Skip to main content

Fasting to conserve Ganga, Atmabodhanand follows India's "glorious" tradition of sacrifices

By Sandeep Pandey*
The freedom struggle of this country has witnessed a band of youth inspired by a zeal willing to put their lives at stake. Number of them were arrested, tried in court and executed by the British. Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Thakur Roshan Singh, Rajendra Nath Lahiri, Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar, Jatindra Nath Das are common household names in India of revolutionaries who sacrificed their lives.
Most of them were hanged. Chandrashekhar Azad shot himself dead to escape arrest and Jatindra Nath Das died after a 63 days hunger strike inside Lahore prison, where Bhagat Singh also fasted with him, for better living conditions for political prisoners.
Potti Sreeramulu, a freedom fighter, died in independent India after fasting for 58 days in Chennai for a separate Andhra state for Telugu speaking people in 1952. Even though this demand had popular support, the reason why Jawaharlal Nehru government eventually agreed to it, Potti Sreeramulu's effort was an individual decision.
A 13-years-old girl Aradhana Samdhariya belonging to Jain community died on October 3, 2016 after fasting for 68 days for purely religious reason with the consent of her parents as an alternative to becoming a monk. This fast was not meant to achieve any social purpose and hence was an individual effort for individual cause.
Irom Sharmila fasted for 16 long years in Manipur, while being force fed, demanding repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, demonstrating a steely resolve. Her decision to go on fast and to withdraw was again individual. Fortunately, she survived the long ordeal.
Over three lakh farmers have committed suicide in India since the economic policies of privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation were implemented because of their inability to repay loans. Even though the number of farmers who gave up their lives was larger than any other group who made sacrifices, the cause was individual and incidents were sporadic, not premeditated.
Naxalites and terrorists also exhibited a strong sense of purpose and commitment to give up their lives for it but they resorted to violent means and were considered outlaws by the society.
After the collective effort during freedom struggle when the abovementioned revolutionaries staked their lives for a greater cause we witness a similar phenomenon among saints for the conservation of river Ganga. Most of these are associated with Matri Sadan Ashram in Haridwar.
Sixty fasts unto death have been organised by this Ashram so far in which two saints Swami Nigmanand and Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, who was earlier known as Professor GD Agrawal at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, died after fasting for 115 and 112 days, respectively, in 2011 and 2018.
Brahmachari Atmabodhanand is currently sitting on fast for over 190 days and is going to give up water on May 5, 2019. Baba Nagnath had died in 2014 in Varanasi after 114 days of fast for the same demand.
Swami Gokulanand, who sat on the first fast against illegal mining in Ganga in 1998 along with Swami Nigmanand on behalf of Matri Sadan was murdered in 2003. The head of Matri Sadan Swami Shivanand who has himself fasted against illegal mining in the past has taken a decision that one saint after another will sit on fast until the demand of Professor GD Agrawal to let Ganga flow uninterrupted and clean is met by the government.
While the Manmohan Singh government had agreed to some demands of Professor GD Agrawal when he fasted five times, the present government has chosen to ignore the sacrifices of saints.
It is a pity that most of the people who put their lives at stake were not able to generate enough mass support for themselves. That is the reason they died while fasting. They received very limited support from society even though the cause that they espoused for were public and would benefit the society at large.
Except for Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare, whose fasts attracted public attention and people were moved by them, most of the people who fasted unto death received a very feeble response from society. In fact, the society was cruelly insensitive towards them.
However, these fasts have proved that when there is darkness everywhere, people and organisations are willing to make compromises for petty gains or soaked in corruption and most of the society is either submissive or afraid of authorities, there are people who come out, take a stand and face the repressive regimes.
They become the hope for society and continue to inspire generations. They are icons of struggle against injustice and uphold values of truth, integrity, simplicity and adherence to universal principles for the benefit of entire human race.
The abovementioned people who gave up their lives were the most intelligent, committed and finest human beings of our society. Their untimely demise was society's loss.
But what is most unfortunate is that whereas nobody expected any mercy from the governments of the day, even the larger society didn't do enough to save their lives. We are all guilty in this. This is irrespective of the fact that the great souls who made sacrifices never bothered about their own lives.
The society will always remember them for their ideals. These martyrs will continue to inspire new idealists. They will probably be never enough in number to change the society for better but will remind the lesser mortals like us that there are higher ideals to live for.
We must not keep ourselves tied up in smaller things as to lose the sight of a bigger objective of a humane society, much less bother ourselves with unscrupulous things. If we cannot do any good for the society, we must not at least cause harm to it. This is the least we can learn from the great souls who gave up their lives.
---
*Magsaysay Award winning social activist. Contact: ashaashram@yahoo.com

Comments

TRENDING

Nobel laureates join international figures, seek release of Bhima Koregaon accused activists

Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk,  Wole Soyinka Counterview Desk  As many as 57 top international personalities, including Nobel laureates, academics, human rights defenders, lawyers cultural personalities, and members of Parliament of European countries, have urged the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India to ensure immediate release of human rights defenders in India “into safe conditions”.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Russia, China to call the shots in Middle East, as Muslim nations turn into house of cards

By Haider Abbas* Only a naive would buy that the ‘situation of ceasefire’ between the State of Israel and Hamas would continue, as if the foiled attempt to demolish Al Aqsa this time, is not be repeated, if not in any near future then in sometime to come. Israel already has spurned the ‘ceasefire’ by storming Al Aqsa after the Friday prayers on May 21.

Collapse of healthcare system? Why 90% of Covid patients treated at home survived

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhu shan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs 1.5 lakh for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week.

Modi-led regime 'contributed' 60% to rise of global poverty, yet Hindutva is intact

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* In recent years, the Hindutva politics has caused long term damage to India and Indians. The so called 56-inch macho PM, the propaganda master manufactures and survives all political crisis including the current mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic in India. In spite of deaths and destitutions, the social, cultural, economic and religious base of Hindutva is intact.

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh*  According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Rooted in mistrust? Covid-19’s march into rural India is a very different ball game

By Sudhir Katiyar* As the Covid-19 virus penetrates rural India, the rural communities are responding very differently from their urban counterparts who rushed to the hospitals. The rural communities are avoiding the public health facilities and any mention of the disease. The note argues that this supposedly irrational response is based on a deep-seated mistrust of the state by the rural communities. It can not be resolved with routine Information, Education and Communication (IEC) measures suggested in the Government of India SOP for tackling Covid-19 in rural areas.

Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS*  All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.

Why hasn't Govt of India responded to US critique of freedom of religion under Modi?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* About two weeks ago, on May 12, 2021, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken released in Washington the ‘2020 International Religious Freedom Report.’ This official annual report of the US Government details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories and describes US actions to support religious freedom worldwide. Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, this report highlights the fact that ‘religious freedom is both a core American value and a universal human right’.