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Baba Ramdev demands concrete action on black money

Jiby Kattakayam

NEW DELHI: With a massive crowd of supporters in attendance, Yoga guru Baba Ramdev began his fast unto death at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan here on Saturday, taking breaks in-between to head backstage for talks with government representatives over the phone.

Before embarking on the fast at 7 a.m., Ramdev and his supporters began the day with a yoga and bhajan session. Most of the supporters have come from the neighbouring States of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The organisers claimed that over one lakh supporters had registered at the counter by 9 a.m.

Addressing the gathering in the evening, the Yoga guru alleged there were attempts to cow him down with threats, the nature of which he said he would reveal only later. “In the Indian tradition, I will not be the one to attack first, but I will not sit back and watch if attacks are made at me,” he warned.

He exhorted his supporters to stay back at the fast site, and requested them not to turn violent in case he was arrested.

Denying allegations that he was an agent of the RSS or the BJP, Ramdev repeatedly stressed that his fast was not targeted at any party or individual. To a question on his political ambition, he said he would not contest elections and would spurn the post of Prime Minister or President if such a chance came calling.

Massive pandal

To a query on the cost incurred in pitching the large marquee, Ramdev said: “Making one such pandal is nothing big for me. Everyone knows I can get several like these built in a single day. All the people gathered here would be willing to pay for the cost,” he added, to a roar of approval from his supporters.

Ramdev said he and his supporters would not be satisfied by the “formation of a committee” to study his demands but wanted “concrete action,” especially on bringing back black money stashed away abroad to India and declaring them as national wealth and slapping sedition charges on those stashing away black money abroad.

The yoga guru retreated to back stage in the afternoon for over two hours after telling his supporters he was in touch with the government representatives over phone.

Among the prominent people who visited the pandal during the day included Sadhvi Rithambra, Bhojpuri actor-singer Manoj Tewari and Bollywood actor Raza Murad.

Though giant screens were installed, the sheer area occupied by the pandal rendered them ineffective for a large number of persons who were seen lounging about, hardly paying attention to the proceedings.

Unlike the social activist Anna Hazare's fast where the satyagrah proceedings were well organised and decisions succinctly conveyed by a core team of speakers including Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and Manish Sisodhia besides Hazare himself, Baba Ramdev's was a one-man show with the yoga guru being the lone recognisable face on the dais.

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