Mon, Jun 06, 2011 - Page 4 News List

Indian yoga guru promises to continue hunger strike

AFP, HARIDWAR, INDIA

Indian yoga star Swami Baba Ramdev vowed yesterday to intensify his hunger strike to protest against corruption after police evicted his camp in New Delhi in an overnight crackdown that left dozens injured.

“My fast is not over yet and I will continue with my satyagraha [civil resistance],” he told reporters from his residence in the town of Haridwar in the foothills of the Himalayas.

“We will observe a ‘black day’ to protest the conspiracy and we will intensify our anti-corruption campaign across the country,” Ramdev added.

“It’s a blot on democracy and a conspiracy to kill me,” he said.

The television yoga guru described how he had put on women’s clothing to try to escape from the tent in central New Delhi where he started his hunger strike on Saturday in front of tens of thousands of supporters.

Supporters also launched similar hunger strikes across India and in several cities in the US, Europe and Africa.

“I was hiding against a wall for two hours as police teargassed us and there was firing from all sides. I am not afraid to die, but I did not want to be killed in such a savage manner,” he said.

“One group of policemen were given the responsibility to see that the baba should not be left alive. Thousands of my supporters have been injured [in the crackdown],” Ramdev said. “By this evening you will know where I will hold my protest fast and I call on Hindus and Muslims to oppose this conspiracy of the government.”

Ramdev’s claims of firing “from all sides” and the “thousands injured” do not tally with television pictures from the scene, or accounts from witnesses.

Police say 30 people and 23 policemen were injured and no one was hospitalized.

Ramdev flew back from New Delhi to Dehradun near his sprawling ashram yesterday morning amid reports he has been banned from the capital for 15 days.

Nitin Gadkari, the president of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, condemned the police raid and said his party would hold countrywide protests.

“The police action is a blot on democracy and the government should resign,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AP

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