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Mother of missing Ganga activist Gopal Das begins fast in Rishikesh

More than a week after the disappearance of Gopal Das, a Haryana-based hermit, who was on fast protesting against hydropower projects impeding the flow of the Ganga, his mother has embarked on a fast in Rishikesh, demanding that the Uttarakhand government disclose his whereabouts.

Das, 40, who was on a fast since June 24, was admitted to the Government Doon Medical College (GDMC) in Dehradun on December 4. He was last seen on CCTV cameras leaving the premises of the medical college on December 6. He has been missing since then.

“We suspect that he’s been killed because there’s no other motive for his disappearance,” said Swami Shivanand, head of Matri Sadan, a hermitage in Haridwar. Das was picked up from Matri Sadan by the Uttarakhand police and taken to the GDMC.

Matri Sadan has been the site of serial fasts by several hermits, most notably G.D. Agrawal, an environmentalist-turned-hermit, who began a fast on June 22 and eventually died on the October 11.

Following Agrawal’s fast and just days before his death, the government promulgated an ‘e-flow notification,’ on October 9 which requires hydropower projects upstream of the river to release sufficient water to ensure that a minimum flow is maintained through the year.

Haridwar District Magistrate, Deepak Rawat, didn’t return multiple calls by The Hindu , for a comment on Das’ disappearance.

“My son had undertaken these fasts for the welfare of the Ganga. I will continue it and we want the government to find out where he’s gone and bring into law the Ganga Act,” said Shakuntala Devi, 60, Das’ mother.

The ‘Ganga Act,’ refers to the National River Ganga Bill that is now being mooted by the government to ensure that the river wasn’t polluted.

The common thread linking all those fasting at Matri Sadan protests against the hydropower projects on the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Mandakini and Pindar rivers. All these rivers feed into the Ganga and several environmentalists have said the dams, necessitated by these projects, impede the natural flow of the river. Das has also previously undertaken fasts in Haryana for cow-protection.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2022 5:55:21 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mother-of-missing-ganga-activist-gopal-das-begins-fast-in-rishikesh/article25744840.ece