UPDATE: I have met Swami Ramdev later, in December 2012, and found a large number of commonalities of perspective.
I chanced upon the following view on Facebook, and would like to provide below a copy of my response, and also a few other observations.
रतन सिंह Shame on you that you dont know abt FTI…This is the same guy Sanjeev Sablok Who oppose every move of Baba Ramdev & wanted to stop his agitation by hook or crook ..Even he justifies the govt's cpwardly act to stop Baba Ramdev ….& you r liking his post ??? Popularizing him ???.
Sanjeev Sabhlok Ratan, you are welcome to misrepresent me and my work, that's up to you. I NEVER opposed Baba Ramdev personally. He is a fine person who wants to remove corruption. He and I have the same goal.
Indeed, he and I spoke a couple of weeks ago and had a very productive conversation about the changes needed in India. I might even work with him more closely in the coming years. Yes, I did oppose some of the statements he made and will continue to speak the truth about things that are incorrect. Many of the earlier ideas of Ramdev about removing corruption were simply wrong. He agrees now that we must follow Chanakya's Arthashastra more closely. What I'm teaching is pretty much what Chanakya said.
When Ramdev fled, wearing woman's clothes, I was very angry at that act. But my position changed after I was told by eyewitnesses that Ramdev had offered to be arrested, and that the police refused to do so. I was told that his life was actually in danger. I therefore removed that post and wrote a post asking the Congress government to resign: Did Baba Ramdev offer to be arrested? If so, the Congress must resign.
I've always said Ramdev is a good man who sometimes does or says the wrong thing.
For instance, he is very good at yoga: Now, here's something Baba Ramdev is very good at. This is what I wrote: "Ramdev is therefore VERY good at transmitting ancient Indian knowledge. I give him much credit for what he is good at."
On yoga I'm happy to listen to Ramdev. On policy, he must try to listen to me.
I've said so many times earlier, e.g: Baba Ramdev a good man, but how does one get him to understand good policy? This is what I wrote: "This man DEFINITELY has potential. His heart is in the right place. What he needs is to understand how to create the economic prosperity that he talks about, and to get out of the shoddy policies he imagines will solve India's problems."
Baba Ramdev is very good in yoga but not very good at all in policy thinking. Just like I'm very bad in yoga and much better in policy matters.
He is now willing to accept this fact. The fact that he now thinks that Chankaya might have something useful to say on corruption is a sign that he is changing.
In the end the TRUTH wins. Satyameva Jayate. We need to find solutions that work. And Chanakya had found many of them. We need to rediscover Chanakya.
It is my job to continue to speak the truth. When India is ready, it will listen. Of that I'm sure. I'm glad that Baba Ramdev and I had a very positive and productive conversation recently.
I'm even willing to work closely with him subject to (a) verification that his accounts are totally clean and (b) detailed policy agreement.
He must also eschew any support for either BJP or Congress. He must stop supporting the reservations policy, and he must stop demanding a prohibition on cow slaughter.
Remember that Chanakya's Arthashastra does NOT contain any such admonition against cow slaughter. Indeed, there is every likelihood that in Vedic times, Indians ate beef. But that's neither here nor there. Let historians debate that. And I'm not asking anyone to eat anything or not eat anything. That's their private business.
The point is that Chanakya did NOT believe in prohibitions. We must ensure animal rights and accountability, and then allow people the freedom to be what they want to be.
We must learn from Chanakya. Then we can move further, together.
If we keep following half-baked socialist ideas, then I'm afraid we are not going to make any progress in India.
In fact, things will only get worse.
Jack pointed me to this video (below), which contains a range of assertions about curing eye diseases, and includes recommendations about use of a range of ingredients including cow urine.
Might sound a bit odd, but the video is a pleasure to watch. Ramdev is a great communicator. He can teach a lesson or two to the very best in the world on public speaking.
Ramdev is therefore VERY good at transmitting ancient Indian knowledge.
Whether his recommendations work or not is a different matter.
Given the TOTAL FAILURE of modern medicine in my case, I'm inclined to try out at least a few of his remedies (excluding the cow urine based). And pranayama is always great.
Indeed, I had already discovered (on my own initiative) some useful properties of manuka honey and lemon juice, but not in the combination he describes. I've also used triphala a bit, but not as diligently as he has recommended.
When modern medicine totally fails, people have to resort to alternative medicine. No Restasis for me yet. $600 worth of medicine can lie in my fridge for another few months.
I'm very sceptical about a cure (since I've tried honey, lemon and triphala in the past and the solution was not permanent), but given the persuasive style of the Baba, I will seriously work on his recommendations.
It has become fashionable for deluded, half-baked Indian "leaders" (including Hindu gurus, one of whom recently died as a result) to undertake "fasts-unto-death" the moment their views are questioned by democratically elected representatives of India, or the onus put on them to contest elections, get elected, and change laws in the proper, constitutional way.
I've dealt with this issue on a number of blog posts (and indeed, have dealt with it in detail the draft manuscript, DOF, which has been under preparation for a number of years – noting that I have changed the views (on this matter) found in the current version, but not yet found time to change the text). Some of my posts on this subject include:
- Calling upon India to criminalise coercive fasts-unto-death
- Let's make sure we don't subvert India's democracy
- So what should be the position of the state re: fast unto death?
Eight days after the Ramdev incident of 5 June, I've today read something published on 8 June 2011 that has made me truly angry and upset.
I heard Swami Ramdev sitting on the shoulder of one of his supporters telling the police: “Do not beat the people here, I am ready to court arrest”.
If what Rajat Sharma is saying is true (I'd need to see further substantiation of this statement through more witness statements) then I will remove my post in which I suggested that Ramdev had behaved like a coward. [I've since removed it] This (Rajat Sharma) evidence turns the table entirely on the information available so far. Ramdev behaved honorably. Instead, it was the police that behaved as cowards by beating up his non-violent supporters and behaving like the mafia.
[This portion (in blue highlight) has since been verified by a commentator on this blog - hence is provided only as an archive]
I'm unfortunately unable to confirm the veracity of Rajat Sharma's report. It sounds plausible and in a court of law it will have great credibility. However, the combined story of events of that night needs to be reconstructed. The footage on Youtube of Ramdev's jumping off the dias (provided by Dr Gogoi in a comment that I've seen a few minutes ago) does not indicate that the police were attacking him at the time he fled.
Nonethelss, this article by Rajat Sharma opens up a VERY SERIOUS line of investigation for the people of India.
If it is true [Yes it is] that Ramdev had offered to be arrested, then governance in India has reached a nadir. To allow violence to be perpetrated (or threat of violence used against his followers) on someone who is undertaking a non-violent protest and who has OFFERED TO BE ARRESTED is nothing short of criminal.
No government has a mandate to ATTACK innocent citizens.
The Government has, if this report is found to be true (Yes), committed a heinous crime, FAR GREATER THAN CORRUPTION. A free society needs a government to DEFEND its life and liberty, not to attack its innocent citizens.
If this report is true [Yes it is], I must also apologise to Ramdev and his followers for my earlier comments that were based on newsreports that did not point out that he had OFFERED TO BE ARRESTED, but showed, instead, that he had fled and hidden behind women – something that is totally dishonorable.
To clarify matters I call for major and urgent judicial inquiry, to find out the truth about what transpired that night.
In this day and age with video cameras widely available, it should not be too hard to produce a judicial report on what happened. Let's know the precise truth about Ramdev and the Congress. Then we can decide.
The beginning of the end of the Congress?
In 1975 Indira Gandhi was brutalising India. Sanjay Gandhi was violently attacking the poor and sterlising them forcibly. That is the time I made this painting, below, in May 1975, just before Indira imposed the Emergency. In 1977 the country threw her out.
If it turns out to be true [Yet it is] that Ramdev had OFFERED to be arrested, then the Sonia-MMS-Rahul combine is FINISHED. I don't care how incompetent a government is, or how corrupt. One thing we can't condone AT ANY TIME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE is violence against innocent citizens.
Let me also note that I'm very pleased that Ramdev has called off his fast. Fasting unto death is NOT the way to resolve the problem of corruption. I suggest he consider following the suggestions I have made here.
As expected, I've received a fair bit of hate mail from Ramdev's followers after calling a spade a spade on two occasions recently (here and here) with regard to Ramdev. His followers fail to note that I have suggested a way for Ramdev to redeem himself and even recover the momentum of his movement – but in a different way.
I know his followers are disappointed at the way things have turned out, but the truth is that while Ramdev is a good man (as I write this, I have not seen evidence of any chicanry or fraud on his part) the policies he is advocating are not well-thought out and his strategy is inappropriate. His mission is therefore destined to fail – if he doesn't change his methods and strategy.
But leaving aside his political foray which he might revive in the future – hopefully with more substance and sense in it – there is something valuable I have definitely learnt about him. (Presumably) born on 25 December 1965 (as mentioned on the internet, but not on his Wikipedia entry), he is 45 years old at present, six years younger than me. But by all accounts he is way healthier than me! And so he comes out as a very impressive role model for physical fitness.
I've not paid much attention to him (only a few things I've read occasionally about him, and one or two videos), but I did recently read a portion of an interview with him by Shekhar Gupta (transcript here) which has stuck with me, and so I'm mentioning it here, as well:
This is what Ramdev said:
I wake up at 3 a.m. and sleep by 10 in the night. On an average, I sleep for 4-5 hours. Today, I still sleep on the floor. At 11 in the morning and at 7 in the evening, I eat a small meal. I don’t eat any foodgrain. I just have a glass of milk and some green vegetables and seasonal fruits. I learnt yoga when I was nine.
If nothing else but to motivate us to pay more attention to our health, and to follow the practice of yoga AND a modest diet, he brings great lessons to all of us.
I do a bit of yoga (very useful for RSI) once a week, but I don't watch my diet properly. His physical practice and dietary discipline is an object lesson for me. I definitely admire him for what he is doing in terms of improving the health of everyone in the world. Not only will I now buy some of his DVDs (on yoga) when I next go to India, but I would encourage all readers of this blog to do so. We must give credit where it is due and learn from those who know more than us.
His yoga teaching is very important for India, so I do hope that he breaks his pointless fast and takes a step back to think things through before re-emerging in the political space. The political space is a policy space. It needs different kind of thinking and knowledge. He must realise that just as I have to learn yoga and physical fitness from him, he MUST start paying attention to learning about good policy from those who have spent thirty years thinking and learning about it. And he MUST show respect for India's democracy and not try to work outside its well-defined constraints.
But yes, in the field he is good at (yoga), I'm happy to be his student.
Social crusader Anna Hazare on Thursday slammed fellow anti-graft campaigner Baba Ramdev's call to arms, saying he abhorred violence and would not associate himself with a man who planned to raise a militia of volunteers. Hazare said he would not meet the yoga guru for some time as it could be construed as support for the plan to train volunteers. [Source]
Now the IMMEDIATE task of IAC is to officially remove all references to Ramdev from their website – unless Ramdev follows the points I've suggested here. AND to remove the picture that shows Hazare in front of Gandhi [See this blog post] That is VERY offensive. Hazare is nowhere in the league of Gandhi. Let's not lower Gandhi's image to this level.
Finally, I'd urge IAC to do the following, if they wish to be supported more widely (or at least by me) again:
1) IAC should NOT use fasting unto death – ever again. Other methods of protest exist.
2) IAC should consider more sensible ways to remove corruptoin, such as those provided in detail in my book, BFN.
3) Let IAC members join FTI and work together to change the laws through the electoral system.
If they haven't tried the electoral system they have no right to create chaos in India. Let DEMOCRATIC methods be used. Let us support and build India, not destroy India.