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Needed: Action, Not Fasting

Needed: Action, Not Fasting

Fasting has become a great trend across the word. In any bookstore you will find volumes of literature extolling one fast or another. It is an integral part of almost all religions.  For example, devotees of Shiva tend to fast on Mondays while devotees of Vishnu on Thursdays and devotees of Ayyappa on Saturdays. Tuesday fasting is common in South India as well as North western India.

Fasting has played a key role in all the major religions (apart from Zoroastrianism which prohibits it), being associated with penitence and other forms of self-control. Judaism has several annual fast days including Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonements. In Islam, Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxy observe a 40-day fast during Lent, the period when Christ fasted 40 days in the desert.

It is said, fasting has great health benefits as well as spiritual benefits. Fasting has been used for millennia by the rishis and saints to bring every cell of their bodies into connection with the divine. It is an Indian tradition. Fasting brings us into close contact with the divine. They are meant to open up the infinite, glorious channel between us and God. These rituals were given to help us step out of the mundane worlds and re-realise our divine connection.

In ancient Greece, Pythagoras was among many who extolled its virtues. During the fourteenth century it was practised by St Catherine of Siena, while the Renaissance doctor Paracelsus called it the “physician within”. Indeed, fasting in one form or another is a distinguished tradition and throughout the centuries, devotees have claimed that it brings physical and spiritual renewal.

 ‘Fast’ which started for divine attainment has become a style and sometimes a farce. Recent times, we witness a trend of  ‘fast’ among politicians. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi led his party on a nationwide fast on 9th April targeting the Modi government. On 23rd March. social activist Anna Hazare started an indefinite hunger strike to press for his demand to appoint a Lokpal at the Centre in Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi. After six days, it was called off on Centre’s certain assurance.

Now the ruling party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, went on a day’s fast on 12th April. BJP leaders led the fast in different States. It was meant to protest against the washout of the latter half of the Budget session of Parliament. The Party blamed Congress for it.

Gandhi, the ‘father of nation’, had undertaken fast on many occasions. But, he  never used fast as a political weapon throughout his leadership  to bring the govt to its knees or the opposition. The non-cooperation movement of 1920 did not involve fasting. Nor did the Khilafat Movement had a fast component to it. There were public rallies and processions and participants courted arrest because the  govt of the day did not allow public protests and resorted to section 144.The Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 did not involve a fast. There  was no fasting during the Quit India Movement of 1942.

The occasions when Gandhi undertook a fast during the freedom movement were few and significant, and most of the times he used it as a means of personal  force. Also, he never fasted against the Muslim League or any other party. He did not use fasting as a political weapon. Satyagraha was for him popular peaceful public protest but fasting was not a part of his protest.

The second phase of Parliament’s budget session was a complete washout as opposition parties including allies of the NDA, vehemently protested against various issues including the establishment of the Cauvery Management Board, farmers’ issue, Special status to Andhra Pradesh, Dalit issues etc.

In a democracy when various issues are raised, the government is duty-bound to answer them. It is the duty of the ruling party to find solutions for the burning national issues. Instead when such issues are raised, going for a national fast is no answer to the problems in a democratic country.

Violence against Dalits, minorities, minors and women is on the rise. Unnao rape incident in Uttar Pradesh is a shame on the ruling party. It simply goes against ‘Beti Padhao Beti Bachao’ slogan. The Allahabad High Court has taken suo motu action against it. Acting on a request by senior advocate Gopal S. Chaturvedi for a court-monitored probe, the High Court admitted his letter as a Public Interest litigation plea. The court said, “We fail to understand why the investigating agency instead of arresting the accused persons, arrested the complainant, in connection with this case”. The court comprising Chief Justice Dilip B. Bhosale and Justice Suneet Kumar said, “it is disturbing” that the father of the rape victim was arrested by police “for no reason” and was “mercilessly beaten” while in custody.  

Prime Minister should ensure the safety of women. Not only the Unnao minor girl was gang-raped but also her father was killed. At present we experience “Might is Right” theory. Hereafter how can a woman/girl lodge an FIR in such cases when the consequence is clear that the victim will be made accused and the whole family will be threatened to be wiped out.

Again, the story of an eight-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by six men, and held in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district of J&K for a week in January is a nothing less than a horror story. She was sedated and sexually assaulted once again before she was bludgeoned to death.

Of course, 250 hours of Parliament’s time and crores of tax payers’ money are wasted to avoid answering questions on relevant issues. This is the first time that the Finance Bill was passed without a discussion in the Parliament. No serious attempt was made by the govt to end the logjam.

Instead of keeping a fast in protest against disruption in both Houses of Parliament, Mr. Modi must explain to the people why violence is increasing in the country. Why minorities, women, minors, Dalits and the poor are not safe in this country. Fast alone is not a solution for the compelling problems of this country.

(Published on 16th April 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 16)