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India's Godmen seem to be falling a little short of godliness. Asaram Bapu has had his bail plea in rape cases dismissed by Supreme Court. In the meanwhile, the FOURTH witness against him to be attacked, his ex-doctor (Ayurveda) Amrit Prajapati has died. Three others were attacked a month ago in separate incidents. With Amrit dead, the cases against Asaram weaken considerably. You can look forward to worshiping Asaram Bapu again if you wish. (This is the same Asaram, whose arrest demoralized Vanzara of the fake encounters to resign after losing faith in the government for whom he was doing his duty in the form of fake encounters.)

Dwaraka Peeth Shankaracharya Swaroopananda Saraswati has taken an issue with worship of Sai Baba by Hindus because he is "Muslim". Ironically, on the other side is Hindutva-max, BJP's Cabinet Minister for Water Resources,River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti (also accused in Babri Masjid demolition).

Not to be left behind, the Naga sadhus have rallied behind Shankaracharya Swaroopananda's call and are determined to prevent Sai Baba devotees from bathing in holy places.

Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati has stayed away from Odisha’s largest and most important religious gathering (where he has an important formal role normally) after his ruling that devotees would not be allowed on the chariots (for safety) axed the massive loot the daitapatis engage in by charging devotees money to come aboard. The daitapatis retaliated by playing on the words of his ruling and limiting the Shankaracharya's own disciples allowed on the chariot to two as well (he had seven last year). Justifiably outraged by the insult, the Shankaracharya stayed away from the rath yatra.

Also in Odisha, self-proclaimed godman Rama Chandra Sahu of Simulia Maidipur village was arrested for outraging the modesty (whatever that means) of a minor girl.

In other news, Basava Prabhu Swamiji (59) of the Vishwa Lingayat Dharma Parishat Trust, Belgaum was arrested for allegedly raping a 47 year old cook in his mutt.

Kishore Mandalik alias Dada Maharaj (45), head of the Shiv Goraksha Ashram of Ambegaon tried to get away from paying monthly support to his divorced second wife (who had filed a case for cheating against him after he abandoned her after one week of their wedding and 4 lakh rupees). Court squashed it.

In still other news, BJP MP Babul Supriyo claimed that he got a ticket on recommendation of Baba Ramdev when on February 28 that he found himself travelling in the same flight as Ramdev and overheard the yoga guru discuss ticket distribution with someone else. He joked that he wanted a ticket or would reveal to media that Ramdev was distributing tickets to people. Three days later he got a call from an RSS pracharak, and the rest is history. But then Ramdev had made headlines earlier as well when BJP Alwar candidate Mahent Chandnath told him just before a press conference started (and the cameras and mics were on) "paise le aane mein badi dikat ho rahi hai (there is great difficulty in bringing the money)" and Baba Ramdev admonished him, "yahan baat karna bandh karo, bhole ho kya? (Stop talking here. Are you a fool?)"

And the story continues...

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Last year, on this day, the 19th February 2011, Swami Nigamananda took the place of another sadhu, Swami Yajnanda as a part of their long struggle against illegal mining of the riverbanks of the Ganga. Determined and unnoticed, Matra Sadan, the Ashram these Sadhus belonged to has been waging an overwhelming resistance to the illegal and environmentally harmful practice devastating the river, riverbank, water table, agriculture and health in this region.

Repeated protests and fasts have brought limited results and massive collusion to strip these precious resources leave them with little to fight with. Brief halts, yes, and then the mining resumes again. It is not an election issue at all, because while the current BJP government is complicit, so are the other parties, and there is little motivation to arrest this menace.

I have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that while we are irresponsibly destroying our water resources for instant profit, we are actually set for a head on collision with crippling water scarcity not to far into the future, and this rape of our water tables is not helping matters.

So anyway, as we know, Sawmi Nigamananda did succeed in getting attention to the issues with his death. Less because anyone actually cared about him and more because he happened to be sharing the same ward with Swami Ramdev when he was admitted to hospital after his fast for the Lokpal and the media circus was parading right by.

Tehelka published an excellent look into the illegal mining activity that takes names and gives specifics. A must read.

We failed this man. We failed to support his voice. That is fact. It is easy to say we failed rather than ask for a second chance and risk a second failure. But I think more important than saying we failed and moving on to the next shiny thing, we should dig in our heels and not allow him to fail. We should still support the cause and take it up and drive change.

I am inspired by this man. He died trying to achieve something I value deeply. As a mark of my respect, I am going to support this struggle and raise awareness for the cause that consumed him. In different ways, but using every opportunity I find and sharing resources that I can, I am going to talk about his cause every day from today until the first anniversary of his death on the 13th June 2012. It may be tweets, it may be articles, it may be sharing statistics and research and information and history and more on the subjects. It may be writing blog posts, tweeting, sharing things others wrote. But every single day, I am going to be sure to promote some or the other enriching information that helps us understand these issues better.

I think this is a far worthier shraddhanjali to him than platitudes.

Do join in. Share articles you find, talk about it, nose around and provide information. I think this would possibly be the equivalent of showering flower petals.

Feel free to add your views in the comments. If you would like to write an article on the subject for this blog, comment, and I will send you the address to send it to.

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I'm not a Congress supporter, BJP supporter, Hazare, Ramdev or anyone else supporter. I am a citizen of India, and I am unhappy with the status quo. I am angry that the resources of the country have been looted. Looted consistently. I believe that without this kind of loot, India would have had far fewer people below the poverty line. Many more things could have been done for the country.

Many people are sarcastic when I say that India is prosperous by default. We have good land, diverse resources, places, and a region relatively safe from natural calamities. Sure, we have problems. Who doesn't? Using what we have wisely and building on it, preventing loot (which happens to be India's fate over the ages), should see us into better days.

But this post isn't about would and should and could. It is about what IS. At the moment, I have no belief that any change is possible unless the massive and immovable collusion is shaken. As far as I am concerned, when a government attacks its own citizens for challenging them, when media will not report half the stories in the country, when political parties don't seem to agree, evolve or adapt their stances with time, the common man is cannon fodder. If he asks for justice, he's lost in a maze of inexplicable inefficiency. If he challenges the system, he has no voice (indeed, in some cases, the lack of media attention is equal to a silencing). Worse, he could lose his life.

Countless farmers have died, RTI activists intimidated, assaulted, even killed. Cops don't give a hoot. Okay, some may, but there is no saying that those few will be on duty when you are in trouble.

I believe the only way we can have new ways of being is by shaking the existing ones as thoroughly as possible. Toward this end, I think everyone from Maoists to Anna Hazare are equally useful. I don't buy the fear mongering intellectuals. A massive country like India isn't something you can say "yes" and find converted into something altogether different the next moment. Does it mean that I'm in support of getting rid of higher currencies? Heck no! But I am in support of all the steps that will happen before we get to that point.

I don't understand the logic of those who say "vote first, then talk". How does it matter if the ruling party was elected by 40% votes or 80% votes? As long as some or the other party wins the elections, that is bound to happen, regardless of voter turnout. Choosing good candidates can happen just as easily with 60% voters as a full 100%. I also think this is a stupid thing to say, because if we are going to have to wait five years to challenge anything, we might as well not bother.

Also, the current state of happenings is not only the result of the "ruling party", but the lack of an effective "opposition" which pretty much sums up the vast majority of influential leaders in the country.

Is challenging the UPA by the so called civil society constitutional? I think so. Its about as constitutional as the rampant loot. No one has bothered to so much as apologize to the nation. I think the government is unconstitutional because it doesn't give  a fig about us, which is what its primary job is.

Does that mean I support a violent uprising? Frankly, not. I'm not much of a violent person by nature. I don't believe violence solves anything. However, I suspect, the country is not going to come around asking me. Days before the Ramdev protest was attacked by cops, I had been saying to all those cheering victory that this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I am still saying that. There is a desperate need to silence calls to accountability on one end and an equally desperate frustration of having had enough.

Every step is a case of promises and sabotage. The promises defuse the situation and calm protest and the sabotage weakens it when off-guard. What the government forgets is that some time or the other, people will notice. And its usual policy of repression isn't going to help.

I support them all, because it is going to take massive power to confront the government to begin with. I don't see the sense in dividing the voices right now based on what they want in the future. Heck, I'd support the UPA if it called for accountability or even owned up to their utter mismanagement and provided some concrete plan for amends.

The stakes for too many powerful people are too high. Whoever imagines that whistleblowing and uncovering scams and protests alone are going to get them walking out out of some newfound goodness of their heart.... I hope you are right, but I'm not too optimistic about that.

We are on the edge of a revolution. Which way the wind blows is anyone's guess. I think the next ten years will be our rebirth as a democracy or an open slide into a banana republic.

Read lots of columns and watched so many debates on TV set but none of them addresses my one question, on recent attack by congress’s government in New Delhi at midnight, happens to be on chaotic Indian democracy that what provoked government to attack Indian democracy?. Some are saying government felt Baba will attract more and more people that could lead to law and order problem in Delhi. Some says government want to send a signal that if it can reach out, it can reign in also. Further some said Baba was misusing the Ram Leela Maidan as he does not have permission for fasting. None of above arguments convinces me.

In my view it was the minority politics in the shadow of secularism. See the events how they unfolded. In the first place, government sends four ministers to appease Baba Ramdev, it seems a clear attempt to divide the Anna and Ramdev. Suddenly, government and Congress realized that they have gone very far and that annoyed the minority constituency. As usual, congress’s minority vote bank manger comes in action and given the statement that “Sonia Gandhi was not in loop”. Objective was very clear that first family has no intentions to appease Hindu Baba.

Further, government feared that Baba’s fast may lead to revival of BJP’s hindutva agenda and they tried to stop Baba’s fast. But Baba remains adamant, and gone ahead with fast. On the top of this RSS and BJP has render their open support to Baba and Sadhvi Rithambra had shared the stage with Baba Ramdev. Further talks with Baba Ramdev may have shown congress a party which is appeasing Hindu Baba and controversially he is someone who have support of RSS. And it led to congress to take strong action against Baba Ramdev and attempts to send a clear message to minority community do not go anywhere that we will continue to appease you.

It was a clear political action and I suspect it would have happened even if RSS had not been supported Baba Ramdev or Sadhvi-Ritambara had not share the stage with Baba. Because it seems to me that, in the eyes of congress, anyone who wears the saffron colour cloths is communal and supporting such a person, may lead to threat to minority vote bank of congress. Unfortunately, media too have created this perception.

Is this secularism or communalism in the shadow of secularism? If it would have been any Muslim religious leader, not Baba Ramdev, then real question is, would congress have taken same action? Recently, secular government has taken a week to arrest Abdul Naseer Madni accused of terrorism, leader of PDP in Kerla. Why are these double standards of so-called secular forces?

I am not here to paint anybody secular or non-secular, but congress’s secular agenda is simply not adding up and seems to me communal and divisive agenda, while congress accused opposition for same.

Even media has not raised these questions. While some section of media seems to be in the line of congress. I fear as long as this game of appeasing minority goes on for vote bank, it keep provoking the opposition to be communal or divisive, it does not mean I am justifying opposition. But my question remains that are media asking real question? Or is onus upon reader or viewer to read in between lines whatever media reports?

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Its 2am and a massive disaster in progress at Ramlila ground. 6 DCPs moved into the area. The latest govt brainwave was apparently to move in the middle of the night and evict Ramdev from Delhi.

Ramdev was sleeping. He has jumped onto stage, crowd furious. People surrounding him, not visible at all. Crowd is picking up bricks and stuff. MASSIVE contingent of police there to evict him forcibly.

Ramdev Baba requesting for peace. Fat chance. Cops in full intent.

I had been tweeting all day about how this is going to get much, much worse before it gets better. Looks like its started.

It is going to be impossible for police to reach him. The crowd is incensed. No shit, Sherlock, you want to arrest a religious leader in front of thousands and thousands who WORSHIP him? Good move. Then they will say Baba Ramdev incited violence?

Police are making attempts to get at him through supporters. It takes no astrologer to predict that this place is going up in flames if he is arrested or evicted. Not that the cops are going to be able to get anywhere near him without extreme force.

Scenes of chaos. Baba calling for calm. Followers pelting stones at police. Police using tear gas shells on the supporters. Over 500 police there, attempting to break through the hundreds of supporters surrounding Baba Ramdev protectively.

Official reason is that the permissions for Baba Ramdev to use that ground was for a Yog Shibir (camp)

This takes our government to a whole new low. Sibal had met him in the evening during the evening and there was a press conference where an agreement to claim the illegal funds abroad as national assets was announced. So let me get this right. Sibal was there to learn yoga?

What bull shit?

This is going to be trouble countrywide by morning. The cops had come there to sneak up and arrest Ramdev while he was sleeping. Within minutes a ground full of sleeping people has turned into this scene straight out of disaster. Thank you Soniaji, we will put it on your termination letter.

Get this right. What is happening here is someone working overtime on a Saturday evening to cancel permissions for a gathering Sibal himself had visited. And, in the middle of the night, a veritable army of cops lands up there to pick up an anti-corruption leader from the middle of the followers. What in the world makes them think that the crowd with the power to bring them to their knees in the day will be happy about being disturbed in the night?

Apparently cops didn't want media to continue filming. Not news.

2:30 Flames on stage, tear gas firing in the middle of a crowd of thousands. I hope there isn't a stampede. Shit. Shit. Crowd dispersing, cops pulling down stage. Ramdev missing in the chaos. Apparently he's been taken away or something.

Interviews with followers. Ramdev Baba called for peace all through and apparently when the tear gassing and action got too intense, quietly went with the cops. Followers really really angry. Hurt women, old people. Damaged media equipment from the Astha channel. One follower uses the interview opportunity to tell the nation "bahiyo kurbani dene ka time aa gaya hai".

No one knows exactly where he has been taken, apparently he has been taken alone. The original intent seems to be to move quietly in the night and take him out of the city, which obviously is seeming like a massive betrayal right now.

Also the move to use tear gas in such a crowd, fire breaking out, the utter ruthlessness to beat people unnecessarily - women and old people beat as ruthlessly as men - apparently vicious attacks with lathis on people who were not attacking. They had been sleeping a short while before. Some reports of inappropriate touching of women by the cops. Unconscious people being carried off stage.

And so on and on and on.....

No one knows where Baba Ramdev is. Where he has been taken. However, endless interviews make one narrative clear:

  • People were sleeping
  • Surprise attack by cops
  • Baba Ramdev calling out for calm all through
  • Cops used disproportionate force. tear gas, lathi charge in the middle of a crowd with kids and old people. Many people sleeping.
  • It is definitely police who took him away.

Supporters shocked, betrayed, angry, in pain, etc, etc. This is a totally uncalled for attack.

The police commissioner says Baba Ramdev is not detained or arrested, but he is in a safe place, reason for attack was security concern at Ramdev ground.

Home Secretary says Baba Ramdev was given an externment order, and he voluntarily left with police. Latest news is that he is on his way out from Delhi. Possibly to Haridwar(?). If he returns, he will again be taken away.

Note: This is now revised to "been taken into police custody"

Reason for externment order apparently is because of the yoga shibir thing.

Police Commissioner said was a security concern. True. He had it all planned out on a sleeping crowd.

For the record, I had expected this. This is going to get much worse before it gets better.

I think our government is sick. This is right now a gangwar between government and people.