Police storm Ramlila Ground, Baba Ramdev evicted
Hundreds of police swooped on the Ramlila ground and forcibly removed Baba Ramdev.
New Delhi: With talks breaking down, police swooped down on Baba Ramdev a little past midnight and detained him after firing tear gas shells and resorting to lathicharge on his supporters to end his day-old indefinite hunger strike on black money issue.
The dramatic police action came after government and the 46-year-old Yoga Guru had accused each other the previous night of betrayal on mutual assurances.
The drama that broke the midnight calm in the Ramlila Maidan a little after 1 am unfolded when a large number of police personnel descended at the protest venue where Ramdev was demanding immediate action to bring back black money stashed in foreign tax havens.
After day break, police cleared all the remnants of Baba`s support by evicting his followers from the protest site amidst stiff resistance.
Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said Baba Ramdev was detained as he was leaving the site.
Later sources said he was allowed to go out of Delhi and probably he was headed to Haridwar.
Earlier, Home Secretary GK Pillai had maintained that he was not arrested or detained, a point echoed by Delhi Police Commissioner BK Gupta, who also rushed to the spot.
Gupta said there were some security concerns and that the permission for the yoga camp has been cancelled.
He said Ramdev`s supporters indulged in stone throwing. Police did not use force except to use some tear gas, he added.
Ramdev`s key aide, Tijarawala alleged that he has been "kidnapped" by police and he feared for his life. The spokesman appealed to the Chief Justice of India to intervene and ensure Ramdev`s safety and release.
The police withdrew the permission for his yoga camp and imposed prohibitory orders after what a senior police official said a political decision was taken to end the protest.
The previous night, the government and Ramdev indulged in a blame game. Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who had negotiated with Ramdev, made public a letter written by his aide that the fast would be called off on Saturday evening if government gave written assurances on a legislation to bring back the black money from abroad and stringent punishment to offenders.
Ramdev hit back, saying government has indulged in "betrayal and cheating" and vowed not to talk to Sibal ever in his life. He said he would go by the word of the Prime Minister.
After mutual accusations, the government on late Saturday night sent a fresh letter of assurance on his demands and appealed to him to withdraw his fast.
In the midnight drama, that was enacted live in front of television cameras, Ramdev`s supporters, who were woken up from their sleep, rose in protest against the police action.
Some elderly people swooned due to the impact of tear gas shelling resorted to by police.
Around 30 of his supporters have been admitted to a nearby government hospital for treatment of injuries allegedly suffered during the police action. Chaos and commotion prevailed when the police, including a contingent of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), arrived at the venue and approached Ramdev, who was sleeping on the specially-erected rostrum from where he was addressing his supporters throughout the day.
As news spread that Ramdev may be arrested, a posse of supporters, including women, formed a human cordon around him making the job of police difficult to approach him.
Some supporters carried Baba Ramdev, who jumped from the dias, on their shoulders and that was the last that he was seen on television screens before he was removed from the place and detained.
Earlier, Ramdev was seen appealing to the supporters to remain calm and sought to pacify them while urging them not to resort to violence.
There was a minor fire when one of the tear gas shells emitted spark while falling near the stage. The blaze was put out immediately.
In his address to the supporters, Ramdev appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to allow him to be arrested during daytime.
"Why am I being arrested without any information, at night? I appeal to people to maintain calm...," Ramdev told the gathering.
He also appealed the people of Delhi to come in large numbers to the protest venue.
A section of supporters threw pots, tripods and mike stands on cops to prevent them from coming close to the stage.
The crowd dispersed from the stage after police fired tear gas shells. People were seen vacating the dais and the surrounding area after tear gas enveloped the whole area. The supporters also claimed that Baba along with Acharya Bala Krishnan and Jaydeep Arya, head of Bharat Swabhiman Manch, were arrested.
They also said Swami Sampoornanand, who is second in command, has taken charge of the agitation and has asked people to gather at Jantar Mantar.
Banners were torn and mattresses and furniture lay all over the Ramlila Maidan that resembled a war zone after the police action.
The Ramlila ground was booked for 20 days by Baba Ramdev for yoga camp but was turned as the venue for his "Satyagraha" movement.
Organisers were asking people not to leave the pandal and continue the protest. Some of them, associated with Baba`s movement, contacted their associates in respective states to protest against police action in the morning.
Large number of people were leaving the spot, some were seen arguing with the policemen that why they have taken such an action when their protest was peaceful.
Some of the supporters refused to leave the venue saying they will not move till they get a direction to do so from Baba.