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.