FaithWorld

Indian police break up hunger strike by yoga guru Swami Ramdev

(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).

Factbox – Swami Ramdev, India’s most popular yoga guru

(India's yoga guru Swami Ramdev speaks during a yoga camp in the northern Indian town of Haridwar April 8, 2010/Jitendra Prakash)

India’s government suffered a fresh blow in containing growing anger over corruption from million of voters as Swami Ramdev, the country’s most famous yoga guru, gained the support of a leading civil activist for his “fast-until-death” against graft. Anna Hazare lent his support on Thursday for Ramdev’s hunger strike from Saturday to protest against corruption in Asia’s third-largest economy and has called on his legions of followers to join him.

Here are some facts about Ramdev:

YOGA GURU

Ramdev, who successfully brought yoga to the masses through live telecasts, is revered in a country that places great emphasis on spirituality and health. His yoga demonstrations and performances to thousands of followers regularly include postures like a headstand or making his belly dance inside his ribcage, a popular trademark.

Popular Indian guru Swami Ramdev to start hunger strike against corruption

(India's yoga guru Swami Ramdev speaks in support of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare during a "fast unto death" campaign in New Delhi April 8, 2011. In the background is an image depicting Mother India/B Mathur)

Swami Ramdev, India’s most popular and powerful yoga guru, rejected an appeal by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday to call off a hunger strike against corruption, the second major challenge to a government losing its authority due to rampant graft. The charismatic guru, who dons a saffron cloth thrown over his bare torso, runs a $40 million-a-year global yoga and health empire and has millions of followers. Some 30 million viewers tune into his daily yoga TV show.

These followers are expected to rally behind him as he begins on Saturday a “fast-to-the-death” in Delhi until the government agrees to pass a tough anti-corruption “Jan Lokpal” bill and set up a task force for repatriating illegal funds held in foreign bank accounts by Indians.

Indian guru Sai Baba buried in state funeral, thousands grieve

(Police place India's national flag on a glass coffin containing the body of spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba during his funeral at an ashram at Puttaparti in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh April 27, 2011/Adnan Abidi)

Indian spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba was buried on Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of devotees flocked to pay their last respects at his temple in south India to a man revered as a living God.

Tibetan monks, Muslim clerics, top politicians and military officers sat with hundreds of family members to commemorate the charismatic guru who drew millions of followers around the world with his diverse teachings that blended Hindu and Muslim beliefs.