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Anger after guru held at airport

Yoga Guru Swami Ramdevji, with Keith Vaz at Heathrow Airport, was due to travel on to Little Cumbrae. Picture: PA

Yoga Guru Swami Ramdevji, with Keith Vaz at Heathrow Airport, was due to travel on to Little Cumbrae. Picture: PA

  • by GARETH ROSE
 

A DEMONSTRATION made up of 150 yogis who descended on Heathrow airport to protest at the detention of their spiritual guru broke up last night when he was allowed to stay in the country.

Supporters of Swami Ramdevji staged an unlikely rally at Terminal Five after it emerged that the yoga superstar had been detained by immigration officials after arriving from India.

Ramdevji, 47, known as Baba Ramdev or the Swami to his 85 million followers worldwide, was held for several hours, preventing him from continuing his journey to Scotland, where he is due to lead a class of 1,500 yoga students in Glasgow tomorrow. Ramdevji arrived in London on Friday and was detained for eight hours before being granted a one-day visa to allow him to visit friends in Leicester. Ramdevji, 47, who speaks little English, said he did not know why he was held.

He returned to Heathrow yesterday afternoon, accompanied by Keith Vaz, Leicester East MP and chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Ramdevji, dressed in an orange robe and wooden sandals, was mobbed by the throng of cheering supporters.

He addressed the crowd in Hindi before he and Vaz met the chief immigration official.

Emerging after the brief meeting, Vaz said the guru was now allowed to stay.

He said: “However, it is still a matter of concern to his many supporters and thousands of people who couldn’t be here today that he should have been treated in the way he was treated when he arrived at Heathrow. No Indian citizen with a valid visa entering the UK for lawful purposes should be held in this way.”

Vaz said he would pursue a fuller explanation later.

Last night, Sunita Poddar, the Glasgow-based businesswoman responsible for arranging Swami Ramdevji’s visit to the UK, said: “We are delighted that this ordeal is now over. There is nothing sinister or controversial in anything he is doing, which is why we are mystified by the actions of immigration officials.”

Poddar said that she understood Ramdevji was detained after arriving at passport control. “He was kept in a room for eight hours, while officials checked his paperwork and luggage. At no time was he questioned,” she said.

In 2009, Poddar bought Little Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde for £2.5 million and turned the 700-acre island into a retreat for the Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust which follows the teachings of Ramdevji, who has his own TV channel in India.

Last night, news of the detention sparked anger in his homeland.

The guru’s spokesman, SK Tejarawala, was reported as saying: “It was not clear why the yoga guru was detained for over six hours at Heathrow.

“He was not carrying anything with him except a small bag of personal effects. It is for the British authorities to explain why he was detained.”

He added: “It is an insult to the whole of India. This is simply a case of an insult to the Indian language, Indian attire and Indians.”

Ramdevji’s supporters claimed he might have been targeted by the Indian authorities for speaking out about corruption at home. Omparkash Yadav, a group organiser, said: “It is not an issue with his visa, that was given by the British High Commission.”

Last night, a Home Office spokeswoman said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

 

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