Posts Tagged ‘Baba Ramdev’

Will ‘Team Anna’ succeed as a political party?

3 August 2012

Revealing confusion and impatience in equal measure, Anna Hazare and his band of self-styled do-gooders have dropped large, king-sized hints of turning their nascent social movement into a political one, as early as the end of the day, today, after the end of their farcical “fast-unto-death”. After the media blitzkrieg last time, the attention was beginning to wane and the group realised that it was approaching the outer limits of santimony, especially after the Congress-led UPA government refused to play ball this time round.

The lawyer Prashant Bhushan has announced a “referendum” among “Team Anna” fans on whether the group should make the dive into politics, and all it requires for such a momentous decision to be made is a simple “Yes” or “No” on the India Against Corruption website. And this, just hours after their fasting compatriot Arvind Kejriwal had announced from a horizontal position to TV reporters that there was no, repeat no question of the movement turning political.

In getting off their high horses and dipping their feet in the political waters, Team Anna has shown an admirable ability to get their hands dirty in the hurly-burly of politics. But, at the same time, it shows a touching naivette about politics and realpolitik in a landscape littered with social activists who have met their comeuppance at the hustings.

Corruption is certainly a big issue facing the nation, but is it the only one in a vast pluralistic nation facing even bigger issues of poverty, malnutrition and worse? Can a party resonate across the nation only on the issue of corruption? Is Team Anna the only repository of integrity, especially when they are dealing with the likes of Vilas Rao Deshmukh and Baba Ramdev, and when its team members themselves face charges and insinuations?

Above all, will Team Anna—an urban, largely middle-class pheonmenon—be able to turn the SMSes into actual votes at the EVMs? Or in joining politics, will the USP of Team Anna disappear?

Much better way of viewing a topsy-turvy world?

7 December 2011

The last time he sat on a widely telecast show of his powers and prowess six months ago, Baba Ramdev had to pack up his bags inside nine days and be admitted to the ICU of a hospital for days. (At nearly twice his age, Anna Hazare lasted much longer.) But that hasn’t prevented Ramdev from going around the country, hawking his questionable yoga  wares, as he did at the BVB college ground in Bidar, on Wednesday. And that has prevented the crowds from flocking to learn at the feet of the master,

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Is Baba Ramdev‘s yoga bogus?

Pardon us, is yoga becoming a bit of a scam?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Yoga only for Hindus?

How a world-class yoga photograph got to be shot

Forget Congress, what about the state of BJP?

26 November 2011

Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express:

“Could it be that we have been so obsessed with the freeze in the UPA as to totally overlook the convulsions in the BJP?

“Over the past three weeks, the BJP has excelled itself in its own leaderless-ness, and rudderless-ness. Also, in its own ideological confusion. It’s been topped now by its totally knee-jerk opposition to FDI in retail. Having been a party of reform under Vajpayee, the BJP should have been at the forefront of pressing for not just retail FDI but other positive economic reform. On the contrary, it is using retail FDI to stall Parliament, as if another excuse was needed.

“Its comeback kid, Uma Bharti, is threatening to burn Walmart stores. It is still making noises against a national GST out of utter cussedness. Its threat to boycott P. Chidambaram in Parliament only underlines its lack of creative ideas in a political market that has exactly what a challenge the party needs: a power vacuum, an opportunity and a pent-up demand for solutions. But rather than come up with any ideas, vision documents, alternatives or solutions, it is borrowing everybody else’s nutty ideas.

“It has bought Baba Ramdev’s fantasy of bringing back “lakhs of crores” of black money. It has snatched the Left’s anti-Americanism, unthinking attacks on nuclear liability laws and instinctive opposition to all reform. That, when many of its own chief ministers are supporters of reform and are carrying out much of their own anyway.”

Cartoon: courtesy Prasad Radhakrishnan/ Mail Today

Read the full article: Self-opposition party

The loud and noisy Punjab-ification of India

8 July 2011

RATNA RAO SHEKAR writes from Hyderabad: I am not sure if you have noticed this, but in our country, the higher the decibel level, the easier it is to get noticed. While Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev were in the media glare because of the noise they created and received the government’s attention, Swami Nigamanand died unsung.

Because, unlike the other two, he was protesting quietly against illegal sand mining by the Ganga.

Or, who has paid any attention to Irom Chanu Sharmila who has been fasting  silently for over a decade in the Northeastern most part of the country?

We, as a country, thrive on cacophony and drama irrespective of whether it is a protest or a party, a wedding or a funeral.

So many Indians I know for instance thought the wedding of Prince William and Kate, while being elegant was more funereal than celebratory. They felt let down because the ceremony lacked the band baja of Indian weddings.

Here, we like to celebrate weddings with bonhomie, noise and crackers. The robustness of the Punjabi wedding is a case in point. At one stage, South Indian weddings were dead-serious affairs until the Punjabi wedding (propagated through Hindi films) cast its spell. The mehendi and sangeet with their colourful costumes and over-the-top Bollywood music and dancing is a shining example of how we think a wedding should be conducted.

Not just weddings, but our cinema too is loud.

The quietness of Rashomon is not for us. And a Satyajit Ray film is all right for the festival rounds. The popular choice is the Bollywood film with its gaudy costumes and inane song-and-dance sequences, epitomised by the item number which makes or breaks a movie.

And we love the fact that all this is given to us in the full throttle of Dolby Digital sound which the new multiplexes come equipped with.

Why, even Indian classical music and dance concerts are noisy affairs, whatever sublime levels the musician or dancer may take us to. The majority of us are not moved by the quiet of a Beethoven symphony played in the precincts of a concert hall.

We would rather have the informality of an Indian classical concert, so that we can talk between each rendition, clap spontaneously when a dancer has performed a particularly difficult varnam, or talk across aisles, comparing notes.

Even our family get-togethers, office picnics and outings with friends are characterized by loud jokes and louder games of antakshari, or what is worse these days, the karaoke. To prove that all is well in the family or among colleagues we like to chatter simultaneously and laugh out loud at every Osama or other joke.

How many times has the family member who does not participate in the general revelry, but prefers watching television or reading a book in seclusion, been dragged to be centre stage to cheered up? For Indians, silence is synonymous with social deviance, or worse, depression.

When you come to think of it, our funeral ceremonies too (loaded though they may be with grief of the family) are noisy affairs, too. We are so noisy, we will not let a dead Indian go to his grave in peace and silence!

In this country we have to prove we are not deaf or social psychopaths by turning on television sets full blast, talking loudly on cell phones at public places, and honking during a traffic jam even if everyone can see the cars are not going anywhere.

Most of us are so used to the chaos and noise of India that we feel nervous with the deathly silence of some European countries where we hardly see people, and even the few we do seem to feel no compulsion to talk on cell phones or strike up a conversation with complete strangers.

Even the children in these countries, it would seem, don’t cry too loudly.

I believe we as a nation need a crash course in quiet. But for this, we need to shut off the cacophony created by TV anchors, honking cars, ringing cell phones, politically minded god men and gurus—and learn to listen to that sound of silence.

(Ratna Rao Shekar is the editor of Housecalls, the bimonthly published by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories. Her book of short stories, Purple Lotus and Other Stories is forthcoming)

Also read: Not this or that, this and that is the real zeitgeist

Gutter chicken: the Punjab-ification of food

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Baba Ramdev’s yoga bogus?

15 June 2011

Baba Ramdev‘s tragi-comic crusade for the return of black money has ended in a farce, with the idiot-box yogi calling off his fast-unto-death after nine short days. While the issue he raised, important as it is, may yet make a comeback, Ramdev’s PDA (public display of abilities) serious questions about his kapalbhati kriya brand of yoga which has attracted lakhs of gullible TV viewers furiously sucking in their tummies in parks and playgrounds.

Obviously, there are two facets to yoga: the physical and the mental. And obviously, the fast-unto-death was not intended to show the world how good a yogi or how good his form of yoga is (for that he has has TV channels). Still, on both counts, Baba Ramdev has come up woefully short and has plenty of explaining to do.

On the one hand, we have had the curious spectacle of a yogi fighting for cleaner politics flying around in private aircraft owned by shady businesshouses like Subroto Roy‘s Sahara group, and then meeting Union ministers in the five-star Claridges hotel, owned by one of India’s more controversial arms dealers, Suresh Nanda, whose son Sanjeev Nanda was involved in the BMW accident that mowed down pavement dwellers.

And, on the other hand, there is the fast itself. Delhi’s Ram Lila ground was booked for a full month for his fast-unto-death, but it ended in nine days. The fast itself was conveniently observed between 6 am and 9 pm, with the star conveniently slipping away from the stage now and then. Worse, Ramdev had to be shifted to an ICU (curiously not at the hospital run by him for lesser mortals). Was nine days all that a young wellness guru who preaches the good effects of his yoga, could muster, both in his body and in his mind?

As news reports have pointed out, Swami Nigamanand, fasting for the Ganga in relative anonymity, lasted 68 days before he was force-fed and died in the hospital where Ramdev broke his fast, on the 115th day. Potti Sriramulu, fasting for an Andhra State, lasted 82 days; Bhagat Singh, demanding better conditions for prisoners, lasted 63 days; why even Mamata  Banerjee, fasting for Singur, lasted 25 days. And the old pro Mahatma Gandhi lasted 21 days.

So what does Baba Ramdev’s fast end to his fast say about his brand of TV yoga? Will it diminish in popularity now that the guru himself has been exposed? Or will this too pass?

Also read: Pardon us, is yoga becoming a bit of a scam?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Yoga only for Hindus?

How a world-class yoga photograph got to be shot

Once upon a time, when Baba could thumb a nose

11 June 2011

Even as Baba Ramdev does some heavylifting in a hospital in faraway Haridwar to salvage his reputation, credibility and indeed his health, a lensman takes a close look at the prize-winning entry for the 2010 Maya Kamath memorial awards, named after the late cartoonist, in Bangalore on Saturday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

‘Hindus make bad devotees, but are good clients’

9 June 2011

Dipankar Gupta, senior fellow at the Nehru memorial museum and library, on the thin crowds around Baba Ramdev after the midnight eviction from Ram Lila grounds in Delhi, in Mail Today:

“Hindus have problems gathering around a religious leader, as a religious leader. They quickly transform the person, saffron robes, notwithstanding, to a specialist healer, magician and personal good luck charm. Hindus, therefore, make bad devotees but good clients.

“As tradition tells us, Hindus are not given to collective sentiments in their religious observances. The concept of a church or congregation is foreign to them. This is why one can be a pious Hindu yet never set foot in a temple.

“To be able to host an at- home with your own customised guru is the ultimate Hindu fantasy. This would not work for Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. The idea of a ‘ communion’ is essential in these religions. Hence, when Hindus flock to a so- called sadhu it is not always on account of religion.

“They are attracted to bearded individuals in saffron because of their supposed magical or physical powers. They are worried when such a person dies for they wonder who their next all- round talisman would be. Other religions do not think that way, primarily because the communion is so important for them.

“That also explains why no Christian priest, or Muslim maulvi or Sikh granthi would produce ashes, watches or sweets out of his sleeve, or hat, to win adherents.”

Read the full article: Ramdev as the Bruce Lee of yoga

CHURUMURI POLL: India, intolerant to dissent?

7 June 2011

After evicting Baba Ramdev‘s congregation in the dead of night, Delhi police have denied permission to Anna Hazare and gang from holding a protest against that eviction at Jantar Mantar tomorrow. The draconian move raises a simple question: is democratic India becoming a despotic republic?

Ramdev’s protest was nixed after the UPA government, which had wooed him publicly, suddenly discovered that he was a front for the RSS and that the gathering was upto no good. And now, the Congress leader B.K. Hari Prasad has used similar terminology to describe Hazare, that he was a face of the sangh parivar.

Be that as it may, seen in conjunction with the “establishment” reaction to tribal protests against mining companies (Orissa, Dantewada), farmer protests against land acquisition (Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh), Arundhati Roy‘s speech demanding freedom for Kashmir, etc, the question is: are we getting too thin-skinned, and intolerant of criticism?

If this is the government reaction for legitimate demands of the people—a mechanism for an anti-corruption law, the return of money stashed away in foreign banks—what is the reaction likely to be if protests were to break out for the overthrow of the government of the day?

The Hazare gang says it will go ahead with the protest despite the ban, setting the stage for a confrontation.

Are we no better than China in snuffing out dissent? Have Arab countries (Egypt’s Tahrir Square protest went on peacefully for 17 days) been far more mature in handling different shades of protest? And, are we really a “soft” state, or a very hard one in disguise, intent on protecting the old order even at the risk of the image of the country?

‘Hunger for publicity is hallmark of new swamijis’

7 June 2011

Ramachandra Guha in the Hindustan Times:

“A hunger for publicity is the hallmark of some of the best-known spiritual leaders of contemporary India. They spend as much time on making themselves known, and praised, as on seeking the truth.

“Consider a guru in my home town, Bangalore, who, like Ramana Maharishi, is a Tamil, indeed from the same Iyer sub-caste. In other ways he is emphatically different; in his careful attention to his dress and appearance, for example, or in his not-so-careful cultivation of the rich, the powerful, and the influential.

“Or consider the holy man who, these past days and weeks, has been much in the news. Those who heard, in part or in full, Baba Ramdev’s recent day-long discourse at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, would have heard the words ‘kala dhanda’ and ‘bhrashtachaar’ (black money and corruption) as well as the words ‘dharm’ and ‘imandaari’ (morality and honesty).

“I heard them too, but I also heard words that were more telling. These were ‘mein apne media ke bhaiyyon se kehna chahta hoon’, a phrase that recurred often, perhaps half-a-dozen times an hour. It was characteristic that Ramdev sought to address the media above all (and characteristic also that his social imagination excluded the possibility of women reporters)….

“Solitude and spirituality — the link between them is intimate and indissoluble. In between satyagrahas, Gandhi spent months at a stretch in Sabarmati or Sevagram, thinking, searching, spinning. Ramana and Aurobindo did not leave their ashrams for decades on end. Yet our contemporary gurus can’t be by themselves for a single day.

“When the police forced him out of Delhi, Ramdev said he would resume his ‘satyagraha’ (sic) at his ashram in Haridwar. But within 24 hours he left Haridwar, in search of closer proximity to his brothers in the media. Externed from Delhi, Ramdev knew that many television channels were headquartered in Noida. So he would go to them, since he knew that, despite their national pretensions, these channels would not send their reporters, still less their anchors, to the benighted state of Uttarakhand. He set off for Noida but was stopped en route at Muzaffarnagar on the orders of the UP chief minister.”

Read the full article: Performance artists

Why Congress wooed and shooed Baba Ramadev

6 June 2011

Why did the government terminate Baba Ramdev‘s fast-unto-death in the dead of night after noisily receiving him at Delhi airport and talking to him at a five-star hotel owned by a shady arms dealer?

Was it because Ramdev’s camp was a cover for an RSS campaign and it could have all gone out of hand a la 6 December 1992?

Au contraire, writes R. Jagannathan in First Post:

“The Congress wined and dined him precisely because he was close to the Sangh Parivar. It was not something they discovered later, when Sadhvi Ritambara turned up at the Baba’s fast-fest.

“In the Congress book of dirty tricks, this is old hat. Whenever the Congress sees a looming political threat, it backs a rival in the same camp to break away and undercut the original threat….

“The Congress won the last elections in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu precisely because a third player (Praja Rajyam in Andhra, and Vijayakanth’s DMDK in Tamil Nadu) ate  into opposition votes and brought the Congress (or the Congress alliance) victory. But for these spoilers, Chandrababu Naidu and AIADMK would have won in 2009.

“So who do you need to fix before 2014 in the same way? While there are obviously a whole range of regional and sectarian parties who are local threats to the Congress in various states, the only national threat is the BJP, which, despite being rudderless over the last seven years, is the only party capable of upsetting the Congress’ apple-cart.

“Within the BJP, the biggest threat is Narendra Modi, who has shown that he can get the measure of the Congress, and has the potential to galvanise the party and the majority community to action — given the right political circumstances, which, admittedly, don’t exist for now. But who knows what will be the scenario in 2014?

“It explains why the Congress is using activists like Teesta Setalvad and the National Advisory Council (NAC) and other one-dimensional secularists to fix him – whether in court or through a blatantly communal Bill to tackle communal violence. The Bill is specifically targetted at Hindu organisations, and no one else. It will never see the light of day, but that does not stop undemocratic NAC members from trying to force it down our throats.

“But, at another level, the Congress has a problem in the north, where the BJP is a potent threat everywhere, except Uttar Pradesh. This is where the Baba comes in handy.

“How? In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and also in the rest of the Hindi belt, the Baba could cut into BJP votes if he floats a political party. He doesn’t have to win any seats. If he merely takes away 4-5% of the BJP vote, it is enough for the Congress to win.”

Read the full article: Why the Congress wooed and shooed Baba Ramdev

Everybody a loves a few (weekend) contortions

4 June 2011

As Baba Ramdev commences his fast to retrieve black money, the imagination of cartoonists takes flight.

Cartoons: courtesy Neelabh Banerjee/ The Times of India, Shreyas Navare/ Hindustan Times


Also read: Yoga puts Mysore on top of New York Times‘ list

Pattabhi Jois: ‘Bad lady, why forgetting bakasana?’

Be it known that this picture is not upside down

How a world-class yoga photograph got to be shot

Should a former President fall at a godman’s feet?

29 July 2009


India’s VIPs and VVIPs had a bit of a brain explosion last week when news emerged that the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had been frisked by staff of Continental Airlines.

In today’s Times of India, Innaiah Narisetti, president of the Indian chapter of the Centre for Inquiry and author of the new book Forced into Faith, argues that leaders like Kalam set a bad example not by subjecting themselves to security checks, but by other acts they do.

“Children accept without question whatever the parents dictate. They carry that habit into their adulthood. Leaders practising superstitions set a bad example.

“It was sad that somebody like Abdul Kalam, when he was president, thought it fit to touch the feet of Sathya Sai Baba. That to my mind was more outrageous than his being frisked at an airport for security reasons despite his former office.”

Keen observers of photographs will doubtless notice the size, style and height of Kalam’s chair—the commander-in-chief of the armed forces!—vis-a-vis the hirsute Baba’s.

Keen observers of news will also have doubtless noticed that while Baba Ramdev was first off the blocks among godmen in opposing the decriminalisation of homosexual sex between consenting adults, there has been a studied silence in the spiritual corridor linking Kanakapura Road with Anantapur.

Read the full article: ‘Parents impose their belief system on children’

Also read: Should a President rub shoulders with godmen?

An eleven-and-a-half point manifesto for Abdul Kalam

VIR SANGHVI: The truth about Sai Baba

CHURUMURI POLL: Time to legalise prostitution?

11 July 2009

The decriminalisation of gay sex between consenting adults has led to predictable reactions. LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders) are cock-a-hoop. Political parties are reluctant to say where they stand. Religious heads have come together to slam it. And “godmen” like Baba Ramdev have termed it unnatural.

The Times of India‘s law correspondent Manoj Mitta reports that homosexual sex and prostitution now enjoy the same legal position: neither is an offence as long as it is between mutually consenting adults and as long is it is done in private; 200 metres away from a “public place” (place of worship, educational area, hostel, hospital, etc) or a notified area.

In fact, he writes, an unintended consequence of the “reading down” of Section 377 is that it male prostitution has received a boost, since homsexual sex is no longer an “unnatural offence”. However, the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act (PITA) imposes a higher penalty on women prostitutes for soliciting a client.

Questions: should prostitution be legalised? Will it give women sex workers a better social status by removing the stigma associated with flesh trade? Will it help fight sexually transmitted diseases? Could it become a welcome new trade like in Thailand, say? Or could it have disastrous consequences on “our culture”?

‘Turn all bars and night clubs into yoga centres’

24 August 2008

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev (in picture, left), speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony of a yoga centre to be built in place of Deepa bar and restaurant in Vile Parle (West) in Bombay:

“I’m very happy that a place which was being used for destroying people’s lives will now be used for making lives of people happier and healthier. All bars in Bombay should be converted into yoga centres in order to have a better society and healthy living.”

Also read: How a world-class yoga photograph got to be shot

CHURUMURI POLL: Is yoga only for Hindus?

K. PATTABHI JOIS: The second most famous Mysorean in the world

RON ROSENBAUM: Is yoga becoming a bit of a scam?