Ritu Sharma and Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
June 7, 2011
He was speaking after more than 100,000 people joined Baba Ramdev’s hunger-strike on Saturday in New Delhi, to demand the government retrieve funds accumulated through bribery sitting in Swiss banks. The yoga guru’s hunger strike ran into trouble when police launched a crackdown on the protest on Sunday and detained him.
Hundreds of people were wounded, four seriously, while Baba was later flown back to his ashram (retreat) in Uttarakhand state. “His fast was a politically motivated move. Religious leaders cannot afford to create unrest in society where ultimately the common man has to suffer,” Father Joseph said.
The priest said the Church can’t condone the manner in which the government handled the situation as “it should have been done in a delicate way without injury to people.” He said the whole incident “shows the unholy mix of religion and politics.” Samuel Jaikumar of the National Council of Churches in India said the protest had a communal element to it as there were reports of some people from the pro-Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (national volunteer’s corps) supporting it.
“Real issues like corruption and bribery money have taken a back seat,” he added. Jaikumar said that efforts by civil groups should continue to raise such issues, but without the political element. Meanwhile, social activist Anna Hazare, who in April launched his own anti-corruption campaign, came out in support of Ramdev and called on people to observe a day of fasting and prayer tomorrow.