Amid high drama, the Delhi police on Saturday broke up the ‘satyagrah' of yoga guru Baba Ramdev and hundreds of his supporters in a late night crackdown at the sprawling Ramlila Grounds here and packed him off to Dehra Dun by a special plane on Sunday morning. During the four-hour operation, the police lobbed teargas shells and used physical force to disperse the large crowd, injuring scores of protesters.
The action began soon after permission for organising the yoga camp for an assembly not exceeding 5,000 people was withdrawn and a prohibitory order banning the gathering of more than five persons was clamped around 11.15 p.m. on Saturday. Soon policemen in large numbers led by senior officers descended on the satyagrah site. A police officer was also sent to inform Baba Ramdev that permission was withdrawn and that he should immediately leave the venue as there were intelligence reports of a threat to his life.
Commotion broke out as supporters of Baba Ramdev were woken up by slogans that plans were afoot to arrest him. In the confusion that ensued, the yoga guru jumped off the stage and mingled with his supporters. Perched on the shoulders of his bodyguard, he appealed to the agitated crowds to remain calm, even as they formed several protective rings around him. A little later he was back on the stage again shielded by his supporters.
The police alleged that at this juncture Baba Ramdev's supporters hurled bricks and flower pots at them, forcing them to lob teargas shells. As a cloud of smoke enveloped the pandal, people ran helter skelter and some of them fainted. A portion of the pandal adjoining the stage also caught fire.
Although the police denied that the protesters were lathi-charged, several people were injured in the police action. “Eight teargas shells were lobbed,” a police officer claimed.
Even as the yoga guru vanished backstage, the police forced the protesters out of the ground. Those who refused to leave were physically thrown out. The Rapid Action Force and women police personnel were also called in to clear the venue.
All this while, Baba Ramdev remained in hiding somewhere in the area. Around 4 a.m. he resurfaced, dressed in a salwar and kameez. The police said he was trying to sneak out of the venue accompanied by two women. Taking him to be an injured woman, when the staff of an ambulance van tried to help him, he turned down the offer and began walking away. This was when a security person intercepted him. He was taken into custody and whisked away.
Though the police were planning to take him out of the capital by helicopter from the Safdarjung airport, they later gave up the idea suspecting that his supporters might reach there and create trouble. He was shifted to the Palam airport and kept in a guesthouse before being made to board a government aircraft for Dehra Dun around 9.45 a.m.
According to the police, 39 protesters, including four women, and 23 policemen were injured. “All but three have been discharged,” said a police officer.
The police have registered a case of rioting, causing damage to public property and obstructing public servants from discharging their duties against unknown persons. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Cr.PC have been clamped in Hauz Qazi, Kamla Market and Indraprastha Estate in Central Delhi and the entire New Delhi area, preventing any large gathering for 15 days.