In a unique confluence recently, prominent Hindu and Muslim leaders gathered at the banks of the Ganges to appeal for action to save the Holy River.
As dawn lost its orange hues to the gathering darkness, the Assi Ghat lit up - literally and also with hope and prayers of the lovers of the great traditions of this land, who venerate Goddess Ganges.
Organised by the Ganga Mahasabha on the 150th anniversary of Madan Mohan Malviya in November, the event was attended by religious representatives from both the majority communities and included Kanchikamkoti Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, Ram Katha Vachak Morari Bapu, Swami Chidanand Maharaj Muni ji, Muslim Personal Law Board’s Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and Lucknow’s Shahi Imam Maulana Fazlur Rahman.
All religious leaders spoke movingly about their respect for the Ganges and appealed to the government for urgent action to facilitate its cleaning operations. They also asked people to contribute by not polluting the Holy River.
Morari Bapu pointed out that as the 150th anniversary of Malviya ji was being observed, they should do a das-ansh (1/10th) and draft a 15-point agenda for the government and people to act.
The leaders gathered reminded the government of the days of Raj, when the Britishers had promised that the course of the river and other water bodies converging into it would not be restricted or changed through construction and also that any decision regarding the river would only be taken after the consent of the Hindus.
However, unfortunately, the Governments of Independent India had successively not kept the promise and dams are being built on the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi without consultation.
Former Professor of Kanpur IIT, now known as Swami Gyanswarup Sanand, warned that he would sit on fast unto death from January 15, 2012 if work on dams does not stop by Makar Sankranti.
Arun Gupta, an advocate of the Allahabad High Court, who has earned the name Ganga Ratna for his tireless crusade to save the Ganges, assured that the government has responded to their appeals and final touches would be given to the Ganga Act between Dec 27 and Dec 31 and then submitted to the Prime Minister.
Lucknow’s Shahi Imam Maulana Fazlur Rahman said that water was the purest of the God’s creation and man had been ordained by the Almighty to keep it clean. The Maulana added that he was ashamed that Muslims had failed in their duty to help Hindus to keep the river clean. He also pointed out at the sorry state of roads and garbage strewn in the ancient city to Varanasi.
Perhaps the most poignant of observations was made by Muslim Personal Law Board’s Maulana Kalbe Sadiq who has always been on the forefront of speaking out about communal harmony. He said that he would not mind if for a 100 years no temple, gurdwaras, mosque or churches were built in India, but he would deeply pained if the Ganges was to perish. Because that would make India like Pakistan, as India was not India without the Ganges. And he did not want to see the tragedy of India becoming Pakistan.
He also spoke tongue in cheek about how we had polluted Ganges which is originally sparkling clean. Kalbe Sadiq: “When I am in Haridwar, people ask me to drink water from the Ganges as it has curative value. When I am in Varanasi, people ask me to abstain from drinking the water, as I might fall ill!” Such he said was the sorry state of affairs.
The most touching moment was when Swami Chidanand Maharaj Muni ji gave Maulana Kalbe Sadiq ‘Ganga jal’ that he had brought from Gangorti. It was testament of the fact that Ganges is one of those invisible threads that binds this country together!