When the Devyani Khobragade controversy erupted a few weeks ago,her father,Uttam,publically threatened to go on a hunger strike if the Indian government did not intervene in getting justice for his beleaguered daughter. What intrigued me was that the father,who is a retired senior bureaucrat with powerful contacts including that of the Home Minister,under whom he has earlier served,chose this route to bring attention to his diplomat daughters case.
The media was quick to point out that Khobragade seniors name often springs up with reference to the Adarsh housing scam and that the ex-bureaucrat is not without his share of scandals and allegations of corruption.
Threatening to fast unto death is best left to those who hold a high moral ground and enjoy an untainted reputation. Mahatma Gandhi,the warrior without a gun,used fasting as a powerful weapon to pressurise the British into ceding to his demands. Denial of food as a means of protest has worked wonders for several reformers who have ignited fires of social revolution in the hearts of the masses. Be it Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar or Irom Sharmila in Manipur,noble acts of self-sacrifice have won worldwide admiration and shone light on worthy causes. A couple of years ago,senior ministers in Delhi rushed to the Ramlila grounds to convince Anna Hazare to call off his fast,terrified of the repercussions,lest the frail old man succumbs to starvation.
Unfortunately,a number of colourful characters have recently jumped on to the fasting bandwagon.
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev,who embarked on a well-publicised three-day fast against corruption,proclaimed that he had no political agenda and merely wanted to make India a great nation. Clearly,he saw a direct link between sipping nimbu-paani at a maidaan and the return of black money stashed away in Swiss banks.
And who can forget NCP neta Ajit Pawars day-long aatma-klesh at the Yashwantrao Chavan Samadhi sthal in Karad for self-introspection and penance over his objectionable urine remarks on the states drought
By pulling a fast one on the public these opportunists have succeeded in making a mockery of this once potent tool of social protest.
Perhaps Nitin Gadkari can now embark on a hunger strike to protest the alleged nexus between the Congress and AAP. Not much may come off it but foregoing a few meals will certainly help the political heavyweight get into shape for the forthcoming elections.
Interestingly,all the major world religions prescribe fasting as a way to cleanse and rejuvenate the body and soul. What better way to begin the new year than to indulge in a healthy detox whilst championing your favourite cause. After all,2014 promises to be the year of the social crusader.