The recent controversy over Baba Ramdev and the conduct of the Indian media on the issue has been confounding and rather nauseating.
The people of this country were very much aware about his following and the support system (agriculture and commercial) he has created to sustain his yogic and ayurvedic missions.
The Baba has neither claimed to possess divine powers nor do people treat him as a divine being.
His personal lifestyle has not betrayed any hint of indulgence or opulence.
The moot questions therefore were whether or not there is transparency about the organisational assets of the Baba and the purpose it is used for.
Baba Ramdev’s yoga sessions were purely voluntary and there was no coercion or even persuasion to buy his ayurvedic formulations.
The media not only began to question the assets of the Baba, but also ascribed political ambitions to him.
Ironically, some of these foremost media organizations are controlled and funded by Church organizations. The details are easily accessible on the internet.
We Indians have been hardly mindful of people taking the criminal, financial and dynastic route to political power. But we have generally disfavoured a purely religious route to politics.
Therefore, if Baba Ramdev was to use his yogic and curative abilities for gaining political power, the people of this country, I am sure, would have dumped him.
There can be little doubt that Ramdev simplified Yoga and took it to the masses, to the extent that some countries began to declare yoga as repugnant and blasphemous to their dominant religious beliefs.
Ramdev’s yoga and his yogic message endeared him to the people.
This author has met scores of people, both educated and un-educated, who had benefited immensely from his prescribed yogic exercises.
No Indian ever tried to create the halo of ‘godliness’ around the Baba. The discerning and educated people ignored those claims of his that they thought were inadequate and unempirical and focused on his strengths, which he has in plenty.
Baba Ramdev exuded a deep patriotic fervour and pride in India’s past, its ancient wisdom to include yoga, ayurvedic therapy and way of life. His sense of nationalism can be debated, but not denied.
He has spoken of unity and stressed on transcending caste and communal divide.
Significantly, Ramdev, born in a Yadav family, has also proved that caste in India is superficial and that Indians do not distinguish based on merits of birth when it comes to accepting someone as Guru.
He has validated the ancient Indian saying “Jat na poochiye sadhu ki, pooch lijye gyan” (Never ask the caste of a sadhu, concern yourself with his wisdom).
What is more important the message or the messenger?
If the messenger is more important, then every parent or teacher forfeits the right to enjoin upon children or students the need to outperform them, or fall prey to habits, which they would regret and find difficult to kick.
If the message was correct, then why has the media gone to abysmal levels in vilifying the Baba in what is clearly a motivated campaign.
There have been bizarre comments from some politicians that the Baba should continue with his primary profession of being a ‘yoga guru’ and keep away from politics and matters of national interests.
If this comment is applied to the political class, then many of them should have continued being barristers at the time of independence and post independence being lawyers, doctors, gangsters, criminals, police inspectors, waiters and waitresses. Unlike politicians in power, at least the people of this country have a choice with regard to their Babas.
There is much ado about the scientific basis of various forms of medicine prescribed by Ramdev.
It may be remembered in this context that of the around thousand primary allopathic drugs, only around 40-50 are based on empirical studies. The rest have evolved on the basis of trials.
Some of the biggest names in various disciplines of medicine in India, I know have been seeking treatment from Baba Ramdev for ailments that they have spent a lifetime studying. If nothing else, the Babas and the spiritual gurus are the Indian version of psychotherapists.
Baba Ramdev’s campaign against corruption, particularly Indian money stashed in Swiss bank, has been on for three years.
He did not pull the agenda from out of thin air. He only stepped in to ride the rising anger over unprecedented and unbridled corruption that is consuming the country.
The haggling and deals for portfolios by politicians and coalition partners was not lost on the people. The intransigence of the DMK over certain portfolios during the formation of the current government was a clear indication that the party was going to go for the kill right from the outset.
The 2G scam therefore did not come as surprise. What angered people was the dithering and denials.
People do have the simple intelligence to figure out that when a politician roots for a particular portfolio, it is not merely for power but money as well.
Neither are the people blind to the role of money in electoral manipulations and the high life of politicians and their cronies including those who have ceased to be legislators.
People are also not unaware about the politician-bureaucrat nexus.
Today most bureaucrats and judges do not retire. There is hardly any retired DGP of police who does not have half a dozen serving policemen as domestic help.
Public sector enterprises have become the personal fiefdom of politicians and bureaucrats. Indians having money in Swiss bank is not a new phenomenon but what has outraged people is its magnitude and government indifference.
The common man has to contend with the state apparatus every day. Their frustration has acquired explosive levels because the very institutions they relied to reform the system themselves became corrupt or abettors of corruption.
They began to view national security threats and terrorism from the prism of corruption. They began to construe cases of corruption as acts of anti-nationals.
It is in this environment that Ramdev emerged.
Corruption affects one and all. Its greatest and ultimate victim is government.
Corruption alienates, derides and brutalises the very people politicians claim to represent.
The symbiosis between corruption, crime, communalism and terrorism is becoming increasingly intricate.
The government and all other political parties should have been therefore part of the anti-corruption campaign. The people of India were yearning for that kind of response.
Instead, the government adopted an adversarial attitude. For some reasons it looked vulnerable, uncomfortable and defensive right from the outset.
It then resorted to dirty tricks. It tried to neutralise Ramdev’s campaign by foisting Anna Hazare on unsuspecting Indian people.
The sudden emergence of Anna Hazare and his team of so-called ‘Civil Society’ representatives till today remains a mystery.
Anna Hazare’s fast was preceded by a very well orchestrated campaign to rally public support. This author was flooded with e-mails.
Many people who came in support of Anna’s campaign at the Jantar Mantar were members of NGOs and organizations. Even school children in uniform could be seen. The spontaneity factor in the support level was low.
No sooner was there a crackdown on Ramdev’s campaign than the e-mail campaign in favour of Anna again gained momentum.
One such e-mail was received by this author some 15 days ago, wherein a retired Army Officer, father of a Kargil martyr, after his meeting with Anna Hazare almost deified him.
The conduct of this officer on many occasions in the past has not done honour to his great son. To this particular e-mail I replied:
“Sorry to say I have no respect for either of them. At the behest of the government, Anna trivialized the very serious and pervasive issue of corruption to Lokpal. All this criticism from some Congress leaders is drama, just to show that they are not selective in opposition to Ramdev. Future Prognosis — draft of Lokpal bill will be made public — some provisions will remain excluded out of design — Anna will then go on fast — the government will act tough — then meet his demands — a little girl will offer a glass of juice — Anna will drink the whole glass — draft then will be presented in parliament — if it is not passed, opposition will be blamed — in any case Congress and Sonia wins — Anna will portrayed as Gandhi and Sonia as Bharat Mata. Anna will get lot of space on English media. The issue of black money in Swiss Banks will be killed. The new Gandhi Anna will start giving opinion on everything i.e. whenever Congress party twists his arm. It is another matter Anna has no clue about Lokpal. He has left that to crooks, Maoists and publicity hungry self-appointed representatives of the Civil Society. One Maoist has been asked to maintain visibility to fill the saffron component in Anna’s favour.”
It is intriguing that such mails on the web started flying thick and fast just when Anna is going to undertake another publicity stunt. This was clearly absent before or during Ramdev campaign.
While the government staged a fixed match with Anna, it adopted a two pronged attack to deal with Ramdev.
As per my sources, there was one government team, which implored him to call off his agitation. The request was tempered with veiled threat to him and his organisation.
There was another senior minister, who used the filthiest of vernacular abuses and warned him of dire physical consequences. They finally asked him to choose between immediate arrest or give an undertaking stipulating the time period of his sit-in at Ramleela. Thinking discretion was the better part of valour, Ramdev agreed.
As the deadline approached, the frequency and vulgarity of threats from the Government increased.
Ramdev calculated that come morning, it would not be possible for the government to use force to disperse the very large gathering expected to have congregated by then. The very next morning, he was to press the government to release the names of the list of Indians having money in Swiss Banks, reportedly sent by Germany.
Then there was the crackdown and vilification campaign against Ramdev by third-rate politicians and a section of the subverted media.
We have come to a stage where being nationalist or patriotic has become disqualification or blasphemy.
God save India and Indian Democracy.
RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review.