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Ganga depletion leading to loss of indigenous livelihoods: Fasting saint tells activist

Counterview Desk
In a letter to Ramnath Kovind, President of India, Chandra Vikash, who is convener of the civil rights organization Global Academy for Indigenous (Dalit) Activism (GAIA), Delhi, has expressed the apprehension that crores of indigenous (Dalit) livelihoods would be affected if the Government of India fails to ensure “free-flow” of River Ganga and other rivers, making them “pollution-free”.
Pointing towards the 148-day fast of Sant Atmabodhanand to “protect Ganga”, Vikash says, instead of Ganga becoming “free-flow and free of pollution”, things have actually “worsened in past three years.” He jotted down a note on March 10 after his interaction with Atmabodhanand, even as the protest and solidarity march began on March 9 from Delhi to Haridwar.

Excerpts from the note:

I met Swami Atmabodhanand over last few days in Haridwar before returning to Delhi in the night yesterday. Today is the 139th day of his fast. He is a strong-willed person and would never give up his fast till his last breathe.
But the physical body is taking its own course. I am concerned as every well-wisher would be about his health. What amazed me so much that even after all these waste of fasting, he is so articulate and mentally agile.
He shared with me how so many more times indigenous livelihoods are already lost and further depleting due to the incessant damming of the rivers and all the industrial and urban effluents and sewage being dumped into this once mighty river that's only a pale shadow of its legendary glory and gust. Of farmers on its meandering catchment area in the hills and the floodplains; of fishermen folks whose catch from the free flowing river is shrinking to well-below subsistence levels; of the boating folks who would help move people and goods in a far more sustainable and ecologically friendly manner than the voracious plundering of resources that the numerous and growing road and rail bridges enable; of how the numerous wells and ponds and the "pynes" that would carry the water to near and further villages and towns are depleting and vanishing.
He mentioned how the depleting "bacteriophage" and healthy radiation of "Gangajal" that was a cure for numerous diseases from cholera to tuberculosis and is responsible for its "magical" properties is now turning it stale within 5 days and has become a public health scare for people on its banks and basin consuming this water.
He added how American health scientists worried about growing antibiotic resistance among their population are now discovering how important the bacteriophage really is. We also discussed how displaced and dispossessed of their indigenous livelihoods, they were pushed into supporting riverbed mining and other destructive industries and construction activities for their sustenance and become their own worst enemies -- mindlessly siding with their exploiters and opposing the protests that would help them restore their far more sustainable, robust and healthy indigenous livelihoods.
Tears well up in my eyes though when I noticed how he could not get up on his feet on his own after kneeling down to his guru Swami Shivanand ji in the morning. Yet, he put up a brave face when the medical officials came from the health department for the medical check up. There were four well-fed smug officials. Though visibly sympathetic and respectful to him and concerned about his health, their disdain for the protest came out in the open when one of them in course of our conversation proclaimed how they had helped increase longevity in India from 37 years in the pre-independence era to 67 years today and alleged that "environmentalists" like us had only made a negative contribution.
He was too impatient to listen to how the empirical evidence was to the contrary and exposed his blatant lies and delusion. He left soon after as the Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat was in Haridwar and he had to rush for another VIP check-up.
After he left though, Atmabodhanand ji told me that I should not have mentioned to the health officials about the morning incident on how his body was becoming too weak to get up on its own. He was afraid that if the officials gave a true report, the Big Brother Government would forcefully evict him before killing him like numerous others before him.
Deep inside this made me seethe with rage and fury over the state of affairs in free and democratic India over how even silent and peaceful protests meet with a cruel and violent fate. But I held it back and moved on determined to call a spade a spade and to fight for justice and truth as a duty unto victory.
Hopefully, we will be able to apply international pressure on the big brother Government of India and the State Government of Uttarakhand to stop further degradation and destruction of the Ganga River and its eco-system of rich bio-diversity and to restore it to health and glory.
So that the millions of lost and depleting indigenous livelihoods can be restored and their rights to traditional indigenous way of life can be defended in the letter and spirit of the United Nations Declaration for Rights of Indigenous People signed nearly unanimously by all the members worldwide. Government of India is not just a signatory.
On several occasions including recently by the foreign minister, it has a proclaimed to be a strong votary to its implementation. We just need to remind them and hold them accountable to their words and deeds.

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