Baba Ramdev has courted arrest, has been taken into preventive custody and is right now in a Delhi Transport Corporation bus headed to the Ambedkar stadium. The police had initially planned to detain the yoga guru and 200 of his supporters atg the Rajiv Gandhi stadium at Bawana in North-West Delhi. However, it now seems that about 60 buses, each filled with 50 of those taken into preventive custody including Baba Ramdev, is headed to the Amdebkar Stadium, near Daryaganj. (Track live updates)
This afternoon, the yoga guru and thousands of his supporters were stopped from marching to Parliament at the flyover, about half a kilometer away from the Ramlila Ground, where the yoga guru had been on a hunger strike against corruption and black money for five days. (See first pics)
In a dramatic moment, amid much sloganeering by the yoga teacher's supporters, a Delhi policeman held Baba Ramdev's arm, to signal his arrest. The yoga guru took the opportunity to slam the ruling Congress saying, "The Congress's hand is not with us, but my hand will now be held to stop this march." (Watch)
He also pointed out that his protest was peaceful and that he had cooperated with the administration, and asked people to vote out parties that did not support his demands on black money and corruption.
The Delhi Police cop had to climb atop the vehicle that the yoga guru traveled on to the flyover; he allowed him to address his supporters surrounding the vehicle, and then arrested him formally.
The buses doubled as barricades to stop the protestors from moving towards Parliament. Baba Ramdev did not have permission for the march - he was only permitted to sit in protest at the Ramlila Ground. He was expected to court arrest - he had declared that he would end his fast in jail.
There was huge police deployment. About 1,300 policemen, including the Rapid Action Force, had spread out in the area.
Baba Ramdev began his protest camp against corruption in Delhi five days ago by declaring that he would not target any political party or personality. Hours before his camp is expected to wind up, the movement was drenched in political colours, largely because of the star turn provided by leaders Sharad Yadav and Nitin Gadkari, who head major opposition parties.
"You don't worry, guruji....all members of the NDA are with you," said Mr Gadkari, referring to the national coalition that is led by his party, the BJP, and in which Mr Yadav's Janata Dal (United) is a senior partner. Mr Gadkari delivered a lengthy speech to a crowd of nearly 6000 people, predictably enumerating the various fronts on which the Congress-led government has failed the country. (Read)
"We are a rich country with a poor population," Mr Gadkari said from a massive stage. "If black money is recovered, we can help the poor."
In Parliament, just a few kilometres away, the BJP forced the Lok Sabha to adjourn after it noisily protested that the government is not doing enough to crack down on black money.
The Congress was dismissive of Baba Ramdev's protest. Party spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi said, "We did not say anything because we cannot speak their language or act like them. The whole country saw today the real faces behind this."
Politicians including Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati commented on the exigent need to combat black money - both politicians have faced court cases for corruption and assets that appear disproportionate to their income. Undeclared and untaxed income resting in foreign bank accounts has been the big focus of Baba Ramdev's movement which launched last year at the same venue. At the time, he galvanised huge crowds and considerable momentum.
Aware of his influence over millions of Indians, largely because of his popular televised yoga classes, the government had extensive negotiations with the guru. They ended abruptly when the yoga icon refused to end his hunger strike. The police swept into Ramlila Maidan at midnight, and the camp was disbanded with a lathi-charge, injuring many among the nearly 30,000 people. The Supreme Court later held the police and Baba Ramdev culpable for risking the safety of ordinary citizens.
This time around, the government has ignored Baba Ramdev, emboldened partially by the somewhat lethargic response among the public to his call for action. Left out in the cold, the guru decided to up the ante by calling yesterday for a revolution that would end in jail. Today, he said, he would lead a peaceful march to Parliament. The police are on high alert. Sources say the marchers will be arrested after they've walked a short distance and will be moved to a stadium nearby.
"We are not terrorists. We never wanted to take this step to go and protest outside Parliament; however it is the government's apathy which has forced us. We will follow the principles of non-violence and expect the police also not to use force against us," Baba Ramdev said this morning.
(With Agency Inputs)