Ganga, an inalienable identity of Uttarakhand’s cry for Survival

Swami Nigamananda, 36, died after 73 days of fasting to save the Ganga from illegal miners in the Hardwar region. The Uttarakhand government never gave a thought to it whether someone was fasting for a cause or not. Our national media had no time to see whether the Swami was alive or not.

It reflects the grim situation how media prioritizes the issues. Unfortunately, the class character of our media is exposed in recently held events. The media needs a tamasha to highlight and it wants to project itself as the one who participated in these struggles. So, all the ‘revolutions’ are happening in the studio rooms.

Today, media is asking question as to why they did not report the fast of Swami Nigamananda and why so much attention was given to the fast of Hazare and Ramdev. Unfortunately, both the right to question its own legitimacy cannot be given to media as who asked them not to report this incident.

Ganga, the most beautiful river of India is under severe threat from developmental anarchists. The political party which is ruling Uttarakhand tried to make Ganga a communal issue but switched its stand soon as its ministers are minting money from selling Ganga to companies. Over 500 small or big dams are to be constructed on the Ganga and various other rivers such as Bhagirathi, Bhilangana and Alaknanda. We all know how these rivers after merging convert into Ganga from Rishikesh.

Today, the water in Ganga is at the mercy of the engineers of Tehri Dam hence during the heavy rains they release water otherwise it remains like a poor shadow of its past grandeur. It is a painful sight to see when you pass through Hardwar to Rishiskeh. How they have killed the river, which we always called ‘ Ganga Ma’. Without being any ritualistic, one cannot deny the fact that Ganga is the river which gave us fertile land on our bank right from Hardwar till Kolkata. It gave strength to people. Its water, is said to be the most fascinating and purified one.

Saving the Ganga is of utmost importance for India and its agriculture. It is the soul of India. It gave us life. It gave us some of the most fascinating regions and today, it is the victim of those who do not know what happens tomorrow. Unmindful of our history, these forces are out and out destroying our culture. Ganga was a culture in Uttarakhand. It gave us a new identity, a proud one that India’s two most beautiful river of Ganga and Yamuna flows from our land.

Swami Nagamananda died for a cause. He died fighting against the Mafia. He knew that fighting against mining mafia was a difficult task and hence he sacrificed his own life. I know one minister in Uttarakhand said that if we do not allow ‘development’ how will we ‘grow’. I do not know what is development. Is it to destroy your culture, your habitat, your water so that you do not have air to breathe? Is the minister going to supply us oxygen cylinders when there will be no fresh air?

Is not it an irony that the hills which quench the thirst of other places, supply water to Delhi, live in deep thirst? Is it what we call developmental planning? Today, Uttarakhand wants to produce excess energy to supply to other state but will it supply electricity to its own people? We do not have portable water supply and we want to supply it to Delhi. Is it not a shame?

Yes, for politicians, there are other issues. Ganga will become an issue for them, when they would like to communalise it. Ganga does not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims, between Dalits and backwards. It is a river unfortunately hijacked by Brahmanical priests to ‘purify’ people. It is time to debrahmanise Ganga from the hands of those priests who do not think it in terms of our greatest asset and culture but who only want to use it to fulfill their communal agenda.

One sincerely hopes that the state and the central government will wake up now and take up an assessment of the environmental crisis that is looming over the state of Uttarakhand. It is time to look beyond the narrow confines of politics and think of the future of people and its relation with nature. Ganga was a perfect blend of that. It is the identity of Uttarakhand, unfortunately victim of politicisation. Ganga has blessed millions of people. Today, it not only needs our good wishes but also our action plan for its survival. Hope the sacrifice of Swami Nigamananda will compel us to think and act.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

A human rights activist, writer and film maker, VB is widely traveled in India and abroad and have spoken at the various national and international conferences.