NEW DELHI – Indian police on Monday arrested famed TV yoga guru and anti-corruption campaigner Baba Ramdev as he attempted to lead a procession of thousands of supporters to the national parliament.
Ramdev, an eccentric saffron-robed holy man with a yoga empire that spans the globe, began a protest in New Delhi last Thursday demanding the government do more to repatriate illicit money stashed by Indians in foreign accounts.
Police parked buses and erected barricades across the route taken by Ramdev and his supporters, many of whom had come from his home town of Haridwar in the foothills of the Himalayas.
“Baba Ramdev has himself offered to be arrested and we are making other preventative arrests as well,” area police commander Taj Hassan told AFP at the scene.
Ramdev and activist Anna Hazare have made joint efforts to mobilise Indians to fight corruption, following a string of major scandals that have tarnished the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Hazare, a former army driver who models his appearance on independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, led a huge protest movement in 2011 but his popularity and ability to tap into public anger have since waned.
Ramdev, whose current protest has been ignored by the government – unlike in 2011 when senior ministers held meetings with him – said he had wanted to march to parliament to have the voice of his supporters heard by lawmakers.
Police said Ramdev and other arrested protesters were being transported to a stadium on the outskirts of the Indian capital where they would be held temporarily before being released, probably without charge.
His aides encouraged protesters to follow the guru to the stadium.
“You may walk or take the police buses, but be with baba,” one supporter shouted over a loudhailer, as hundreds of policemen and security trucks fitted with teargas and water cannons stood nearby.