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L'affaire Ramdev hits govt hard, protests in Nepal

 NEW DELHI/HARDWAR, June 6 (IANS): The Supreme Court Monday issued notices to the central and Delhi governments over the forced ouster of Baba Ramdev from New Delhi even as protests erupted in Nepal against the attack on the still fasting yoga guru and his supporters.

 On the third day of his hunger strike against corruption, Ramdev, still fuming over the way police broke up his protest in Delhi's Ramlila ground post Saturday midnight, hardened his stand against the government and said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had failed to do his duty.

Speaking at his ashram in Hardwar, he asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission for Women (NCW) should take note of the "atrocities" on his supporters, particularly women and children.

"For the cognizance taken by Supreme Court on its own against this injustice, we thank (the court) from our hearts," he said. "The country is grateful."

The opposition National Democratic Alliance also welcomed the Supreme Court's move.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued notices to Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta asking them to explain what were the circumstances that led to the violent midnight drama.

A notice was also issued to Delhi chief secretary. All three were asked to reply in two weeks.

Basing themselves on media reports, judges B.S. Chauhan and Swatantar Kumar took suo motu cognizance of the police action against Ramdev and his supporters that injured more than 100 people, some seriously.

Hundreds of police personnel swooped down on Ramlila ground when most people were sleeping. Police used batons, tear gas and water cannon to clear the crowds, triggering chaos and clashes.

After returning to Hardwar, where an aide said he was continuing his fast that had begun Saturday morning.

The police action has polarized the opposition against the Congress-led government although ministers and Congress leaders hit back, with Digvijay Singh, the party general secretary, calling Ramdev a "thug".

While Ramdev supporters stoned Digvijay Singh's bungalow at Bhopal's Shyamala Hills, a court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar accepted a petition that accused the Congress leader of preaching sedition and hatred.

Ramdev has maintained that his supporters were attacked without provocation. He said Monday: "If (Mahatma) Gandhi was alive, he would have cried."

He also justified wearing women's clothes to escape from police action at the Ramlila ground, saying it was not a sign of weakness and he used survival tactics like warrior king Shivaji.

A delegation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has launched an aggressive attack on the government over the Ramdev episode, met President Pratibha Patil to ask her to convene a special session of parliament.

"We will expose this government as it is not at all keen to take any meaningful action against the menace of corruption and black money," party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Meanwhile, protests began in Nepal's capital Monday in support of Ramdev, who enjoys a wide following there.

The Patanjali Yog Kendra established in Kathmandu by the yoga teacher took out a silent rally from the Indian embassy to the foreign ministry office nearby, condemning the police onslaught in New Delhi.

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