NEW: Baba Ramdev is released after short detention, police spokesman says
Police detained Ramdev during attempt to march on Indian parliament building Monday
Ramdev wants repatriation of illegal wealth held overseas and stronger corruption protections
Police briefly detained famed Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev on Monday after he tried to lead an anti-corruption march toward the national parliament building, a police spokesman said.
“Remove Congress and save the country,” the yoga guru said to thousands of supporters before officers took him into custody, referring to the ruling Congress Party.
The saffron-clad yoga teacher, whose televised breathing exercises are watched by millions, has been staging a demonstration since last week to demand repatriation of what he calls “black money,” or illegal Indian wealth in foreign banks.
He also favors the creation of a strong anti-corruption watchdog agency to deal with endemic graft in the country, echoing a key demand raised by another veteran activist, Anna Hazare, whose hunger strikes last year galvanized huge public support.
Ramdev was released shortly after police took him into custody, New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said Monday. An unspecified number of Ramdev’s supporters who had been taken into custody also were released, Bhagat said.
There were no reports of disorder during Monday’s demonstration, Bhagat said.
Unlike last year, there were no attempts this year by the Indian government, led by the Congress Party, to negotiate with Ramdev and Hazare.
Members of the party have in the past accused Ramdev of deceiving his followers and have questioned his wealthy lifestyle.
For the past year, India has seen a series of anti-corruption protests in the wake of high-profile scandals that have shaken investor confidence in Asia’s third largest economy and rocked the government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In June 2011, riot police broke up Ramdev’s hunger strike in an overnight night raid in New Delhi. The crackdown gave fresh impetus to the nation’s Hindu nationalist opposition to target the federal government over corruption issues.
Recently, Hazare launched a new hunger strike to add pressure to his persistent demands for a tough anti-corruption law.
Hazare and his supporters are also seeking special investigations into allegations of corruption they have made against more than a dozen of India’s federal government ministers, including Singh. The government has denied the allegations.
The 75-year-old former army driver ended the strike abruptly as crowds waned. He then announced he would work to give a new “political alternative” to Indians.
Earlier this year, the Congress Party suffered electoral defeat in the key state of Uttar Pradesh in a result that was widely seen as a litmus test for Singh’s government ahead of the 2014 national elections.