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Co-Written by Sandeep Pandey, Lubna Sarwath and Gurumoorthy M.

Whether it was a slightly high dose of Potassium at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences at Rishikesh which ultimately caused cardiac arrest or deliberate neglect by the government over 112 days of fast-unto-death to demand a law for conservation of Ganga by Professor Guru Das Agrawal turned Swami Sanand, the central government and especially the Prime Minister will be held responsible for his death. Matre Sadan, the ashram in Haridwar where Professor Agrawal fasted, has accused the government of murder by poisoning him. A 2011 case of murder by poisoning of Swami Nigmanand, a young hermit also associated with Matre Sadan, who fasted for 115 days against illegal sand mining in Ganga, is pending in the court.

Professor Agrawal had forewarned the government about his fast by writing to the PM twice and then again wrote to him twice during the fast. The PM, otherwise known to open his mind regularly in public broadcasts known as ‘Man ki Baat,’ chose not to respond, until after Professor Agrawal’s death when he tweeted a condolence. The PM has similarly maintained silence on critical issues like violence against Muslims, Dalits and Me Too campaign.

The governments play the trick of making an accused out of a victim to politically coverup, and it has become more of a wont under the present Bhartiya Janta Party government in power. Some unknown person is being accused by the authorities of not letting Professor G.D. Agrawal give up his fast. Those who know Professor Agrawal well are aware of his steely resolve. He would tell his well wishers during the marathon fast, ‘Worry about Ganga, not about me.’ He had chosen the beginning of his fast on Ganga Dussehra, giving up water on the first day of Navratra and predicted his demise before Vijayadashmi. As a true scientist he even planned his death meticulously. The government by accusing Professor Agrawal of continuing his fast under duress wants to divert attention from the main demands that he was making of the government: to enact a law for conservation of Ganga, to halt all hydroelectric projects on it, to ban mining and deforestation activities in its vicinity and to form a council consisting of people sensitive to Ganga to oversee its interest. It was too embarrassing for the government whose PM contested his parliamentary election from Varanasi declaring that he got a call from mother Ganga, which altered the name of Water Resources ministry to include Ganga Rejuvenation in it, which committed to clean Ganga by 2019 and then revised the deadline to 2020, which has already spent 23% of the sanctioned Rs. 23,323 crores budget for the purpose, to admit that the health of Ganga has worsened instead of improving during its regime and therefore Professor Agrawal was forced to go on fast.

Whereas the country and the world is witnessing horrific protests, which received a stamp of approval by chief of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the ideological parent of ruling BJP, against the entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala temple in Kerala, which has been facilitated by an order of the Supreme Court, eerie silence of the cadres of Hindutva organisations, with proclivity for various degrees of militancy and who leave no opportunity of exploiting people’s religious sentiments, on the issue of protecting Ganga being raised by Professor Agrawal exposes the true nature of right wing organisations. It is clear that politics of polarisation takes precedence over religious-cultural-nationalism issues. RSS has various weapons in its arsenal. This time it chose ostracism of Professor Agrawal on a mass scale and hence it was mob lynching by adopting stoic silence and managing the media so that Professor Agrawal’s fast isn’t highlighted. Compare the mass hysteria created by Anna Hazare’s short fasts a few years back in which RSS played a role to build it up to conspicuously absent response from anywhere in the country to Professor Agrawal’s long fast. Was Professor Agrawal raising an issue less important than corruption? Corruption can probably be fixed more easily than the damage to environment being caused by our developmental policies. The support to a retrogressive stand on Sabarimala temple entry by RSS-BJP is shameful as is their insensitivity towards a progressive issue of Ganga rejuvenation. Even though RSS chief has vehemently resented that it is always Hindus who face persecution, the BJP should answer why Muslim women were chosen for ‘equality’ through an ordinance which jails husbands on a civil matrimonial issue of triple talaq while denying equality to Hindu women who laid fundamental rights claim to visit the Sabarimala temple?

Professor G.D. Agrawal was an extraordinary scholar not just in modern sense of knowledge but also in the traditional sense of wisdom. On top of it he was a saint, in true sense, not the kind whose sectarian outlook exacerbates religious polarisation in society, resulting in strife. In fact, Professor Agrawal was against exhibitionist tendencies of religion. The death of such a saintly figure is going to cost the government dear. The saints of Matre Sadan have decided to continue the struggle of Professor Agrawal by resorting to fasting from 24 October, 2018.

The outlook of Professor Agrawal was at variance with that of government, because of which no reconciliation was possible. As an example on a copy of the draft ‘The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2018, prepared by the government which was given to him during his fast by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga, for his comments he changed the sentence ‘Parliament declared it expedient and in larger public interest to take control for prevention, control, abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of river Ganga,’ to ‘Parliament declared it expedient and in larger public interest to lay down the responsibility for maintaining desirable flows and water, sediment and ecological quality and thus rejuvenation of river Ganga.’ The government has conceived of a ‘Ganga Protection Corps’ as an armed forces which shall follow the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, for the purpose of enforcement, rejuvenation, protection and management of river Ganga under the proposed Act treating offence punishable as cognizable and non-bailable. Professor Agrawal on the contrary wanted people sensitive to and with a deep understanding about Ganga to form a council which would take responsibility for protection of the river. It has been alleged that Professor Agrawal wanted a religious body to decide on how Ganga ought to be taken care of. This is not true. He wanted a 20 member Ganga Bhakta (‘Devotee’) Parishad, provisionally till June 2019, to be nominated by PM, who were to take an oath standing in waters of Ganga to act in its interest. He nowhere said that these 20 people have to be necessarily religious. In fact, Professor Agrawal didn’t want pliant bureaucrats, working to commercially exploit Ganga in nexus with their political masters, to be heading the body to take care of Ganga’s interest. In less than five years head of NMCG has been changed seven times. Professor Agrawal wanted an Indian Institute of Technology kind of autonomy for this supreme body on Ganga. Government’s approach is bureaucratic and it wants to protect Ganga by policing. Professor Agrawal’s outlook was humane and ecological and he wanted to protect Ganga by people’s participation.

By Sandeep Pandey, Lubna Sarwath and Gurumoorthy M.
e-mail: ashaashram@yahoo.com , sarwath.lubna@gmail.com, mguru.aid@gmail.com

(Note: The writers are associated with Socialist Party (India) which considers itself as India’s green party and is committed to implementing the vision of Professor G.D. Agrawal.)

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