It’s become customary for many Indians to think of Gandhiji on October 2nd in addition to August 15th and his heroism for many reasons, one special reason being these are national holidays. Of all his stratagems that won him his credits and titles, the one that fascinates me is how he went about with his ‘Fasts for Independence’. Over the years ‘Fasts’ have come to be identified with Mr. Gandhi. This answer to the mighty colonialists led to significant professional mileage for Gandhiji as a nonviolent satyagrahi.
With this modus operandi, Gandhiji posed himself as the righteous-than-thou warrior and even today nobody dares to question the self-righteous logic underlying this act. We also come to understand that quite a few visionaries and leaders of those times had deep reservations about the acceptance of fasts as a means of protest.
The London barrister that he was, he knew what to do when his fasts failed. Of his four ‘fasts unto death’ to persuade our countrymen to walk the path of social justice two were for communal harmony, which is at stake after decades of independence. If we are to research Gandhiji’s psyche and analyze if all his 17 fasts from 1913 till 1948 paid off then it’s an emphatic ‘NO’. Not all his fasts yielded solutions but assurances.
The sad fact we face today is those in public life not only pretend as though they are staunch Gandhians but also as if they neither understand religion nor politics thereby taking the voters for a rollercoaster ride.
Is it difficult to agree with Gandhiji that nothing can be more violent than poverty and hunger? Starving stomachs not only stall thoughts but makes an otherwise peace loving person an angry, violent beast. Rightly said, “No man can be wise on an empty stomach”. Only intermittent fasting can flip a regenerative switch thereby changing the signalling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems.
In independent democratic India, everyday 195.9 million go hungry. Why do one fourth of Indians go to bed hungry, in spite of our self-sufficiency in food availability, us being one of the world’s largest grain producers and us revering Gandhi as ‘Father of our nation’? Having fasted 17 times, which one was to end poverty! All leaders of all parties like to be called a follower of Gandhi. Still, why are there huge hungry masses everywhere?
Just as wilful starvation isn’t the solution for chronic starvation, pro-poor slogans, devious programmes and schemes and projects in paper won’t end poverty. What do governments do when multinationals eliminate domestic companies here? What type of economic dynamism are our leaders bragging about even as they pay lip service to Gandhi? Governments that rise and fall permit big companies to pull down roofs from over the heads of the poor and on the other hand erect tents over their heads.
Our PMs, past and present, have promised world class infrastructure as far as transport and communication, banking, power generation and highways and everything. If Gandhi was and is seriously believed to be the father of our nation, poverty should’ve been eliminated long ago. Instead, governments and oppositions go on fasts after fasts with no fruitful results.
Hunger can never be a convincing way of protest when millions in our country routinely die of hunger and food producing farmers die of debts and poverty. Does the quote “Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy” ring a bell? In India, one need not be a mahatma to know this because India is an agricultural country. There is no need for fasts, definite or indefinite ones, by politicos for peace and talks with farmers. In this agrarian country, the incidence of farmers committing suicides is on the rise and so are fasts associated with this crisis. Making hunger, the poor man’s preserve, a fashionable symbol of protest is ridiculous.
We have an active globetrotter as our PM for the past 4 years. I wish to know if he can name another country that takes so much pride in fasting. Or did he never come across any farming practice that’s worthy enough of emulation to help our farmers? There will be no end to poverty till farmers, the largest group of entrepreneurs of the most important enterprise are harassed and pushed over the brink.
72 years after independence, Gandhiji’s brainwave of satyagraha is over used everywhere by everybody without a clue. Try teaching a child the history of Indian Independence and then wait and watch as to how the child puts satyagraha and fasting into practice against clueless parents. Not looking down on genuine fasters, but sadly, pretenders outnumber them. Today, the relevance of fasts of the colonial times could not be explained or justified in any vocabulary. How many Indians believe that those powerful colonists who wilfully wielded guns worried over a few who threatened to starve to death! Credibility of the cause was then lauded, one reason being Gandhiji was brilliant enough to spotlight him and his activities and further convince the people that whatever he did was adequate to save the countrymen from deeper and further enslavement.
So far, I haven’t seen or heard of any elected representative fasting against poverty or rape. In a way it is justified because they want to eat to live, thrive and fight for these public causes instead of dying for them. An Irom Sharmila went on a 16 year fast and a Hardik Patel goes on a fast unto death as a protest against establishment, but against who are CMs’ and PM’s fasts directed at!
Fasting as a tool to end corruption and poverty exhibit no protest, but helpless tolerance of bad governance. Fasts seem the farthest of the provocations for netas to purge themselves of all immorality. Of course, Gandhians in gaddi love the law to takes its course, for they know law takes its own time and the course it takes necessarily need not lead to justice.
Poverty will exist as long as brainy babus who define and redefine poverty lines exist. Without any statistical analysis shouldn’t all Indians know that if we are poor, if millions face penury, then India is corrupt? Whatever the government controls with power and might inevitably leads to corruption and in turn poverty. Major source of corrupt deals are many. From land to all kinds of infrastructure areas, deals are made in all hues, colours and sizes while poverty strikes the common man and hunger kills millions. How long can governments feign ignorance and pretend that they thought those who go to bed hungry are actually fasting!(Published on 15th October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 42)