In 2011, Swami Nigmanand died on the 115th day of his fast against illegal mining in Haridwar. Matri Sadan, the ashram with which he was associated alleges that he was killed by poisoning in the hospital at the behest of a mining mafia. Swami Gokulanand, who sat on the first fast organised by Matri Sadan along with Swami Nigmanand in 1998, was murdered in 2003 in Nainital by mining mafia. In 2014, Baba Nagnath died on 114th day of his fast for conservation of Ganga in Varanasi. Last year Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, earlier known as Professor Guru Das Agrawal at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and who served as the founding member-Secretary of Central Pollution Control Board, died on 11th October, on the 112th day of his sixth fast. Sant Gopal Das, who also started his fast for conservation of Ganga on 24th June, 2018 has been missing since 6th December from Dehradun. 26-year-old Brahmachari Atmabodhanand of Kerala, with a resolve to continue the struggle of Swami Sanand, started his fast on 24th October at the same place where Swami Sanand had fasted. He has now completed more than 135 days of fast. Swami Punyanand, also of Matri Sadan, has given up food grains and is on fruit diet, ready to go on fast if anything happens to Brahmachari Atmabodhanand.
Brahmachari Atmabodhanand went to the Ardha Kumbh in Prayagraj during his fast for about twenty days with his mentor Swami Shivanand but no government representative thought it fit to meet him. The Uttar Pradesh cabinet meeting took place there, senior ruling party leaders including the Chief Minister went there, but nobody had the time for Brahmachari Atmabodhanand. Meanwhile, the government got the water of Ganga cleaned artificially between 15th January and 4th March, 2019, the period of Ardha Kumbh. Clearly, it was only done for political mileage.
Professor G.D. Agrawal had been demanding an uninterrupted flow and a clean Ganga. He wanted all ongoing and proposed hydroelectric power projects on Ganga to be scrapped and all illegal mining to be halted. After his martyrdom, when the government enquired from Swami Shivanand, the head of Matri Sadan who is leading the struggle of saints and has taken a personal resolve to stake the lives of saints of his ashram one after another, including his own life, as to what was the ‘botttomline’ of his demands, he replied that three hydroelectric projects, Singauli Bhatwadi on Mandakini, Tapowan Vishnugad and Vishnugad Pipalkoti on Alaknanda and mining in Ganga must be stopped. Scientists believe that Ganga will not be clean unless a minimum volume of flow is ensured in the river. Dams obstruct this flow.
When soldiers are martyred there is widespread emotional outburst throughout the country. People come out on streets, offer help to famillies of deceased soldiers or erect their statues. The government has little control over the fate of soldiers. However, it can prevent the martyrdom of saints. Why is the Narendra Modi government not willing to dialogue with these saints? Even the common people seem to be insensitive towards these saints. Especially when the idea of nationalism is being given a religious colour.
People take a public stand on the issue of construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and for preventing the entry of women in Sabrimala temple of Kerala, which includes the two national parties Bhartiya Janata Party and Congress, but do not sympathise with saints who stake their lives for Ganga.
It is obvious that the BJP, which came to power on the agenda of Hindutva, whose Prime Ministerial candidate declared that he got a call from mother Ganga before contesting election from Varanasi, and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which doesn’t leave any opportunity to exploit people’s religious sentiments, is actually not concerned about cleaning Ganga. Forty percent of the population of the country, which lives next to the Ganga or one of its tributaries, stands to directly benefit from clean Ganga whereas it is unclear who’ll benefit from Ram temple in Ayodhya; yet RSS–BJP are silent on the issue of fasting saints. This demonstrates that politics of Hindutva is not interested in religious issues unless there is a potential for polarisation of votes in its favour. Hence, for the RSS–BJP, it is not the people but merely political power that matters.
Also, the difference between Hindutva and Hinduism has emerged more clearly because of this. Whereas people believing in Hindutva ideology are not averse to taking lives of others, for example in communal riots, lynching in the name of protection of cows, assassination of intellectuals, etc., saints who truly believe in the philosophy of Hinduism will stake their own lives instead. Moreover, the saints willing to give up their lives are in favour of uninterrupted flow of rivers, whereas those who condone deaths in the name of politics of Hindutva are interested in damming rivers and stopping rivers going to Pakistan, not realising the consequences, either of their politics or of tampering with rivers. This may explain the indifference of RSS–BJP towards fasting saints.
A foot march has been organised by some people’s organisations in support of fasting saints who stake their lives for Ganga from Delhi to Haridwar from 9 to 17 March, 2019.
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