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In this Idea Exchange moderated by Consulting Editor Seema Chishti,Baba Ramdev speaks about his campaign to bring black money back to the country and his association with Team Anna
Seema Chishti: From teaching yoga and ayurveda,you have now diverted your energies to fighting black money. Why this diversion into the political sphere?
Baba Ramdev: Acharya Chanakya has said that life begins with dharma because every human wants well-being,happiness,pleasure,whether it is bhog or yog. I havent developed my own philosophy. Dharam is incomplete without arth and since arth is regulated by politics,the government decides all policies and hence the meaning. So it is not a move to protest and oppose,but dharma and arth are complementary.
Coomi Kapoor: Anna Hazare and you started your civil movements together,but people say you have gone ahead of him now.
Baba Ramdev: No one is ahead or behind anyone. Yog means moving together. When I heard such things for the first time,I thought they were coming from the English media,not the vernacular media. It still surprises me,and I do not appreciate it. We have never thought on these lines. I consider Anna Hazare my dear friend and a senior. No one is leading anyone here. We have been walking down this revolutionary path together.
Rakesh Sinha: You have met many leaders of different political parties. What assurances,if any,have people like Sharad Pawar given you?
Baba Ramdev: We have just one purposethat of bringing about a consensus. There are two ways to change things: one is by elections,the other is arriving at a consensus for change through a movement that has the common man in the forefront. We have chosen the path of the movement. We have held several thousand yatras and sabhas. The number of people attending these has been between 20,000 and 2 lakhover 11 crore people have participated already. An atmosphere has been created for a revolution and for change. For that,political parties need to arrive at a consensus on the commitment to fight black money and corruption.
We have no hidden agenda. Our purpose was to have both the NDA and the UPA agree to this and they have done so. A positive atmosphere has been created. We do not consider political parties as our enemies or of the nation. We respect democracy and the institutions. We want to bring back black money and end corruption. What is the problem? There are two problems in the world. One is bank and bankers,the other is the greedy mega capitalists. Banks and bankers are the biggest thieves who commit the biggest financial frauds in the world. As for the mega capitalists,they wish to claim authority and ownership of money and property all over the world. So they want supportive policies from the government,which is essentially run by them and their money. So they finance the government,and they buy out the bureaucrats. So if pressure is not applied on these two culprits,well neither get black money back nor will it stop
accumulating. Our fight is against this mentality.
Shefalee Vasudev: You have been criticised a great deal and praised as well. Have the peace and calm of a yogi been disturbed by the media glare?
Baba Ramdev: I have cured medical problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. I have made people quit smoking and drinking. I have made late risers wake up early. To achieve 1 per cent of this,I had to put in some effort,the remaining 99 per cent came easily and swiftly. I thought we could change politics the same way,but I realised it is tough. Criticism does prick. I wonder why people say I am wrong. I am not wrong. I have never had any greed. I have never done anything wrong. So how can I be wrong? Putting across my point of view makes me feel better.
Shefalee Vasudev: Did you ever feel that the English media and the vernacular media understand and treat you differently?
Baba Ramdev: Yes,even now they do. It was suggested that I should do some image-building for the English media or else I wont achieve anything with my present efforts. I am a desi man,I havent ever done any image building and I wont do it now. We have never indulged in paid media coverage. Now,the English media is taking us a little more seriously and that makes me happy. I used to think that English-speaking people consider us fools because we are not well-versed in English. We used to consider them fools too. Things are changing. I can understand English now though I cannot speak the language very well.
Monojit Majumdar: When you planned the joint dharna with Team Anna,was there an understanding with Arvind Kejriwal and others that no political leader would be named?
Baba Ramdev: We dont wish to fuel this matter any further. If I say something now,then Arvind will comment on it and well be in another controversy. The issue for me is not whether political leaders are named or not. I am concerned about corruption,black money,reforms as well as economic and moral development in the country. Positive change is the issue,not an unnecessary controversy over who said what.
Monojit Majumdar: Team Anna members say you are together but that their programme and your programme will be separate. Are you together or not?
Baba Ramdev: We have a common minimum programme on black money and corruption. Beyond that,both our organisations are different. So we are together with a common agenda that binds us.
Monojit Majumdar: Do you talk directly with Anna or to the other members of his team?
Baba Ramdev: We have several dimensions to our movementblack money,corruption,changing the system,etc. Annas presence is really big in the fight against corruption. As far as talking is concerned,we talk at least once a week,if not more often. I speak to Kejriwal too. When there is a need to talk on an important issue,we talk to each other so that there is no confusion. So far,there has been no communication gap.
Vijaita Singh: Do you have any guilt over what happened on June 3,2011 at Ramlila Grounds when a woman lost her life and several others were injured?
Baba Ramdev: If you look at world history,any fight of this kind for change leads to great losses. We are prepared for such losses. To gain something,we will have to suffer losses.
Vijaita Singh: But you had sought permission for a yoga camp.
Baba Ramdev: The June 3 incident is a year old and stale. The case is on in the Supreme Court. Everything happened with the knowledge of the government. No rule or law was broken. The Supreme Court has maintained that whatever Baba Ramdev did was legal and constitutional and he did not instigate violence. We had permission for a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar and the government had asked us to do it there (Ramlila). Until then,we were the governments guests,only later did we become life-threatening enemies.
Shailesh Suman: Do you believe in socialism or capitalism?
Baba Ramdev: I am against capitalism. Spiritual socialism and decentralised development is my line of thought.
Shailesh Suman: About three years ago,I tried to enter your camp but couldnt purchase tickets because of financial problems. VIP tickets were being sold in black.
Baba Ramdev: Entry to all our camps is 100 per cent free. We have taken donations,but you cant call every donation business. We started from scratchwe didnt have research laboratories or space for people to stay. People used to stand in kilometre-long queues to see me. To serve these people,we accepted donations. If people were making money in black,we wouldnt know about that.
Pallavi Pundir: Media reports say you claim to have a cure for homosexuality.
Baba Ramdev: There are lots of aberrations in nature. Homosexuality is a disease. This is my moral stand. Apart from being a sanyasi,I cure as well. Yoga and ayurveda are my two weapons. Homosexuals say their orientation is genetic,but so is depression. I think whatever the cause,there is an aberration which cannot be considered completely healthy. All kinds of aberrations can be corrected by yog and this is a fact.
Seema Chishti: When Anna Hazares movement was at its peak,it was alleged that the RSS was supporting them. The RSS said they were instrumental in making the movement popular. When you launched your Bharat Swabhiman,did you speak to senior RSS members? Did you discuss your philosophy with the Swadeshi Jagran Manch because there are a lots of similarities between SJMs philosophy and your views?
Baba Ramdev: Before starting the Bharat Swabhiman Andolan and the Swadeshi Andolan,we did not consult the Sangh leadership. But I have never hidden my meetings with Sangh members,nor do I consider it wrong because I do not consider them untouchable. RSS has patriotic people. During the war with China,Jawaharlal Nehru spoke to them. Jayaprakash Narayan included them in his struggle. I am clear that we should speak with patriotic people,irrespective of their ideology or religion. We should support each other. This untouchability should be avoided.
Rakesh Sinha: Will you meet Narendra Modi too?
Baba Ramdev: He had come to Yogpeeth when Id invited about 25 chief ministers. As long as someone is not declared a criminal by our law,I will meet that person.
Ankit Jain: You said the Congress doesnt intend to bring back black money. Do you think that if the BJP comes to power,they will do so? But they could not do much when they were in power.
Baba Ramdev: If the Congress goes,who will replace them? The people of the country have to prepare for this. They (Congress) will go if they do not bring back the black money. Our andolan on August 9 will be about this. There will be a political transformation.
Monojit Majumdar: Have you spoken to former Army chief Gen VK Singh about black money and corruption? Will he join you?
Baba Ramdev: I never lie. And I will not speak the truth here.
Monojit Majumdar: Can we say that talks are in progress between you and him?
Baba Ramdev: He gave a statement about three days ago saying,like the common people of India,Im a supporter of Babaji and Annajis andolan. Before he became a general,he had come to Patanjali Yogpeeth. I cant say that Ive never met him. I have met him. I havent spoken to him after his retirement though.
Ruchika Talwar: Why dont you stand for election?
Baba Ramdev: No major movement has been run through elections. When Mahatma Gandhi led the national movement,he never ran for elections. When Jayaprakash Narayan started his movement,it wasnt through elections. And Yogeshwar Bhagwan Shri Krishna struggled to establish Dharmarajya,but he wasnt after the position. This process of transformation never comes from desire for political power.
Now,theres one question that you have not asked so I will ask it: what have we achieved in one year? Neither has corruption gone down,nor has black money come back. What will happen on August 9 that will be new? This time,the movement will be about procedures. On August 9,we want to take it a step further. I believe there are five important steps to erase corruption and seven procedures to bring back black money. To remove corruption,there are five institutions,of which four are already there and the fifth one will be made soon. There is the Election Commission,CAG,Central Vigilance Commission and CBI. The fifth institution is the Lokpal. We will build public pressure on the government so that the procedure for electing the heads of these institutions is unbiased.
Transcribed by Geeta Gupta ,Pallavi Pundir and Somya Lakhani