The indefinite fast of yoga guru Ram Dev against corruption may have created a stir but in Uttarakhand, which is also known as ‘Dev Bhoomi’, such indefinite hunger strikes are not new.
Perhaps taking inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, several social activists have created a record of sorts by going on indefinite fast for as many as 84 days.
“Uttarakhand is a ‘karam bhoomi’ of social activists,” says Anil Prakash Joshi, a social activist, who had undertaken several marches all over the country.
Late Shridev Suman, a Gandhian, who waged a war for democracy against the Tehri kingdom in 1940s, holds the record of keeping a 84-day-long fast during his imprisonment. He died on the 84th day of the fast.
Some say he was allegedly murdered inside the jail and his body was thrown in the Bhilangana river.
Environmentalist and Chipko leader Sunder Lal Bahuguna, also a Gandhian, kept a fast of 74 days.
He went on fast against construction of the mega 2400 MW multi-purpose Tehri hydel project in 1990s. But the government went ahead to commission the first and second phase of the project.
Mr. Bahuguna is still known for the fast and was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan
G D Agrawal, a retired IIT professor—turned—social activist, resorted to indefinite fast at Uttarkashi forcing the state government to suspend two major hydel projects — 480 Mw Pala Maneri and 380 Mw Bhaironghati in 2008.
Two years later, the Centre not only scrapped both the projects but also stopped NTPC’s 600 Mw Loharinag Pala under Agrawal’s pressure.
In the first phase of the agitation, Agrawal had gone on an indefinite fast for nearly 18 days.
Two months ago, Congress MLA from Tehri Kishor Upadhayay observed a 14—day—long fast asking the government to accept his 25—charter of demands that include various developmental issues.
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti had also observed a fast in Haridwar last month demanding review of all hydel projects on the river Ganga and its tributaries.
In 1990s, state Revenue Minister Diwakar Bhatt, who is also a statehood activist, had observed a 20 day—long fast at Khet Parbat area in Tehri district demanding that Uttarakhand be made a separate state.
Other activists who undertook fasts are Baba Uttarakhandi, who died on the 39th day of his hunger strike in 2004 demanding the declaration of Gairsain as the permanent capital of the state in place of Dehradun.
Keywords: hunger strikes