Baba Ramdev: A Sanyasin or a Politician?
India has recently been experiencing a huge wave of anti-corruption sentiment, namely on account of the once-again proposed Jan Lokpal Bill, which would introduce the position of ombudsman in India. The legislation would allow citizens to file a complaint of corruption against political elects, including the Prime Minister and other ministers of government.
The latest development in the struggle to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill gained steam on April 5, 2011, when prominent Gandhian activist Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike – a ‘fast unto death’ – in order to pass bill. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh subsequently announced the bill would be considered during the Parliament’s monsoon session; however, the issue did not end there.
Last month in New Delhi, Swami Ramdev, popularly known as “Baba Ramdev”, also initiated protests against corruption and pointed out the need for legislation to bring black money, presumably stored in foreign banks, back to India to address social causes. It is estimated that up to $1.4 trillion could be stashed away in foreign banks. While the protests themselves have no political affiliations, they are politically motivated to check rampant corruption in the Indian government that has robbed the country of a lot more than money over the past decades.
Though Baba Ramdev was later arrested for refusing to back down, he maintained his fast after being taken into police custody. Moreover, Baba Ramdev has been accused of having links to the BJP and stated in an interview last year: “I’ve become so powerful, I can uproot a government.”, a bold statement for any sanyasin to take.
In the Hindu tradition, sanyas is the order of life in which a person renounces all worldly and materialistic pursuits and dedicates his or her life towards spiritual activities. Furthermore, according the Arthashastra, an ancient treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, a sanyasin is actually legally and socially dead and therefore cannot participate in any social or political aspects of life after entering that stage.
It seems that Baba Ramdev, who entered the stage of sanyas after his schooling, has conveniently disregarded or forgotten that he should be renouncing all worldly pursuits in favor of a life of spiritualism. Although he claims to have no financial power, his estimated worth is $220 million, giving him access to an incredible amount of resources and facilities worldwide and allowing him to conduct his yoga operations on a global scale.
Now he is involved in a politically motivated anti-corruption movement, using his spiritual influence to force politicians to make certain concessions. His involvement in modern day politics is disturbing, and it is furthermore upsetting that a spiritual leader, influential to so many Indians worldwide, has broken his vow of detachment and dispassion from worldly affairs. It would not be unwarranted to say that Baba Ramdev should remove himself from the anti-corruption movement altogether. Although he may be well intentioned, his involvement brings to question his dedication to his vow of renunciation, and it would be in his best interests – as well as those of his many followers – if he left the anti-corruption movement to Anna Hazare and the other worldly citizens of India.
Nikhil Bafna is a contributing writer to Divanee.com.