New Delhi: Baba Ramdev shunned his trademark saffron and arrived at his Patanjali ashram in Hardwar dressed in white on Sunday afternoon. He looked wan and weary as he recounted events leading up to his eviction from Delhi. He also made clear that his hunger-strike was still on. (In Pictures: Baba Ramdev's satyagraha)
The yoga icon was evicted from Delhi after midnight police action and scenes of violence at the site of his hunger strike. The Baba spent last night in the protection of the Delhi Police and was flown out from the Palam airport this morning. He has been served an externment order and cannot enter Delhi, though he is free to travel anywhere else in the country.
Baba Ramdev described last night's happening at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan as the "darkest night of my life." He said he had not seen such atrocities before. "The police force 5000-10,000 in number, did not even spare the smallest children. Women and children were dragged and beaten up." (Watch: There were chills down my spine, says Ramdev)
He broke down as he described how he wept and told "cops to stop misbehaving with women supporters", but to no avail, he said. Baba Ramdev, who initially escaped the police dressed as a woman, said he was not dressed in a white salwar-kurta because he wanted to and described how he spent hours hidden among women. (Read: Police found Baba Ramdev dressed as a woman)
The government, he said, had betrayed him. "They said they would declare black money as national assets, find out where it was stashed and would bring it back." Top ministers negotiating with him on behalf of the government he said, had asked him to abandon his fast first saying he would get a written assurance that his demands would be met. But when that letter came, he said, it made no mention of his primary demand.
He singled out senior minister Kapil Sibal as "the most scheming man ever."
Very late last night, the externment of the tremendously popular leader was preceded by the Delhi police using a lathi charge and tear gas shells on his supporters at the Ramlila Maidan, which had served all day as a sort of Capital city for the yoga icon and his mass movement against the government. (Watch: Late night violence at protest)
Section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed at the Ramlila Grounds to prevent people from gathering there.
The government has justified the late night eviction of the Baba saying he had violated permission granted for a yoga gathering. Senior minister Kapil Sibal said Baba Ramdev had given permission for a yoga camp for 5000 people but when over 50,000 people descended on the capital's Ramlila ground, the government "couldn't allow law and order to be disrupted." (Read: How the Ramdev crisis developed)
Baba Ramdev's stage, Mr Sibal said, had become one for "political asanas" and "not yoga asanas." (Read: Stick to yoga not political asanas, says Govt on Ramdev)
Mr Pillai said that the government did not fear any backlash, as no action had been taken against Baba Ramdev save the externment.
But the police action at the Ramlila Maidan has been compared to the Emergency by other civil society activists like Shanti Bushan. Others like Swami Agnivesh said that because the Baba's supporters had been largely peaceful, the police has violated basic democratic rights. "The government should resign," said Mr Bhushan.
On the other side of the argument, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has used strong words calling Baba Ramdev "a thug who is misleading the nation...We can't allow someone like Ramdev to run riot in Delhi. He had permission only to run a yoga camp. He was trying to incite people." Mr Singh has spoken frequently this week against the Baba and his attempts to force the government to launch a mission to recover crores of black money from foreign bank accounts. (Read: 'Thug' Ramdev misleading the nation, says Digvijaya Singh)
Late-night drama at Ramlila Grounds
At 1 am, close to 600 policemen arrived at Ramlila Maidan to demand that the crowd of 60,000 supporters disperse. Their argument was that the gathering had been granted permission only for a yoga camp and not as a mass demonstration. (Watch: Thousands gather at Ramlila Maidan)
A group of policemen trooped onto the stage, reportedly after some people threw stones at them. The Baba asked them to go away. He then leapt from his stage, his saffron robes fanning out behind him, into the crowd of supporters. Seated on a follower's shoulders, the Baba then delivered a lengthy speech, waving his fist in the air. Finally, the police managed to get to him. (Watch: Eyewitness account) | (Read: Ramdev wants peaceful agitation against police action)
At 2 am, teargas shells were launched upon the thousands of people who were present, allegedly in an attempt to force the crowds to leave the grounds. A small fire broke out on the stage that had been used by the Baba but fortunately, it did not spread.
At 5.30 am, the Baba was evicted from Delhi and moved to his ashram in Haridwar.
Government sources say that the Baba was detained for just a few minutes.
The Baba and the government had hit the collision course at around 9 pm with both sides accusing each other of betrayal. Baba Ramdev said the government had falsely assured him that it would meet his charter of demands that include recovering black money held abroad by Indians and declaring it a national asset. The government in turn said that the Baba had in writing promised even before he began his fast that it would end early last evening. The implication was that unknown to his supporters, the government and the yoga icon had struck a secret deal. Stung, the Baba accused the government of lying and said the gloves were coming off.
Another letter from the government was then sent to him assuring him that the government was serious about following up on his demands. The letter appealed again for the Baba to end his hunger strike.
Baba Ramdev has been the government's top priority this week - top ministers spent hours meeting with him to persuade him that his "satyagraha against corruption" should not be launched because the government was willing to work with him to address his concerns.
Several rounds of talks-including those on Friday- were followed by reports that a compromise had been reached. But late on Friday evening, after meeting with senior ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay at the Claridges Hotel in Delhi, the Baba returned to Ramlila Maidan and told a crowd of thousands that his fast would begin as planned on Saturday. He said his movement would be non- violent and that he would fast "till the end." (Watch: Ramdev's '5-star satyagraha' has RSS support, says Digvijaya Singh)