Baba Ramdev whose protest against corruption was crushed by police at the weekend warned on Wendesday of violence and threatened to train an army of 11,000 followers. Baba Ramdev issued the call-to-arms from his ashram near the holy town of Haridwar 130 miles (200 kilometres) north of New Delhi after he was ejected from the capital. He and 50,000 supporters had gathered in Delhi to hold a hunger strike as part of a growing wave of dissent against the government’s failure to tackle corruption.
But early on Sunday, police wielding sticks and firing tear gas broke up the protest in a surprise move that infuriated Ramdev’s millions of followers and triggered sharp criticism of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Ramdev, whose popularity stems from his daily yoga shows on television, called for men and women to join his “army”.
“They must be dedicated, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice,” he said in remarks reported by television news channels. “They will be given arms training. We will build an army of 11,000 men and women.”
His spokesman said that the force would have weapons but would act only in self-defence. He said that Ramdev was determined to stand up to police if they again attacked him or his supporters.
Corruption has become a major focus of public discontent in the country, and Ramdev’s hunger strike – which he resumed on Monday – has piled further pressure on the government.
The main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sought to tap into the anger, with leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday travelling to met Ramdev in Haridwar.
Another hunger striker, veteran activist Anna Hazare, on Wednesday attracted thousands of people to a one-day demonstration in Delhi to protest against the police crackdown on Ramdev.