New Delhi: Yoga guru Baba Ramdev launched his indefinite fast against corruption and blackmoney here on Saturday morning after the government failed to convince him to call off his protest.

The yoga guru began the protest along with thousands of his followers at the Ramlila maidan here as he was joined by Swami Sadhavi Ritambhara and other religious leaders from the Sikh, Jain and Muslim communities.

READ MORE:The journey of the Yoga Guru- Baba Ramdev

Before launching the fast, Ramdev held a yoga and 'bhajan' session during which he told the gathering that the protest was intended to save the country from corruption and ensure that the poor get a good life.

"Nothing is impossible, everything is possible and we are not going to be defeated," the saffron-clad Baba seated on on an elevated platform, told the gathering, referring to bringing back of black money stashed in tax havens abroad.

"What will India get from this protest? India will be saved now... People will get an opportunity for the first time that in all government professional colleges one can carry on
the studies in his mother tongue," he said.

Sadhvi Ridambhara, who also addressed the gathering, lavished praises on him saying "if  there were more Vallabhai Patels, then there was no need for a sanyasi to sit on satyagraha."

Talks with Ramdev fail

Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay had held a marathon meeting on Friday  with Ramdev to persuade him to not to go ahead with his indefinite fast. However, the talks
failed to reach any breakthrough with the yoga guru insisting that all his demands be met with completely.

“We have yet not reached a compromise and I will sit on hunger strike (from Saturday),” Ramdev said after his meeting with union ministers Kapil Sibal and and Subodh Kant Sahay.

Conspiracy against me: Ramdev

Ramdev alleged there was a conspiracy against him to ensure that he does not go ahead with his protest fast but asserted that it had "failed".

During his discourse at the Ramlila grounds, the yoga guru refused to reveal what the  conspiracy was but said he will reveal it at the "right time".

"I will certainly not talk about all issues today, there was a conspiracy but it has failed. What was the conspiracy, I will not say today. When the right time comes, I will say," Ramdev said.

He said his "satyagraha" along with thousands of people around the country was to ensure that corruption is rooted out from the nation.

A large number of security personnel, including women from Rapid Action Force, were deployed at the protest site to ensure no untoward incident takes place. A manual frisking is also being carried out at the entrance.

The crowd cheered Ramdev whenever he spoke about bringing back black money, declaring it as a national asset and other issues of corruption. A number of RSS pracharaks in their uniforms were also seen at the site, keenly listening to the discourse.

Bhojpuri star at agitation site

Bhojpuri superstar Manoj Tiwari was the first celebrity to reach Ramlila Maidan -- the site of Baba Ramdev's hunger strike -- where he sang bhajans and patriotic songs along with thousands of supporters of the yoga guru.

The popular singer-actor claimed that he had told his producer that he will not shoot for a month from June 4 as he wanted to join Baba Ramdev in his campaign against black
money.

Tiwari said he had informed his producer in advance that he may have to bear loss as the actor wanted to join Ramdev.

Tiwari began with Mahatma Gandhi's favourite bhajan 'Raghupati Raghav Rajaram' and also sang other patriotic songs.

Kejriwal, Bhushans back Ramdev

Civil society members of the Lokpal bill drafting committee Friday extended their support to Baba Ramdev who has proposed to begin an indefinite fast against black money from Saturday.

"We support his agitation against black money stashed in banks abroad," Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the joint committee drafting the anti-graft law, said on the sidelines of a programme here.

“We will be there with him by Sunday,” he said.

“Even (former Jharkhand chief minister) Madhu Koda can become prime minister tomorrow, if prime minister in not under Lokpal, he can well sell off the country,” Kejriwal said.

Centre assures Ramdev

After failing to stop Baba Ramdev from going ahead with his mass hunger strike against corruption in India, the government on Friday night assured him that it was considering to declare as 'national asset' the black money stashed in foreign banks - a key demand the yoga guru has raised.

The government said a committee was already in place to suggest how to strengthen existing laws relating to black money. “The committee will examine the measures to strengthen the existing legal and administrative framework to deal with the menace of generation of black money through illegal means,” it said.

Among other things, the panel is examining the demand of “declaring wealth generated illegally as national asset; amend laws to confiscate and recover such assets; and providing for exemplary punishment against its perpetrators,” the statement said.

The statement dwelt extensively on the black money issue and said the legal framework was being regulated by the Reserve Bank of India for the opening of bank accounts overseas by Indian residents.

It also said that ill gotten wealth stashed abroad could be recovered through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty -- which India has already signed with 26 countries.

RSS behind Baba Ramdev's fast

Stepping up his attack on Baba Ramdev, Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh on Friday alleged that RSS was behind the yoga guru's indefinite fast.

Frowning upon the protest action by the Baba, Singh agreed with a questioner that the Yoga guru was playing politics. "If you want to teach yoga, I have no problem, but if you want to do politics, then join the fray".

Singh, who has been speaking against Ramdev despite a virtual gag order by the party, alleged that it has been crystal clear that the RSS volunteers were behind the Baba's protest action.

"Right from putting up the pandal to organise the meetings, everywhere there is RSS," he told reporters.

PM briefs President on Ramdev

As the senior ministers struggled to persuade Baba Ramdev to give up his proposed fast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh briefed President Pratibha Patil on the progress of talks with the yoga guru.

During the 40 minute meeting, Singh briefed the President about his recent visit to Ethiopia and Tanzania and also about the "ongoing dialogue with Baba Ramdev", a Rashtrapati Bhavan release said.

Various other issues of national and international importance were also discussed during the meeting, the release added.

Anna Hazare backs Ramdev

Civil Society members led by Anna Hazare on Friday fully backed Baba Ramdev's proposed indefinite fast and said there was no competetion to outshine anyone by any group as they all are working together.

"It is not a competition. Ultimately we will have to think about the country. We will have to think about the welfare of the people. Ramdev is taking up some issues. Anna Hazare has taken up some issues..No one is outshining anyone," Hazare's close associate Arvind Kejriwal said.

On Ramdev's proposed fast, he said "we are fully supporting his movement."

Ramdev finds no supporters in B-town
 
Baba Ramdev's proposed agitation against corruption is not finding many takers in the film fraternity.

While Salman Khan has questioned the need for a fast, Shah Rukh has openly branded the planned agitation "politically motivated".

"That (fight against corruption) is a good thing, but one does not need to fast for it. He should talk to his followers first and tell them not to give bribes. That is one way to stop corruption," Salman told reporters here.

National award winning actress and activist Shabana Azmi, who had earlier spoken in support of the movement, has clarified her stance, saying that she will not be joining the yoga guru.

"In a democracy everybody has a right to take a stand on any issue. Anybody who brings the issue of corruption into the public domain, needs to be encouraged and applauded. But I had categorically mentioned that I do not want to support Baba Ramdev. I am very pained at being misreported," said Azmi.

Read more: Ramdev’s campaign is politically motivated: Shah Rukh Khan


JPN/Agencies