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Indian yoga guru Ramdev threatens to form a militia

Draws thousands to demonstrate

India’s yoga guru Baba Ramdev looking over his shoulder in New Delhi. Photo: AFP

India’s yoga guru Baba Ramdev looking over his shoulder in New Delhi. Photo: AFP

A television yoga guru who has led protests against corruption in India threatened to form a militia yesterday as a new demonstration against the government drew thousands in New Delhi.

Yoga star Swami Ramdev, who was evicted from the capital along with thousands of followers at the weekend in a police crackdown, warned of violence if he was targeted again.

The activist, who is watched by millions of Indians every day on a religious television channel, called for men and women to join his “army”.

“They must be dedicated, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice,” he said from his base in northern India in remarks reported by the NDTV news channel. “They will be given arms training. We will build an army of 11,000 men and women.”

His spokesman told AFP that the force would have weapons but would act only in self-defence. He said that Mr Ramdev was determined to stand up to police if they again attacked him or his supporters.

Anti-corruption campaigns have tapped into widespread anger in India but Mr Ramdev’s comments were seen as likely to alienate many of his mainstream supporters.

The government slammed the speech, with Home Minister P. Chidambaram telling reporters Mr Ramdev had “exposed his true colours and true intentions”. “Let him do so, and the law will take its course,” he added.

In Delhi, crowds gathered at the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, considered the father of the Indian nation, to join a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with Mr Ramdev.

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