PM defensive as Ramdev crackdown hits government hard (Intro Roundup)

June 6th, 2011 - 11:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi/Hardwar, June 6 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said there was “no alternative” to the “unfortunate” crackdown on Baba Ramdev as anger against the government grew amid a Supreme Court notice, a day after police forcibly removed the yoga guru from an anti-graft mass agitation.

Manmohan Singh broke the silence over the episode at a function here and told reporters that “it is unfortunate that operation had to be conducted but quite honestly, there was no alternative.”

On the issue of corruption being highlighted by and opposition parties, Manmohan Singh said the government was “serious and we are concerned about corruption and blackmoney. There is no doubt. But there is no magic wand”.

His comments at a media award function came as the Supreme Court issued notice to the government on the forced ouster of the televangelist yoga icon.

The court issued notice to Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta and the Delhi chief secretary asking them to explain the circumstances that led to the violent midnight drama at Ramlila Ground in the heart of the capital.

They were asked to reply in two weeks.

Basing themselves on media reports, judges B.S. Chauhan and Swatantar Kumar took suo motu cognizance of the police action against Ramdev and his supporters that injured more than 100 people, many seriously.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has also issued notice to the three officials over the issue.

Hundreds of police personnel swooped down on the Ramlila Ground just after Saturday midnight when most people were sleeping at the Ramdev agitation. Police used batons, tear gas and water cannons to clear the crowds, triggering chaos and clashes.

Meanwhile, on the third day of his anti-corruption fast, Ramdev, fuming over the way police broke up his protest, hardened his stand against the government and said Manmohan Singh had failed to do his duty.

Speaking at his ashram in Hardwar, he justified wearing women’s clothes to disguise himself while trying to evade police at Ramlila Ground. “I preferred to adopt the survival tactics of warrior king Shivaji and wearing a woman’s attire is not a sign of weakness. A woman gives birth to a man and her status is superior,” he said.

“For the cognizance taken by Supreme Court on its own against this injustice, we thank (the court) from our hearts,” he said. “The country is grateful.”

The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) also welcomed the Supreme Court’s move.

The police action has united the opposition against the Congress-led government, although ministers and Congress leaders hit back.

A delegation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has launched an aggressive attack on the government over the Ramdev episode, met President Pratibha Patil to ask her to convene a special session of parliament.

“We will expose this government as it is not at all keen to take any meaningful action against the menace of corruption and black money,” party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The opposition party also attacked Manmohan Singh’s statement, terming it “bizarre”.

“Here is a prime minister who is making such a remark to defend himself. He is guilty of mass torture,” party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav criticised the eviction drama.

The ruling Congress accused Ramdev of being a mask for the rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and also took a shot at the BJP for staging an agitation at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial.

“He (Ramdev) is only a mask,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said at a party press briefing where he was attacked by a supporter of the guru impersonating as a journalist.

Ramdev supporters also stoned Congress spokesperson Digvijay Singh’s bungalow at Bhopal’s Shyamala Hills. The leader had called the televangelist a “thug”.

A court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar also accepted a petition that accused Digvijay Singh of preaching sedition and hatred.

Protests were also staged in Nepal’s capital Monday in support of Ramdev, who enjoys a wide following there.

The Patanjali Yog Kendra established in Kathmandu by the yoga teacher took out a silent rally from the Indian embassy to the foreign ministry office nearby, condemning the police onslaught in New Delhi.

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