Fifteen years ago when the demands of a 10 year old kid wasn’t met, she/he skipped a meal to prove a point. That she/he was super pissed. Initially, all parents give into their demands. As the kids grow older, their demands grow with them, from toys to expensive gadgets, and finally for their own space. There also comes a change in the attitude of the parents. Those kids who continue to undertake hunger strikes, either become sensible or turn hostile.
Fasting has been one of the oldest signs of protest. Back in pre Christian Ireland, these fasts were carried out at the doorsteps of the offender and had a specific set of rules by which they could be used. India too has had a long tradition of hunger fasts. Such fasts played a crucial role in the Independence movement. Post independence, more often than not, the Indian govt. has always half heartedly accepted the demands of those who go on hunger strikes. On failing to do so, it has met with widespread criticism and has always lost out on the vox populi. As in the case of Sreeramulu, who fasted 58 days straight, for the statehood of Andhra with Madras as an integral part of it, before he breathed his last. In recent times Anna Hazare’s fast ushered in a new faith in people power. It spread awareness of the lokpal bill that has been pending since the past forty two years and the need for a new one. Though late, the timing couldn’t have been better. A time, when the UPA government is neck deep in corruption and scams that happened right under the nose of the Prime Minister. More than anything, It was a wakeup call for us all. For a change, many of us broke away from the shackles of monotony and boredom, felt empowered and were asking questions. And this time the govt. not only listened, but also answered. A joint committee was setup and an official discussion had begun.
Despite this development, is yoga master, Baba Ramdev’s fast unto death movement really necessary? The government never claimed to accept all the demands made by the committee. There was bound to be some negotiation and some compromise. To think otherwise would only be naïve, because our democracy is cemented in compromise. The degree of the compromise should certainly be treated with caution. But a few NOs initially cannot be reason enough to organize another hunger strike . By doing so, the baba has not only brought to light the differences within the IAC committee, but has also decided to be omnipresent in every single household. We will now be subjected to fire breathing bespectacled news readers arguing day in and day out, some supporting baba, some, the govt. and some shall feed us regular bullsh*t about ramdev’s nagamani power. Aastha TV may have a 24*7 coverage of the event. (just saying, in case you watch.) A thousand status updates that compare baba ramdev with Rajni’s Baba, will now flood my facebook feed.
Ramdev’s list of demands is a huge one and the time allotted to the government is less. Unlike Anna’s stike, this hunger protest is well organized and managed. It targets to entertain (live) atleast 1 lakh supporters whose comfort will apparently be taken care of, thanks to ACs, LCD TVs, food stalls (totally cause worthy, I say), toilets and also sleeping arrangements. (Eat, Shit and Sleep as a man fast unto death in front of you.) I do doubt any entrance fee though. His supporters are busy organizing fund donation camps all over the NCR region, where each person contributes anything from INR 1 lac to INR 11 lacs. Surely, a spiritual guru who travels in his own chartered flight, and owns an island, wouldn’t require heavy donations such as these to fund his own hunger strike. Moreover, if words are anything to go by, the organizers are absolutely certain that the fast will not end before three days (in case you mistook this to be just another yoga camp). Notwithstanding these developments , the “number of likes” this movement shall garner on Facebook, will decide the duration of this fast.
A Hunger strike isn’t kiddy business. Back in 2006, amidst electrifying emotions, some students staging a similar fast as part of the Y4E (Youth 4 Equality) movement, in front of my alma matter, gave up in a couple of hours. Hunger strikes, no doubt are one of the most profound and effective measures to create awareness of an issue, shame offenders, unify people and inspire them to take action. Such powerful instruments of democracy should not be made a mockery of, by powerful individuals. They need to be used wisely and not as tool for blackmail.