The Delhi police force is mainly composed of sons of rural folks from neighbouring Haryana and UP. They are almost all Hindus. If someone has spotted on Sikh amongst them on the TV, s/he may correct me. Many of them must have been from Baba’s own sub-caste, Yadavas, the descendants of the illustrious Sri Krishan. The police officer who led the brave soldiers from the front was none other than a prominent acolyte of the Baba. TV channels displayed his images publicly touching Baba’s feet and offering him flowers. When the force that swooped down so stealthily, so determinedly on the sleeping mass of humanity, in the tradition of the Indian armed forces going for a kill, it must have entered the tented accommodation ‘with prayer on their lips, helmets on their heads and reverence in their hearts.’ That they had batons in their hands, hate in their eyes and blood on their boots—is of course another matter altogether —a matter that the likes of saffron brigade love to exaggerate and exploit.
A lesson has been taught to a teacher who presumed to undermine the (black) economy of the country. Well, to be more correct, it was taught more to his followers and the rural ruffians of India who had crudely exceeded their republican brief of voting at elections. That is their only duty in Indian democracy. They had tried to limit the wealth of our elected masters without caring to know that after all, this money is used to buy grinder-mixers, fans, televisions and even scooters at the time of elections to enable them to vote for the most generous. How ungrateful and nasty can a rural, uncultured, ill-clad, fowl smelling, floor-sleepers can be is also a lesson that the elected masters have learnt. When the Punjabi farmers were sitting in protest in Chandigarh, an important newspaper of the region had summed up the situation with the headlines, “Stinking days ahead.” Eventually it was a teaching camp at the Ramlila ground. So many lessons were learnt by all the concerned in a single day. Wonderful!
On Sunday, the day of the attack (5th June), Baba Ramdev spoke to the television channels after being dumped in his Haridwar ashram. He was wearing white clothing. He explained that he had averted an attempt on his life by using this ingenious method. He later replied to criticism on these issues in the newspapers (Times of India and The Tribune of June 7, 2011). ‘A women gives birth to man and is therefore stronger not weaker than man’ so he didn’t do wrong to escape wearing a ‘salwar kameez and dupatta’. His reference to women in this context is politically correct and no fault may be found with it. Then of course he quoted example of Shivaji Maratha to justify his equally ‘great escape’. Shivaji’s example was uppermost in his mind. Had he not been an Arya Samaji sadhu he would have also quoted his ancestor Sri Krishna, who deserted the battlefield and hid in a cave. They have Ranchodji’s temple there now where Sri Krishna is worshipped in a ‘deserting battlefield posture’. Had he learnt his Hindu mythology well, he could have quoted the original Shiva’s example when he ran away to take shelter with Brahma on seeing that Bhasmasur was bent upon burning him to cinders – somewhat in the style of Sikhs burnt on the streets of Delhi in November 1984. The Baba could have completed the story by quoting the example of Brahma who immediately incarnated as a beautiful woman, not for the first or the last time, and lured Bhasmasur to destroy himself. Indira too sought shelter with Durga when he was defeated by the asuras. This example could have been the most appropriate as later Subramanya Swamy drew a parallel between the ruling Congress and the rakshas.
One is left wondering whether Sant Bhindranwale could have used these inspirational springs to escape from Darbar Sahib on June 6, 1984? The seminary he headed is partly Sikh in looks and partly Hindu in thought. Still the inspiration available to him was that of the Guru Granth’s stipulation. Nanak says therein, if you want to express love for God, step on the path to Him after abandoning the desire to cling on to life? In the same scripture Bhagat Kabir stipulates, ‘recognize him as a hero who remains steadfast at the battle front, fights for the downtrodden losing limb after limb before dying in a fierce contest’. These inspirations pitted Sant Bhinderanwale against an armed might of a state, armoured carriers, tanks, battle-helicopters, heavy guns and all else. The Sant was not a celibate ‘sanyasi’ like Ramdev who has conquered the senses but was a humble house-holder Sikh of the Guru. He was a family man to whom spiritual calling mattered more than any worldly temptation.
Baba Ramdev, to be fair to him, has escaped death by cunning and stratagem. Since that was the aim, the manoeuvre was well executed. Using the faculties of an ever alert yogi, he divined in an instant that the policemen inside the enclosure were thirsting for his blood. Those who were abusive (pakro sale ko, maro sale ko) surely had a murderous intent’, according to Baba’s own assessment. He says it is better to ‘live to fight another day’ like Shivaji. No practical and worldly wise man will find fault with that statement.
Let us not presume to sit on judgment on the conduct of the two eminent persons, mentioned above. There is deep chasm between the civilizational approaches of these individuals. The two very great men are worlds apart. The Sant was actually a sensitive house holder, the Baba is a ‘sanyasi’ (a person who has renounced the world) sitting on a multi-million empire and is into teaching the most expensive yoga (the technique of disassociating the self from the world).
Both of them were right in their own ways and both deserve respect one of about a billion Hindus and other of just 20 million Sikhs. Such is the diversity with which Indian is endowed by the Creator! Praised be He!
It is unfortunate that being an Aryasmaji holyman the Baba is not inspired by the folk mythology of India. He could have easily claimed the status of a modern ardhnareshwar. His attempted great escape in a woman’s clothing fairly and squarely qualifies him for the unique distinction. Then perhaps his full name could have been Ranchodji Ardhnareshwar Sitaram Dev Baba Yogi.
The Baba episode has also helped his countrymen in a variety of ways. The entire spectrum is not immediately apparent but will be fully known as time passes. Yoga does not necessarily lead to complete equanimity and fearlessness. We see Baba Ramdev escaping from the grip of a policeman and jumping off the 8 to 10 feet high platform. Those who looked closely must have seen distress, fear and bewilderment written all over his face. At the same time it must be appreciated that his decision to ‘run away to fight another day’ was sound and shows that his decision making powers were fully intact—perhaps a gift of his yogic discipline.
The Baba is hailed as the greatest yogi of the modern age. One is left wondering whether it means anything. Either the measures to quantify yogic accomplishments (siddhis) have changed drastically over the ages or perhaps much yarn has been spun about ancient yogis without taking facts into account. We hear of yogis in deep slumber for over a millennium. They remain fully alive and their bodies resume normal functioning, the moment they wake up. One of them became capable of burning an offending intruder to ashes immediately on opening his eyes. Our modern Baba couldn’t even handle a couple of policemen bent upon murdering him. So certain it is that there are no such things as eight siddhis that have been hailed for centuries as adjuncts of yogic prowess. They include ‘anima, mahima, garima, and vashita, and the power to become unseen (adrish) at will. This myth is busted for ever. So also has been the myth that a yogi can prolong his life for a thousand years by fasting. It didn’t work on the Baba, he had to be hospitalised on the 7th day and would certainly have passed away had he not broken his fast on the ninth day. That the frail old worldly man Darshan Singh Pheruman lasted 74 days in 1970, can easily be ignored. He was a Sikh and everybody knows that a Sikh will do anything to attract attention. The Baba was already in bad shape. Of all the ayurvedic drugs that he sells to cause magic cure, none came to his rescue in an emergency. Finally, the emergency had to be handled by doctors trained in western science and by western methods. This will suffice to expose the superiority of ayurveda, over western medical science, methodology and drugs.
It is surprising that his famous technique of ‘anulom-vilom’ which is supposed to unusually strengthen the body, to tune up the metabolism and so on, did not help the Baba. In the process, the idea of a ‘sanyasi’ has also taken a battering. It has acquired new nuances—or was it always like that?
Gone are the days when a sanyasi was a man of no-possession and lived on alms provided by poor villagers. Today’s sanyasi owns much more that perhaps a million villagers put together own. He certainly has more land than land owned by several villages and his profits are limitless because despite his immense wealth he, being a sanyasi, is still entitled to solicit and accept alms including gift of even an island.
There are even brighter sides of the Baba episode. Any person in his right mind must have felt happy at the spontaneous outrage of the general public against the attack on the sea of sleeping humanity. Six to seven people were seriously injured about a dozen had perhaps to be hospitalized and many more must have received minor injuries. This atrocity was considered incomparable to anything that had happened in India since 1947. The Media was also outraged like the general public. Some commentators had to go back to colonial times to find a parallel. A diligent search yields the infamous Jallianwala Bagh incident in which close to a 400 Sikhs was killed by gunfire by the forces of the state. It was universally deemed a perfect parallel.
Nobody found it worthwhile to remember the same June 4 day of 1984 when the whole might of the state converged upon a holy place and ended up killing upwards of ten thousand (according to Sant Longowal) innocent children (the youngest was two weeks old), men and women ninety-nine percent of whom, were pilgrims, temple priests and sewadars. That was not considered as grave an incident equivalent to the atrocity of June 4, 2011 presumably because all who died in June 1984 at Amritsar were Sikhs who are best when dead. For the same reason perhaps the killing of thousands of Sikhs in the streets of the very same Delhi, setting of houses, business locations and holy places on fire, rape murder and loot of thousands was a much smaller tragedy. A tragedy becomes a tragedy only when one from the permanent cultural majority (pcm) dies (in this case ‘almost dies’) and not when the Sikhs die in thousands. This appears to be the logic of the fourth estate. The Gujarat atrocity was also no parallel because most of the dead were Muslims, who would have devoured ‘x’ number of cows each had they remained alive.
Nevertheless assault on the sleeping Baba and his followers was an atrocity at which civil (civilized) society ought to have been outraged. Anna Hazare and his followers went on a day’s hunger strike in protest. The Bhartya Janata Party did the same. It was one up on Hazare in this that it also danced in protest, as they should have done seeing their political opponent in a fix. That was all very apt. It will still be disputed whether they should have chosen the Gurdwara Sis-Ganj where Guru Tegh Bahadur suffered martyrdom for the sake of freedom of belief and rights of man for protesting and not the cenotaph of a man whose politics violently vivisected a country (Bharatmata to the pcm) and laid the foundations of violence in India by dispensing injustice to the Sikhs, tribals, Dalits, Kashmiris and Muslims. India of course has no patience to go into such details. Anna Hazare and the BJP leaders share their beliefs with the rest of India, no matter how awry they are in particular circumstances.
The other very heartening site was to see Baba putting a thumb impression on (presumably) his health record presented by an attending doctor. It was a sight to remember and cherish for its Sikh content. The Sikhs, despite being the most literate people, always choose the most illiterate to lead them. The pcm is doing the same. It is something that must afford immense solace to the Sikhs.
Some people will also find it extremely satisfying that age old Hindu practice of taking the ashes of the dead to Haridwar was reversed and this time a fully alive yogi was taken to Haridwar. It is to be hoped that in total reversal of roles Ganga will nourish the disturbed yogi to perfect health.
Most heartening of all was the conduct of the higher judiciary in relation to the Baba episode. Just as it was in June 1984, the Supreme Court was in recess. Urgent work was being looked after by a vacation bench. A lawyer drafted a petition in a hurry on Sunday and approached the court on Monday. He apologized for not getting his plaint registered. The court told him not to worry as it was taking suo moto notice of the happenings of Saturday-Sunday night. It did take a strong action in summoning the government officials to show cause why action should not be taken against them for perpetrating an outrage. It was a bold action and an appropriate action. It is for such interventions that the constitution vests such vast powers in the judiciary. Everyone must be glad that the judges were graceful enough to exercise the wide powers without loss of time. Justice will now not be delayed. The country will rejoice that the story of November 1984, in which thousands of Sikhs were killed by goons led by the Congress leaders could not get justice even in the next three decades, will not be repeated.
It is encouraging also that the judiciary appears to have travelled far in sharpening its sensitivities. This is the difference between than and now. Someone put in a habeas corpus petition for producing Sant Harchand Singh Longowal in June 1984. A single judge was sitting that day. He simply refused to intervene even in so sacrosanct proceedings as habeas corpus. He had to invent a brand new judicial doctrine to justify his inaction. He did so without batting an eyelid. It is the “doctrine of weak shoulders”. He ruled, ‘my shoulders are too weak to bear this burden’. Message to the Sant went loud and clear that he should expect nothing from the judiciary. His choice was to languish in jail for a long, long time to come or he could craft a humiliating compromise with the executive that was holding him. He took the hint and accepted the terms dictated by the executive. This, however, can be said to be a knee jerk (lack of ) reaction in the circumstances of the case and must not suggest that some classes are beyond the pale of justice. Justice is blind –more, blind in respect of some and not so blind with respect to others. These are routine matters. In the case of Devinder Singh Bhullar the Supreme Court held by a two to one majority “that proof beyond reasonable doubt” should be “a guidance not a fetish” and that procedure is only “a handmaiden and not a mistress of law.” (See, Manoj Mitta, “Bhullar row: where’s judicial objectivity,” The Times of India, June 5, 2011,)
For negative reaction to Khushwant Singh’s plea that came a later than the Longowal case, we will have to find another excuse for the judiciary. Khushwant Singh pleaded that the executive had attacked the Guru’s Darbar in pursuit of ulterior motives. It should be called upon to account for damage to life and liberty of citizens and to the holiest shrines. The court in its infinite wisdom dismissed the petition without so much giving notice to the executive. See the sea change that has come over the court in mere 27 years! Deaths of thousands then meant nothing to it but now it has been moved by the plight of about a dozen injured and some twenty thousand disturbed in their sleep. We can all hold our heads high in the comity of nations and proclaim from the roof tops that at least in the year 2011 we have the most sensitive judiciary that jealously safeguards the human rights of people and has zero tolerance for wanton assaults on people’s liberties by the state.
On June 5, 2011, the Baba held a meeting with the Media at Haridwar. At this he announced that he would train eleven thousand volunteers in the scriptures and weapons. These young men and women will provide protection to him and will see that the Ramlila incident is not repeated ever again. The phraseology used by the Baba is familiar to the Sikhs and has been often used in the recent conflict since 1982. It also unearths the secret ‘factory’ established by the executive of the country to simulate retaliation before coming down upon such self-respecting groups after designating them, ‘terrorists’. Baba Ramdev has a hand on the people’s pulse and maybe knows the quality of stuff to whom he is about to entrust his security. Such attempts have been made in history earlier. They have not always yielded the desired results. The Caliphs tried this experiment but the Mamluks (body guards) became so powerful that they murdered one of the Caliphs in 862 CE and later played with the lives of several more. Caligula the Roman Emperor had earlier been assassinated by the head of his Praetorian bodyguard on January 24, 41 CE. The fate of Indra Gandhi at the hands of her own bodyguards is too recent to bear re-telling. Baba must have thought of all that.
He must know that, only propertied people with dynastic ambitions and political stakes need to take such precautions. Every sanyasi knows that the human body is so perishable a commodity and no one can save it once its time has come. He who gives life decides also the hour of death. Nothing and no one can alter that by a split second. So what will Baba’s bodyguards do? Why must so much care be taken to preserve the perishable? The ancient Markandey, after whom a river has been named in Haryana, lived a thousand years (or was it ten thousand) and did not care to build even a shelter for the body.
Hailing from Haryana, the Baba must also be familiar with the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh. It was created to preserve the ‘Shastra’ or the true philosophy. Its approach was two fold: it had to live the philosophy and had to protect it with arms if it became necessary. Since universal amelioration through spiritual elevation, economic development, political and social liberalisation was the aim, the exercise was bound to be succeed. Maybe that is the answer if the Baba wants universal good. In such a society in which every citizen in also a soldier, every individual is safe and no state power can so much as touch him. All roam free in the social and political order recognising only God as the True Kind and His innate discipline as the eternal law binding on all creation. Surely the Baba, as a sanyasi knows all this. If so, he should become a part of the Guru’s experiment along with his followers just as Dharam Singh from his state had joined the Guru in 1699. The Baba will then be able to create a just society.
Banda Singh Bahadur before him was just wasting his life as a sanyasi—a renegade from social and political order that he did not approve of. He was pursuing yogic siddhis which, of course, do not exist. That continued until the Guru introduced him to the dynamics of human development calculated to yield early results. He then successfully conducted the experiment of resisting tyranny which was an immediate success and has not been forgotten still. He established the first ever ‘People’s Republic’ led by the Khalsa that measured up to as perfect justice as a human institution may measure up to.