June 2, 2011
Jyeshth Shukla Pratipada , Kaliyug Varsha 5113
Swami Ramdev, India’s most popular yoga guru, has a following in Houston that will join him in a fast starting Saturday. (Michael Paulsen / Chronicle)
Swami Ramdev, a yoga guru who has risen to Oprah or Joel Osteen-level popularity in India through his syndicated TV program, has planned a hunger strike against government corruption. About 10 million followers are expected to join him, including hundreds of Indian-Americans living in Houston.
The fast will begin Saturday—despite appeals from the Indian prime minister to call it off. Ramdev’s a powerful spiritual leader with widespread influence, so he’s the kind of guy who won’t stand down… even to government figureheads.
“(Ramdev) believes that the systems in India require change and it’s not possible unless the masses join the movement and uproot the entrenched current systems, built on corruption or inefficiency and supported by powerful vested interests. People have to wake up as a united force to save India,” said former Indian ambassador to the U.S. Bhishma Kumar Agnihotri in the Indo American News.
Agnihotri will join Houston’s Hindu leaders at a Vedic center in Mission Bend to fast in solidarity this weekend.
Though Ramdev has pledged to fast unto death, followers will choose to fast in their own ways, perhaps limiting themselves to a liquid diet, as local Hindu Vijay Pallod plans to do.
The swami has a significant following in Houston. He has visited the area three times in as many years, and his devotees broke ground last summer on a $20 million retreat center in Rosenberg. I met Ramdev during his most recent visit, when he explained that energy produced by yoga and breathing techniques should be focused on serving others.
The Indian-Americans, though thousands of miles away from where the corruption is taking place, remains concerned about the situation in their homeland and specifically what it means for the country’s poor, said Pallod.
India has a history of bribery, scams and other government scandals that have caused many to lose confidence in the system, and the swami has focused this fast on “black money,” Indian funds being stashed in overseas banks.
The fast, if things go as planned, might push the government to work for a solution that the swami will see as a success.