Amid the din surrounding yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s fast to seek answers from government over black money and corruption, Swami Nigamananda Saraswati battled death for days before he finally gave into the inevitable. Here’s an insight into the tragic story of a ‘not so famous’ Swami, who gave away his life for a noble cause - to save the sacred river Ganga.
The Swami, who kept low key, was protesting against illegal mining and stone crushing that has been polluting the holy river. He slipped into coma after months of fasting and was eventually admitted to a local hospital in Haridwar on April 27. Despite getting medical aid, Nigamananda’s condition worsened. He was then shifted to Himalayan Medical Institute in Dehradun, where he breathed his last.
Nigamananda was on a fast-unto-death campaign for over four months; he died like an orphan with none to mourn. Ironically, he shared the same ICU ward where the high profile yoga guru stayed a couple of days back. As Baba Ramdev broke his fast, Nigamananda, a member of the Matri Sadan, an organisation to fight corruption and environmental destruction, was battling for life.
India’s ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) in April 1985 to control Ganga river pollution. An estimated 901.71 crore rupees were spent over a span of 15 years to subjugate threats posed by pollution. But the programme that was launched as a desperate attempt to free the holy river of pollution, in the middle of much ordeal, could not do even the least to save Ganga from getting tainted. The first phase of the project was declared closed in the year 2000. However, since then no constructive measures have been taken for Ganga’s treatment. And Swami Nigamanada was only seeking appropriate actions from the government to keep the river free from contamination, for Ganga is no ordinary river, its divine.
Sadly, information of this Swami fasting unto death made no NEWS. He decided to launch his <i>satyagraha</i> a couple of months back. And the committed Swami stuck to his mission until death knocked him down. Members of Matri Sadan, Swami Shivananda Saraswati and Swami Kaushalendra believe that there is foul play behind Nigamananda’s death. Kaushalendra has even requested doctors from AIIMS to conduct an autopsy to probe into the truth.
After having learnt about the 36 year old Swami, manifold questions are cropping up in my mind, leaving me to wonder if righteousness really does exist. For after having had seen what treatment the Delhi Police meted out to people at Ramlila Maidan on the ill-fated night of 4th June, following alleged instructions from the Central government.
However, what saddens me deeply is that a sadhu like Nigamanada was never heard of until recently- someone who fought committedly to save environment from pollution.
As India was busy following Baba Ramdev and crusader against corruption Anna Hazare and while politicians were trying to play the blame game, Nigamananda was on a mission to save the Ganga.
If one makes note of the parity between Baba Ramdev and Swami Nigamananda, what instantly connects the two spiritually inclined personalities is that they both have their spiritual centres based in Haridwar.
Nonetheless, Baba Ramdev, now a celebrity, had invariable media coverage throughout his campaign and diehard followers praying for his well-being. But Nigamananda had none of these!
I have no intentions of discrediting Baba Ramdev for his relentless fight against the Indian government, but I certainly do feel we, as the people of India, did no justice to Nigamananda. Perhaps no light was thrown on this genuine soul, who bid adieu to the world at wee hours on Monday.
There was no government representative to pay homage to the Swami’s dead body. There was hardly anyone around - not even famous spiritual gurus.
It is extremely depressing to see how social activists are received by people at large; do they really get consolidated and committed support from people who seek refuge in them? I really wonder!
There was one Mahatma Gandhi then and one Anna Hazare now. Great souls are like diamonds - precious and rare.
Baba Ramdev, no matter what his agenda is, has the power to draw crowds towards him. Sri Sri Ravishankar’s visit to the yoga guru does add a lot of credibility. The Yoga guru is truly blessed as he had sadhus and followers imploring him to break his fast. But with a sip of a fruit juice, his 9-day long penance ended miserably with the least of consequence.
What stands out in contrast is the sacrifice made by the young Swami who died away from the spotlight. He fought a lone battle. Everyone turned a deaf ear while mining continued.
This unfortunate episode has left many indelible questions. It is important we address them, as there might be many more unknown Nigamanadas fighting for justice who may be lost in oblivion.