Hyperbole pey halla bole
The midnight police crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s peaceful assembly at Ramlila Maidan cannot be supported especially when the government had gone out of the way to set up talks with the Yoga Guru. There can also be no two opinions on his anti-corruption agenda especially the demand to repatriate funds stashed in foreign accounts.
I’ve known Ramdev personally, have had many telephonic conversations with him, been the judge in three different episodes in India TV’s Rajat Sharma’s Adalat and delivered at his Patanjali Vidyapeeth a lecture on the aberrations that ail the Indian media. I was brutally frank when asked to take the stage on that occasion, telling the Baba that among the worst offenders of the paid news scourge were owners of media houses who shared the stage with him. The Baba, to be fair, never interrupted me, lauding instead “the fire I had in my belly” despite my advancing years.
I consider therefore my duty to raise in bullet form the points on which the Baba, the government and the BJP owe an explanation. I’d also try and correct, from my perspective, the hyperbole over the police action and in the UPA’s take on Ramdev:
1. If the Baba, as Digvijay Singh claims, is a thug, then why the government laid out for him the red carpet on his arrival in Delhi for the Ramlila Maidan show? I deliberatively refrain from calling it a yoga shivir (for which Baba had the police go-ahead) or a satyagraha attended by thousands.
2. The BJP’s top brass and civil society activists on Anna Hazare’s side have compared the police action with Emergency and Jalianwaala Bagh. Is it not an insult to Jayaprakash Narayan’s total revolution and a gross misrepresentation of the struggle for freedom from the British Raj?
3. References to lathi charge by the media, the Opposition and Ramdev and his supporters were suggestive of two points. It’s either deliberate propaganda or total ignorance of how such use of force works. Lathi charge was the one in which Lala Lajpat Rai died. Police also use lathis as barricades by holding them horizontally in both hands to prevent crowds from surging ahead or caning people mildly to clear the area. There is no “moving picture” evidence of a brutal lathi charge as alleged in different quarters.
4. For his part, Ramdev has talked of a conspiracy to eliminate him and cause casualties among his supporters. He also claimed the police opened fire on peaceful protestors. There is no evidence to back both assertions.
5. The buzz is that the RSS and BJP are using Ramdev to whip up an Ayodhya type movement against corruption. Are such fears genuine or is the UPA merely raising the specter of a communal gang up to prevent an anti-Congress front of the kind witnessed after the Emergency in the 1970s and over the Bofors issue in the 1980s?
6. Is an anti-Congress front with BJP-RSS participation possible in the backdrop of Ayodhya and Gujarat that happened over the past two decades? Perhaps not unless, of course, the UPA keeps postponing concrete actions against corruption.
7. Fanning contradictions in the Opposition spectrum isn’t likely to help the Congress. Its salvation is in credible anti-graft action, be it the Lok Pal Bill or legislative and institutional steps to get back unaccounted money in foreign banks. The party should bear in mind that it’s either now or never.
8. The BJP too needs a makeover. It inspires no confidence as anti-graft crusader with Shibu Soren in Chattisgarh and Yeddy and Bellary brothers in Karnataka, over whom Sushma Swaraj publicly fought with Arun Jaitley.
9. The Baba also must explain as to why he’s focusing only on illegitimate wealth in foreign banks? Why has he
downplayed the need to unearth black money within the country? Is it a quid pro quo for his Indian donors?
10. About time somebody told the dramatis personae that hyperbole is not substitute for halla bol on corruption.