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Saturday, June 12, 2021

‘Getting Bahuguna to end fast in 1996 was among the finest moments as PM,’ says H D Devegowda

The former prime minister gave a personal undertaking to the 'Gandhi of the Garhwals' in order to convince Sunderlal Bahuguna to call off the 74-day fast at the Rajghat in New Delhi.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 21, 2021 5:08:23 pm
Sunderlal BahugunaEnvironmentalist, Padma Vibhushan Sunderlal Bahuguna along with his wife Vimla Bahuguna with the students of Kundan International School, Chandigarh. (Express Photo/File)

Following the death of environmentalist, Chipko movement leader and anti-dam activist Sunderlal Bahuguna, 94, on Friday, former prime minister H D Devegowda tweeted a picture from June 1996 when he handed over a glass of juice to Bahuguna to end a 74-day “repentance fast” that the activist undertook for review of the Tehri dam project.

The former prime minister, who gave a personal undertaking to the ‘Gandhi of the Garhwals’ in order to convince him to call off the 74-day fast at the Rajghat in New Delhi, tweeted the picture saying it was one of his finest moments as PM.

“This historic picture from a newspaper clipping where I am seen handing over a glass of lemon juice to end Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna’s fast was one of the finest moments of my prime ministership,” Devegowda, who turned 88 two days ago. said in his tweet.

“I am saddened by the passing away of environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna. I have good memories of interacting with him and convincing him to give up his fast against the Tehri Dam in 1996, when I was PM. He was gentle, warm but firm about his principles, which I respected,” Devegowda said on social media.

The repentance fast or prayaschit satyagraha was undertaken by Bahuguna for 74 days from April 13, 1996 to June 18, 1996 in what he called was repentance for a failed agreement with the earlier P V Narasimha Rao-led Congress government for review of the Tehri dam project in Uttarakhand – which had been reached after a 45-day fast by the environmentalist.

After Devegowda became the PM on June 1, 1996 he reportedly told Bahuguna in writing that the new United Front government — with the backing of the Congress — was willing to get the Tehri dam project and its impact on the ecology and people in the dam region reviewed by a group of experts that would feature people nominated by Bahuguna.

Work on the Tehri dam resumed in 2001 and the first phase of the dam project — the tallest in India — was completed in the year 2006.

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