If Prime Minister Narendra Modi thought Prof G.D. Agrawal’s death would silence the noises around his Ganga promises, he is seriously mistaken. The protests continue and are likely to acquire more muscle in the days to come with the Ganga Sadbhavana Yatra being undertaken by the Magsaysay award winner Prof Rajendra Singh.
While the yatra would go through areas on the banks of the river and tell people about the empty promises that the Prime Minister made, the sants at Matri Sadan in Haridwar, where the scientist-turned-sant died, decided to continue the fast-unto-death until his four demands were met. At present Swami Atmabodhananda is on a fast, and other seers have already lined up to take his place.
“If this government wants blood for the sake of the Ganga, then we will offer it blood. Sants will sacrifice their lives one after another until the government meets all the four demands put forth by Swami Sanand,” declared Swami Sivananda, patron of Matri Sadan, at a press conference in New Delhi on October 26. The press conference, he said, was to awaken the sleeping government of India and the people so that they could start working for the sake of the Ganga. “This government killed Swami Sanand. If it wants to do anything at all for the river, it should accept all his demands in toto,” Swami Sivananda said.
The demands include an immediate halt to all dams, either proposed or under construction, on the tributaries of the Ganga; an immediate halt to all mining activity in the Kumbh area in Haridwar; a law to protect the river; and a Ganga Bhakta Parishad, a council of Ganga activists, to oversee any activity impacting the river.
According to Swami Sivananda, who has been at the helm of many agitations relating to the Ganga, now the sant community will not sit idle. “We will show this government what the sants can do through sacrifice,” he said.
Compounding the government’s discomfiture is the yatra undertaken by Prof Rajendra Singh, popularly known as “waterman” for his work in water conservation and restoration. He began the yatra with the blessings of G.D. Agrawal on September 30 from Gaumukh and plans to take it to Ganga Sagar on January 14, 2019. With him are common people, scientists, students and all those genuinely interested in saving the Ganga with the aim of ensuring that the yatra becomes a huge roar “loud enough for the Prime Minister to be able to hear it”.
“He is the only Prime Minister who declared himself to be a Gangaputra. He declared he has been called by Ganga Maiya . He had touched an emotional chord with the people who consider the river Ganga Maiya . He reaped the benefits, too, by winning all the 140 Lok Sabha seats located on the river bank. But now he has forgotten all about this mother. He is one son who is making money even out of a mother,” said Rajendra Singh, at the same press conference.
He said now that G.D. Agrawal had sacrificed his life and the government had failed to do anything at all on his demands, his sadbhavana yatra would make people aware of the lies being doled out by this government on the issue of Ganga. “The government is telling big lies by claiming that 80 per cent of his [Agrawal’s] demands have been met. In fact, nothing has been done. The government is only announcing measures to make money from the river,” he said.
He announced that the yatra would conclude at Ganga Sagar on January 14 and from January 15 to 17 he would be in Allahabad where he would organise a protest demanding a ban on the forthcoming Kumbh there because “the government has failed to ensure nirmal pure) water for its devotees”.