Indian Supreme Court Questions Crackdown on Protest

Posted June 6th, 2011 at 11:20 am (UTC-5)
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India's Supreme Court said Monday it wants the government to explain why it sent hundreds of police to end the peaceful hunger strike of a popular yoga guru and thousands of his supporters.

Baba Ramdev's mass fast, staged in a huge tent in New Delhi, was part of a populist campaign to fight corruption.

His protest was broken up in a pre-dawn raid Sunday by police, who used batons to disperse tens of thousands of people. Dozens were injured and the guru was briefly detained.

On Monday, India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party joined the Supreme Court in questioning the crackdown on the protest.

BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani demanded the government convene a special parliamentary session to explain the police action.

Baba Ramdev began his hunger strike to demand the government bring back money illegally stashed overseas and introduce tough anti-corruption legislation. He wants the death penalty for corrupt officials.

Police say Baba Ramdev did not have permission to hold such a large protest, and the massive gathering could have posed a law and order problem. The government says the guru went back on promises to call off the hunger strike.

Baba Ramdev is continuing his campaign in Haridwar, the Hindu holy town in northern India where he was taken by police after being detained. He vowed Monday to build his campaign into a national movement.

Baba Ramdev's protest began two months after the government was caught unaware by massive popular support for another anti-graft campaign started by a social activist (Anna Hazare) in April.

India's ruling Congress party has been under pressure following a series of corruption scandals. Authorities are currently investigating whether the organizers of last year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi received kickbacks amounting to billions of dollars. And the Indian government says it lost up to $40 billion in revenue due to the sale of mobile phone licenses at below-market prices.