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Democracy in Danger- HAF Press Statement

Democracy in Danger: HAF denounces Indian Government’s violent expulsion of Baba Ramdev and peaceful protesters
Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2011) – The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) strongly denounced Saturday night’s brutal police attack in New Delhi on a peaceful gathering of fifty thousand people led by the world renowned yoga guru Baba Ramdev. Shortly after midnight, on the orders of India’s ruling Congress Party led UPA government, police officers used batons and tear gas on the unarmed crowd, including women and children, which had gathered in a yoga-inspired anti-corruption protest to demand that the Government of India account for billions of dollars in “black” money. “Black” money, gained through corruption schemes, is commonly believed to be hidden overseas by many politicians and businesses.

Scores of Hindu Americans were also participating in symbolic fasts this week to support Baba Ramdev’s call for a “satyagraha” against corruption, echoing Mahatma Gandhi’s own method of peaceful, civil disobedience.

“The first and foremost responsibility of any functioning democracy is to protect the civil rights of its citizens, even when they speak against the sitting government,” said Rishi Bhutada, a member of the HAF Executive Council. “When a government acts contrary to that principle, it risks ruling by tyranny, as seen in the actions of a government that would attack one of India’s respected Hindu religious leaders and his unarmed supporters.”

The ruling Congress Party of India recently became the subject of investigation after under the table sales of India’s 2G mobile network connections led to the loss of almost $40 billion in revenue for the central government. Rampant bribery and embezzlement during the lead up to the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 also made international headlines, and a prominent Congress Party leader was arrested in connection earlier this month. Most political observers hold the current Manmohan Singh government culpable for gross negligence, while some have claimed that the practice of storing laundered wealth overseas runs right up to the doors of the Congress Party headquarters, and its leader, Sonia Gandhi. Baba Ramdev had called for a hunger-strike and the current protest, reacting to this unprecedented string of high-profile scandals that involved high-level politicians within the UPA government.

“The gratuitous, middle-of-the-night attack on Baba Ramdev and tens of thousands of peaceful supporters was revolting to witness, and clearly an attempt to detract attention from the sitting government’s unwillingness to curb corruption within its ranks,” said Jay Kansara, HAF’s Washington, D.C. based Assistant Director. “HAF has called attention to similarly brutal attacks on peacefully gathering Hindus in Malaysia before, and is closely monitoring persecution of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh–it is an utter shock to see the Congress-UPA combine emulate such tactics.”

A well respected spiritual leader both in and outside of India, Baba Ramdev has traveled many times to the United States, delivering discourses on yoga and holistic lifestyles attended by thousands. In 2009, he laid the foundation to jointly explore with MD Anderson Cancer Institute potential naturopathic treatments for cancer. Though his message is apolitical, he began speaking out forcefully against corruption five years ago and rose to prominence as a critic of the sitting government, especially since the recent scandals.

“Baba Ramdev touches the lives of millions of people everyday through his message of peace, wellness, and enlightenment, and his non-violent movement to end corruption resonated with the ideals of a healthy democracy,” added Bhutada. “Just this past March, HAF leaders were testifying in support of India’s human rights record and history of democratic dissent in front of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. It is a sad irony that Saturday’s attack is contrary to our words in India’s support, and we call upon the UPA government to reaffirm its commitment to religious pluralism and democracy in light of this week’s events.”

The Hindu American Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.

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