Indian police break up hunger strike by yoga guru Swami Ramdev

By Reuters Staff
June 5, 2011

(A supporter of India's yoga guru Swami Ramdev is detained by police at the Ramlila grounds where Ramdev was observing his fast against corruption in New Delhi June 5, 2011/stringer)

Police swooped on India’s most famous yoga guru on Sunday, using teargas and batons to break up a fast against graft, risking more political headaches for scandal-tainted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Swami Ramdev began his hunger strike with tens of thousands of followers at a tent in New Delhi on Saturday. Less than 24 hours into the fast, police detained him and flew him to near Haridwar in northern India, centre of his global yoga business.

Media said at least 30 people were injured in the pre-dawn raid at a tent where his followers, from poor villagers to foreign tourists and civil servants, had gathered. Some Ramdev supporters threw stones at police. “The permission was for a yoga camp for 5,000, not for 50,000 people for agitation. We have cancelled the permission and asked them to move out,” said Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.

(A policeman stands under an empty smoke-filled marquee after supporters of yoga guru Swami Ramdev were dispersed by teargas from the Ramlila grounds where Ramdev was observing his fast against corruption in New Delhi June 5, 2011/Adnan Abidi)

Ramdev’s campaign was already an embarrassment for a Congress party-led coalition hit by graft scandals including allegations of kickbacks at the Commonwealth Games and a telecoms scam that may have cost the government up to $39 billion (24 billion pounds).

Ramdev, who turned an ancient spiritual tradition into a mass healing movement, runs a $40 million-a-year global yoga and health empire and says he can cure cancer. Critics say he is linked to a radical Hindu nationalist group.

(Supporters of India’s yoga guru Swami Ramdev scatter after tear gas canisters were thrown in by police at the Ramlila grounds on the second day of Ramdev’s fast in New Delhi June 5, 2011.)

“My hunger strike has not ended. I will continue fasting,” a defiant Ramdev, who plans to launch a political party to contest the 2014 general election, told a news conference from Haridwar, located in the foothills of the Himalayas.

via Read the full story by Devidutta Tripathy here.  Who is Swami Ramdev? Read our Newsmaker by Henry Foy here.

(A supporter wears an image of India's yoga guru Swami Ramdev while listening to his address at the Ramlila grounds on the first day of his fast in New Delhi June 4, 2011/Adnan Abidi)

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