It was on June 5 Loknayak Jayaprakash Narain launched his total revolution. Now 37 years later, on its anniversary, the police brutally cracked down on peaceful sleeping hunger strikers demanding action against corruption and black money led by Baba Ramdev at Ramlila Grounds in Delhi.
By police’s own admission, 60,000 men, women and children were teargassed, lathi-charged and forcibly evicted from the huge pandal in the midnight operation. Such stealthy operations are carried out against terrorists. The Baba was in an open area. If the police wanted to arrest the Baba, it need not have used such force. But the purpose was beyond his arrest to terrorise all of his supporters who had assembled for their concern against black money stashed abroad and the growing menace of corruption.
The action planned with military precision compares with General REH Dyer’s massacre at Jallianwallah Bagh. The only difference is in 1919, the country was ruled by a ruthless foreign ruler and now it is supposedly being ruled by an elected government of the people, which is expected to listen to their voices.
The ministers of the government are repeatedly saying that Baba Ramdev had exceeded his stated purpose of organising a yoga camp to start a fast against corruption. It seems the government’s intelligence agencies have miserably failed. They could not see the posters and hoardings splattered all over the capital announcing that the Baba would be holding his “fast against corruption”.
Everyone in Delhi knew of it. Every newspaper has been carrying stories about the impending event. It is surprising that the four ministers, who welcomed Baba Ramdev at Delhi airport and held a series of negotiations with him, did not know of it.
Even if they did not know of it and “might” have come as a “surprise” to them, how could they justify the brutal police action, the arrest of Baba and his deportation to Haridwar?
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s statement aptly sums it up. Soon after the police action he said that this would be a “lesson” for all such people. (The unsaid was whosoever would join a democratic movement would be ruthlessly crushed). It again compares well with what Gen Dyer said in 1919. Dyer lamented that the lane to the Jallianwallah Bagh was so narrow he could not take his machine guns.
A ruling party general secretary Digvijay Singh addressing minorities at Ittihad-i-Millat Council meeting at Idgah in Rampur on June 5 itself repeated that the Baba was a thug. A sanyasi revered by crores of Hindus could be ridiculed and called names in a secular country. But the same general secretary does not mind referring to international terrorist Osama bin Laden reverentially as “Ladenji” just to placate a few minority votes, which now certainly is eluding it as has been seen in the Assam elections held last month.
Other ministers also started tarnishing the image of the Baba. Sibal went to the extent of saying that “politics should be left to politicians”. By the same logic Sibal should not move out of his profession of law to dabble in politics. The Constitution has guaranteed the right to delve into politics to every citizen. It is not a preserve of the few “politicians”.
The government’s statement, “It is unfortunate the operation had to be conducted, but quite honestly there was no alternative” is simply shocking.
Only two months ago Kashmiri separatists hold a meeting in the high security area, at a stone’s throw from Prime Minister’s Delhi residence. No action is taken against them despite the fact that some of them were wanted by security agencies.
The events at Charar-e-Sharif in Kashmir, where terrorists fighting against the army were offered delicious biryani, is also too recent to be forgotten.
The stone pelters in Jammu & Kashmir are not tried to be even dispersed. But a sanyasi could be threatened, tortured and deported like a criminal. He could be branded a thug and “criminal” investigations could be started against him. This is all possible because the majority community is extremely tolerant unlike the minority community Digvijay Singh is trying to placate.
The government is selectively leaking information that it had asked CBI and income-tax department to trail him to investigate land and financial deals of his companies. The government could have done that much before. But the action now against Baba’s companies, which are exempt from paying tax is not only vindictive but also demonstrative to all such citizens who might join democratic movements.
Of late, the income-tax law is being misused for harassing and humiliating citizens. In fact, all political parties need to sit together and decriminalise the tax laws. Tax in the ancient times had started as a voluntary donation to meet the state’s expenses.
It is no wonder the Baba is being victimised under the same law, which he wants to be used against the black money holders.
The black money holders are united against all right-thinking people. They have clout. So they could go scot free. They could even pull the strings so that the UN convention against corruption is not ratified by a government.
They also know how to tarnish the image of upright citizens be it the noted lawyer, former minister Shanti Bhushan by manufacturing a fake CD or his land purchases alleging he paid less stamp duty or Baba Ramdev.
These are designs to paint all with the same brush and justify what late Indira Gandhi cornered on corruption by the Navnirman Movement of Youths of Gujarat in 1974 did. She had said, “Corruption is a global phenomenon”. It meant if some in India were also corrupt there was nothing wrong in it.
The mindset seems to continue. The methodology is also not different. The RSS remains the pet whipping horse. It was done by late Indira Gandhi at the height of the JP movement. It is being done now whether it is the agitation led by Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev.
Baba Ramdev, however, needs to thank the police crackdown. It has garnered him support of an arch adversary like Swami Agnivesh, a dithering Anna Hazare and so-called secularist parties like the CPI-M or Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. They all unequivocally condemned the midnight government swoop on peaceful hunger strikers and extended support to the cause the Baba is fighting for.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have all through declared that the party agrees with the spirit of the movements of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev and so they are supporting it.
It now helps the movement to spread. It also exposes chinks in the government. The Congress party despite bold and brazen statements is divided on the issue. Many, including those who are functioning as spokesmen, share different views. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is known to share a different perception.
The fast by the Baba has all the ingredients to turn into a national movement. The government’s repressive steps provide the necessary impetus.
Those sitting in the government need to open up a dialogue process to discuss and decide the prescription to weed out corruption. Brazen moves or statements would impede the process and would be difficult to contain what has now started as a mere bush fire.