Fasts in India have always been driven by husband’s ‘lambi umar’ or deities like ‘Durga Mata’, ‘Santoshi Mata’, ‘Lakshmi Mata’ and so on. But to break the ice, five great figures from India fasted for ‘Bharat Mata’ or ‘India’.
The following five leaders will always breathe in the pages of Indian History.
- Kisan Baburao “Anna” Hazare is an India’s one of the lauded social activist who strove hard to uplift rural life and escalate transparency in governance. ‘Ralegan Siddhi’, situated in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra state could not have drastically developed had Anna been not its resident. Hazare initiated an ‘indefinite’ fast on 5th April, 2011 at at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to uproot corruption from India. On disapproval by Manmohan Singh, Hazare said,”I will fast until Jan Lokpal Bill is passed”. After the government accepted his demand on 8th April 2011, he terminated his fast on 10th April that lasted for 98 hours. The hunger-strike once again began on 16th August 2011 in a Delhi park which shut Anna behind the bars but he continued his fast in jail. He stepped out of jail on 20th August and continued his hunger-strike on Ramlila ground until the lokpal bill passed on 28th August. 12 prolonged days of fast culminated in dehydration and landed him on the bed of hospital.
- 16th September 1932, the greatest freedom fighter, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in his cell near Yerovda Jail near Bombay started a hungerstrike against the British government’s decision to separate India’s electoral system on the basis of caste. The British were on their way to devise a new Indian constitution which would have rendered ‘untouchables’ (country’s lowest class) a separate political representation for a span of 70 years. Gandhi could foresee the coming disruption in the social classes and hence endeavoured to defend against. Gandhi ultimately set about to liberate the ‘untouchables’ and declared them as ‘Harijans’ or ‘children of god’. His six days fast met a full-stop after the British reversed their decision of separation. On January 12, 1948, he embarked upon his last successful fast to elicit Muslims and Hindus to unite for peace. After he broke his fast on January 30th, he was assassinated by Hindu extremist.
- “Iron Lady Of Manipur” or “Mengoubi”, Iron Chanu Sharmila began her hunger strike on 2 November 2000 and which till date is on. She is the world’s longest hunger striker to have kept her deprived of food and water for more than 500 weeks. Ten civilians were murdered while waiting at the bus stop of town Malom in Imphal valley. This mishap also known as “Malam Massacre” was committed by Assam Rifles. Assam Rifles is one of the Indian Parliamentary forces operating in the state. Sharmila was 28 then when she set out on her lifelong fast. She appealed the Indian government to withdraw AFSPA(Armed Forces, Special Power Act 1958) which was the culprit behind the violence caused in Manipur and north-eastern states. Amnesty International has declared her a prisoner of conscience.
- Arvind Kejriwal along with AAP members revolted against ‘elevated’ power and water bills. He proclaimed about his indefinite fast and said that no Delhites would pay their bills. He fasted to pull in more crowd to fight against illegal and inflated bills. His fast was not called to demand anything from government but simply let the Delhites not pay the bills. Despite being a diabetic patient he succeeded in his 15 days fast. With break in fast, he promised Delites that he would not let Delhi to be under the rule of such government which can’t give electricity and water to its people. He could shed off g6 kilograms in his fasting period, 23rd March 2013- 6th March 2013.
- Baba Ramdev on June 4 2011 started his indefinite strike against corruption and black money. He was accompanied by his massive followers at the Ramlila Maidan where he was joined by radical Sangh Parivar leader Sadhvi Ritambhara and other religious leaders from Sikh, Jain and Muslim communities. He wanted a check on black money and its recovery from foreign bank accounts. He also demanded death penalty to be issued against corruption charges.
By Prerna Daga