“Waterman” and Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh has termed the death of Swami Nigamanand of Matri Sadan, Haridwar on June 13 at the end of a prolonged fast protesting against mining on the Ganga river bed and its surroundings, a “sacrifice” for the cause of environment.

Mr. Singh, who too has been campaigning for the past one decade for the protection of the river, blamed the Uttrakhand Government for the tragedy. “When it comes to protests, those by genuine people for genuine causes get ignored and the fakes get all the attention,” he said.

However, Mr. Singh did not absolve the others of the responsibility for the death of the 36-old sant, a disciple of Swami Shivanand of Matri Sadan, who had held two such long fasts for the sake of the Ganga, for 59 days and 79 days prior to the latest fatal one. ”Everyone who matters, including Prime Minister and the judges of the Supreme Court were aware of the serious situation emerging out of the fast by Swami Nigamanand. I personally phoned many important people, who I thought would intervene, but nothing happened,” Mr. Singh said talking to The Hindu on phone from Haryana on Wednesday.

“I personally feel that the judiciary is also responsible for the tragic death. In fact Swami Nigamanand’s last protest fast was against corruption in the judiciary. He had held that some judges in the High Court sided with an industrialist who did stone mining on the bed of the Ganga in the Kumbh area,” Mr. Singh said. Three times in the past, notification was issued making mining illegal but sill the activity continued, he noted. “Swami Nigamanand was a true saint. He adopted a Gandhian way of protest and never sought publicity though his cause was just and his method, most peaceful. And obviously everyone chose to ignore it till the end, he noted.

Mr. Singh, who met Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh in Delhi on Tuesday, said the Minister shared his (Mr. Singh’s) sentiments in this regard. “In fact Swami Nigamanand broke his previous fast in the presence of Mr. Ramesh. He had travelled with me to the spot,” he observed. He lamented the fact that his own preoccupations kept him away from the Kumbh area where the Swami was fasting and could not make a timely intervention to save his life.

“I feel very sad. He has sacrificed his life for the cause of the Ganga. His sacrifice will not go waste if only the Governments wake up to the threat faced by the rivers of this country—the encroachments taking place on the river beds, pollution of the rivers, over exploitation, illegal mining and wanton damming of them. I hope the youth would come forward as Swami Nigamanand was a young man who died for the cause,” Mr. Rajendra Singh said.

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