Everyone knows Anna Hazare has been demanding a stringent law against corruption, but his day-long fast at Raghat today is not for that cause. He is actually protesting the government's violent midnight raid that scuttled Baba Ramdev's hunger strike last week-end.
The action at Delhi's Ramlila Grounds, where Ramdev was holding a fast against black money, has left 71 injured. With no place to go in the middle of the night, some found shelter in a gurudwara. The government's high-handedness has triggered criticism from across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has defended the swoop, saying it was unfortunate but unavoidable. The National Human Rights Commission isn't impressed, and has called for reports from the central and Delhi governments.
Last night, Times Now showed a 51-year woman in hospital, paralysed after being thrashed at Ramdev's pandal. Raj Bala is a citizen like any other, but concerned enough to take part in a movement against black money. She now lies in a hospital ICU on ventilator support. Doctors describe her condition as critical.
The government isn't winning any hearts by terrorising peaceful demonstrators. Even the Supreme Court was shocked by the midnight raid. It has taken suo moto notice, and ordered the government to explain the forceful eviction. People across the country are asking the same question: Why did the police assault a group of women and children deep in slumber? The police, meanwhile, have seized CCTV footage of their action from Ramlila Grounds. Why, you ask? Ramdev believes they are trying to destroy evidence of their atrocities.
Two more developments add to the repression the UPA government is unleashing: (a) it is busy digging up dirt on Ramdev's close aide Balakrishna; and (b) prominent Congress leaders are tarring Anna Hazare with the communalism brush, describing him as a mask of the RSS and Sangh Parivar. If Balakrishna were a Nepali citizen who possessed illegal arms, as the government is now letting it be known, why didn't the police act all these years? And if Anna Hazare were a mask for hateful rightist groups, why are the government's senior-most leaders sitting down with him and discussing a new law?
Given the predominance of the tri-colour at Anna Hazare's meetings and saffron at Ramdev's meetings, many had assumed they were aligned to the Congress and the BJP respectively, but the equations aren't turning out that simple. Anna Hazare is a Gandhian and Ramdev a yoga guru and TV celebrity. Despite their dissimilar moorings, they feel they are fighting the same battle, and have affirmed faith in each other.
That makes life that much more difficult for the Congress. It will now have to take on the combined forces of Anna Hazare and Ramdev. It looks like the Congress is already panicking. It has already let Digvijay Singh loose on Ramdev, letting him call the baba names, and tried to stop Anna Hazare from demonstrating today at Jantar Mantar. With a flip-flop Congress turning vengeful and going after anti-corruption activists, Anna Hazare and Ramdev are bound to close ranks and prepare for a bigger battle.
Ramdev is continuing his fast in Haridwar, and has asked his followers to stop their hunger strike for the time being. The Delhi police had transported him to the pilgrim town after evicting him from Ramlila Grounds. They have also barred him from entering Delhi for 15 days.
All of which suggests the action will hot up in the last week of June, when Ramdev resumes his campaign in the capital. The civil society group led by Anna Hazare is bound to come up with a more aggressive plan of action if the government continues to treat them shabbily.
Meanwhile, the US, which has spoken out against Tiananmen Square and Tahrir Square, clearly sees India as capable of handing its protests in a democratic manner. It has described the government action against Ramdev an internal Indian matter.
* PM asks ministers to declare their wealth
* Anna Hazare hurt by Congress spokesman's RSS remark
* Advocate moves Supreme Court over midnight swoop
* Midnight swoop brings government brickbats in plenty
* Ramdev aide Balakrishna denies Congress charges
* Sad to see Hindu right leaders at Ramdev rally, says
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