to 3 km from the entry point of Ramlila Grounds and were seen chanting ‘Vande Mataram’. In the evening a press conference was organised by Kapil Sibbal made public a letter from Ramdev’s camp to call off their agitation. Ramdev took it as a betrayal of the Government and hardened the position by declaring not to take back his Satyagrah until a proper government ordinance is announced in place of forming a committee.

Satyagrah was going on even in the night of 4 June 2011. Sources informed Baba Ramdev that a huge police force can try to clear Ramlila Ground and if it is not done they can also kill him in a fake encounter or set fire in the tents. At midnight, a huge team of 10,000 officers of the Delhi Police and RAF raided the ground when most of the Satyagrahis were sleeping on the and Ramdev was also sleeping on the dias along with his core group. A large police force lobbed tear gas shells and lathicharged to evict the crowd from 1a.m. to 4 a.m. The tent was set on fire at many places. Cold water was thrown over power generators to create complete darkness to prevent any video recording of the whole attack. However most media persons recorded what was going on.

Police had arranged buses to drop supporters at railway stations and bus stands in advance; had ammunition ready and all the policemen were in battle-gear wearing vests and helmets and kept some ambulances on standby. Ramdev was arrested while attempting to disguise himself in women’s clothing.

Delhi Police forcefully detained Ramdev at Safdargunj Airport in complete isolation for a few hours and then deported him to his Ashram in Haridwar via helicopter. Police fired tear gas, lathcharged people who were reportedly peacefully fasting. 53 persons were injured and treated at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, AIIMS trauma center, and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Government stopped media person or anybody to enter the hospital to check the injured. Protesters huddled near the Metro station, bus depots and railway stations. Many walked down to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib and other nearby Ashrams. According to New Delhi railway station authorities, supporters continued to leave in batches through the course of the day. While several supporters spent the day in a park near Ramlila Maidan, others took shelter in Arya Samaj at Paharganj.

Baba Ramdev was taken by police out side Delhi and was banned from entering Delhi for 15 days. After being banned from entering Delhi for the next 15 days, Union Home Secretary G. K. Plillai said the Baba was on his way to his Ashram at Haridwar under police custody.[50] On reaching Haridwar, Swami Ramdev declared in a press conference that his fast unto death will continue.

About 5,000 supporters were still missing according to Baba Ramdev. Dr. Jaideep Arya, a key advisor of Ramdev’s team, said that about 19 girls students from the Chotipur Gurukul, who were seated near the dais, are estimated to be still missing. Suman, women’s representative of the Trust, said many of these girls were roughed up when the police tried to reach Swamiji and were crying since police officials were pulling their hair, dragging them badly and their clothes were torn. Police, however, said no one was missing. A senior police officer reported that they were forced to retaliate after Baba Ramdev’s supporters started throwing stones and flower pots at them. Police also released CCTV footage to prove that no woman was beaten by them. TV channels were telecasting the footage of the scene in Ramlia Ground. Rajbala, who suffered a crippling spinal injury and was undergoing treatment at G. B. Pant Hospital died following cardiac arrest. The hospital authorities refused to give a death summary and other relevant papers, and even asked to file an RTI application. Baba Ramdev, in a statement, said “Her sacrifice is an irreparable loss to the whole organisation…..and her death will not go in vain. We will continue to fight for a corruption-free India.”

Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and yoga guru Baba Ramdev will jointly sit on a day’s token fast in Delhi on 3 June 2012 to press for a strong Lokpal Bill and to mobilise opinion against black money. On 9 August 2012, Baba Ramdev lanuched an indefinite protests at Ramlila Maidan against Government’s failure to take action against corrupt and in bringing black money back into the country. Anna Hazare was, however, not present though he had earlier declared that he would join the protest. He announced that his future strategy depends upon the governmental response to his protest, which would unravel on August 12, 2012.

Aftermath of the Delhi protest and fast unto death

Ramdev accused the government of cheating him, and alleged that there was a conspiracy to kill him and that he was threatened during a meeting with senior ministers. All political parties other than the Congress Party condemned the police action, called it undemocratic and naked fascism, deplorable and shortsighted. It was even compared it with the Emergency and the Jalianwala. Apart from politicians, he was also supported by civil societies as well. Activist Anna Hazare termed the crackdown of the agitation a strangulation of democracy. He said: “There was no firing otherwise the eviction was similar to Jallianwala Bagh massacre”. He boycotted his lokpal panel meeting with the government on 6 June and decided to go on a one day fast on 8 June. His allies RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, and Swami Agnivesh also criticised the police action to evict the hunger strikers forcefully Protests were held in many different parts of the country. Protest were held in Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad,Jammu and Lucknow as well as among other several cities of India.

End of hunger strike

Baba Ramdev ended his fast on the ninth day by drinking a glass of juice at Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences, Dehradun, where he was recuperating from the seventh day of his fast. After repeated request from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and various other activisst he ended his fast. Political reactions came in from all major parties expressing their happiness about ending the fast. BJP Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said they have a “sense of satisfaction” that the fast has ended. Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy said that the fast was “successful” and termed the government as “monstrous”. While the ruling party Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi gave a reaction by saying it as “good”.

Ambedkar stadium fast

Baba Ramdev called off his six-day fast at Delhi’s Ambedkar stadium on 14 August 2012 and said he was returning to Haridwar. Seeking the defeat of the Congress in 2014, he said, “Congress hatao, desh bachao (Remove Congress, save the country)”, adding that except for the Congress all parties were together on the issue of black money.

Allegations of corruption and tax evasion

Hours after 4 June, the Congress-led UPA government started a massive campaign against Baba Ramdev, Acharya Balkrishna and Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust. Multiple allegations were raised against Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna.

Some of them being:

  1. Baba Ramdev is involved in tax evasion.

  2. Baba Ramdev exports products that are banned in the United States.

  3. Donations received by Baba Ramdev consist of black money.

  4. Acharya Balkrishna has fake passport.

  5. Acharya Balkrishna is a Nepali criminal who fled from Nepal to India.

  6. Acharya Balkrishna has violated the Arms Act, 1959.

The Indian National Congress lead United Progressive Alliance launched a booklet to criticise and expose Ramdev during its election campaign in Uttar Pradesh for the 2012 elections. Acharya Balkrishna was later cleared of fake passport charges.

It is said that there are a maze of companies that are run and maintained by Ramdev´s key men. Over 200 businesses from broadcasting companies to food parks are run by his allies Acharya Balkrishna and Swami Muktanand. Baba Ramdev is also facing charges of land grab as it was reported that Patanjali Yog Peeth had grabbed government land. In 2011, a report released by India Today cited some of the firms running under the guidance of Baba Ramdev as being scanned by government authorities for the above mentioned allegations. On 20 July 2012, CBI arrested Ramdev’s aide Balkrishna.

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