Billionaire yoga teacher Baba Ramdev wants sweeping political measures across India, including a total ban on alcohol and cow slaughter. He also suggested stripping third-born children of voting rights to curb population growth.
“India’s population should not be more than 150 crores (1.5 billion) in the next 50 years as we are not prepared or ready to bear more than that. This is only possible when the government makes a law that [the] third child would not be allowed to vote, neither contest election nor he/she enjoys any type of privileges and facilities given by the government,” Ramdev told reporters at a press conference on Sunday.
He added that the measures would help prevent people from giving birth “no matter which religion they belong to.”
Having gained a huge following as a TV celebrity yogi, alongside having access to a huge amount of resources from his multi-billion dollar consumer goods empire, Ramdev has become a force to be reckoned with in Indian politics, and a face of the country’s conservative Hindu movement.
He also has a personal relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Despite having distanced himself from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) some months ago, he again called on supporters to rally behind the leader during this month’s election, saying that Modi is “the only one who can protect the nation.”
Asaduddin Owaisi who heads the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party, dedicated to advancing the rights of India’s Muslims, pointed out that Ramdev might want to rethink his call to strip third-borns of their civil rights, considering Prime Minister Modi himself is the third of six children.
There is no law preventing people from saying downright unconstitutiona things, but why do Ramdev’s ideas receive undue attention?
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) 27 Μαΐου 2019
Other reactions on Twitter were divided, some feeling that the situation was serious enough to justify even draconian measures, while others felt that Ramdev is pushing the country toward a theocracy.
He’s gone crazy. If the state permits a third child to be born then he has to be treated as a citizen on par with any other citizen. Are we living in a republic state or in a monarchy!
— Rajesh CNB (@chakritweet) 26 Μαΐου 2019
The yoga guru also offered a strict prescription for ending violence between predominantly Muslim cow smugglers and Hindu “gau rakshak” (cow protectors), arguing for a blanket-ban on cow slaughter nationwide. The practice is currently banned in 20 out of 29 states in India.
While this position is unlikely to gain him any fans among India’s 172 million Muslims, his call for a “complete ban” on alcohol might prove more popular.
“In Islamic countries, liquor is banned. If in Islamic countries it can be banned then why not in India? This is the land of sages,” Ramdev argued.