By Sandeep Pandey
86 years old Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand sat on an indefinite fast in Haridwar on 22 June, 2018 to demand making a law on conservation of river Ganga. Nobody came to see him from the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvnation. He was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Haridwar but continued his fast there even after a month.
He has fasted earlier in 2008 for letting Bhagirathi flow uninterrupted between Gangotri and Uttarkashi in a stretch of 175 kms. Because of this fast the government cancelled the 380 MW Bhairon Ghati and the 480 MW Pala-Maneri hydel power projects. In 2009 when he got the feeling that government was not serious about its commitment he started a fast again and this time got the Loharinag-Pala hydel power project cancelled.
Before becoming a saint in 2011 Swami Sanand was known as Professor Guru Das Agarwal, who has earlier taught and done research at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and served as the Member-Secretary of Central Pollution Control Board.
He believes that similar to hundreds of crores of rupees having gone down the drain in Ganga Action Plan now thousands of crores will be splurged in the name of Ganga River Basin Authority and Clean Ganga Mission by 2020. After Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister ‘Namami Gange’ project was launched with huge fanfare only to yield no results on ground.
In 2011, 35 years old Swami Nigmanand died in Himalayan hospital of Dehradun on the 115th day of his fast to demand halt to illegal mining in Ganga when Bhartiya Janata Party government was in power in Uttarakhand. It is suspected that a mining mafia considered close to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh connived with administration and poison was injected into Swami Nigmanand’s body while he was still in the district hospital in Haridwar. Otherwise, it doesn’t explain why nobody on behalf of the government went to dialogue with him during the course of his long fast.
Now 79 years old Swami Agnivesh has been thrashed and abused in Jharkhand by members of the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad. Swami Agnivesh is a follower of Arya Samaj sect which was founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati based on the teachings of four Vedas. Among the ten principles laid down by him as philosophical basis of Arya Samaj ideology include accepting the truth and rejecting the untruth, to take decision about every action based on Dharma after giving due thought to right and wrong, our objective to be physical, spiritual and social well being of all, our conduct to be based on love, righteousness and justice and to encourage knowledge and dispel ignorance.
Swami Agnivesh has fought against injustice all his life. From liberating bonded labourers, taking out a 18 days padyatra from Delhi to Deorala against Sati tradition, movement for entry of Dalits in Nathdwara temple near Udaipur, campaign against female foeticide, movement for ban on liquor to contructive programmes like multi faith harmony and world parliament he has been an activist all his life. He has not only lived according to the principles of Hindu reformist movement of Arya Samaj but also served the higher goals of humanity. Swami Agnivesh is an ideal example of what a Hindu monk should be like. He is well respected within the country as well as abroad. He has been recognized by United Nations as well when he was made the chairperson of UN Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. Through him Hinduism has been projected in a good light, which is also because he has practiced Gandhian principles in his life. He has authored a book called Vedic Samajvad.
Swami Sanand and Agnivesh both put on saffron robes, are willing to take any risk for truth but are committed to path of non-violence, are celibates, vegetarians and scholarly. Both have given up comfortable lives. While Professor G.D. Agarwal quit his government job, Swami Agnivesh relinquished his Haryana assembly membership and ministership. Both have complete faith in Hinduism which guides their lives and actions. Swami Nigmanand sacrificed his life at a very young age. His faith in Hinduism is above question too.
The question then is why do the Hindutva organisations RSS and BJP don’t like monks such as these? Why is it that Hindutva organisations either completely ignore such monks or feel threatened by them to the extent that they have to engineer attacks on them? Swami Nigmanand lost his life because the Hindutva forces were dominated by commercial interests with criminal intention.
It is because people like Swami Nigmanand, Sanand and Agnivesh are truly dedicated Hindus. They don’t put up a show merely to use religion for political or commercial purposes. Is it not an irony that RSS and Hindutva organisations consider people living the ideals of Hinduism most truthfully as opposed to them?
Swami Agnivesh and Sanand don’t hate Muslims, neither are they afraid of them. They don’t make provocative speeches which can trigger communal violence. They want to promote communal harmony and peace in society not hatred, discrimination and violence. They don’t identify human beings according to their caste, religion or class. For them humanity is supreme. They behave courteously even with their adversaries.
If we think about it, what have the Hindutva organisations, which project themselves as sole torch bearers of Hinduism, have got to do with either the principles or spirit of Hindu religion? In some ways, for example, by giving free hand to lumpen element, they are actually tarnishing the image of Hindu religion.
Now the wider Hindu society has to decide whether people like Swami Nigmanand, Sanand and Agnivesh are the real representatives of Hindusim or people who take law into their hands and are involved in mob lynching of Muslimes, Hindtuva organisations like RSS, BJP giving patronage to them and their top leaders?