Baba Ramdev, whose claim to fame is yoga, has upset Christians with a picture of the Holy Cross while referring to the East India Company and asking people to boycott foreign goods.
Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali brand has been aggressive about its desi identity while pitching MNCs as `thieves’. Patanjali has compared its global rivals to the East India Company, which has since become a symbol of colonisation and oppression in India. "Though we got political freedom 70 years back, economic freedom is still a dream," the print advertisement states. "The way East India Company enslaved and looted us, multinational companies are still doing the same by selling soap, shampoo, toothpaste, cream, powder and similar daily items at exorbitant price," it says.
“In the commercial, Baba Ramdev has depicted the Cross, the very symbol of the Christian faith, and called upon Indians to boycott all foreign products. The commercial has the potential to destroy the very moral and secular fabric of India, eventually disrupting communal harmony. We have petitioned the president, prime minister, finance minister, minister for information and broadcasting, minister for corporate affairs and Advertising Standard Council of India demanding that this commercial advertisement be withdrawn forthwith and banned immediately from being screened on any public domain,” said Dr Abraham Mathai, president, ICV.
“The Christian community has no objections to the boycott he seeks, but we strongly object to the misuse of the Cross in the ad. The commercial has smartly depicted the Cross to show the British rule in India, in a bid to enable Baba Ramdev to arguably propagate his agenda of targeting a particular minority community. Such demagoguery will definitely result in increased attacks on churches,” he added.
Such demagoguery would definitely result in increased attacks on churches and Christian institutions in India, Mathai pointed out.
He added that ICV was writing to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other concerned officials and departments on the objectionable commercial.
The latest commercial shows a black-and-white clip depicting the pre-Independence 'Swadeshi' movement and suddenly zooms to a map of India with three crosses jutting out in three directions.
Between the crosses the words E, I and Co. are shown to represent the East India Company which subsequently paved the way for British colonial rule in India.
The ICV chief said that by obliquely singling out a particular minority community would make them vulnerable to hate attacks and extremism.
"All Indians of all communities have been living harmoniously side by side for centuries. The last thing we need is someone trying to make us a 'one-religion' country. Baba Ramdev and his followers would do well to understand the beauty of Indian democracy and brotherhood," Mathai said.
With inputs from agencies