June 15, 2011

‘Save Ganga’ crusader dies after 115 days of fast

As Baba Ramdev broke his nine-day fast at Dehradun’s Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences (HIMS), a fellow fasting sadhu, Swami Nigamanand in a nearby ward lay dying to protest the Uttarakhand government’s refusal to ban mining along a stretch of Ganga near Rishikesh. On Monday, he died unnoticed, after fasting for 115 days.
The 35-year-old ‘Save the Ganga’ crusader, a seer at Haridwar’s Matri Sadan Ashram, had been on a fast since February 19. On April 27, officials shifted him to Haridwar district hospital as his condition deteriorated. But he still refused to touch food. When Nigamanand slipped into a coma on May 2, he was rushed to HIMS and put on life support system.
Seizing the issue over the death of the fasting sadhu, the Congress hit out at Uttarakhand’s BJP chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank for tending to Ramdev to gain political mileage and ignoring Nigamanand, who was fasting for a serious cause.
On May 15, a Matri Sadan functionary, Brahamchari Dayanand, had lodged an FIR at Haridwar kotwali accusing a member of a stone crusher association and a senior doctor for poisoning the swami. Matri Sadan Ashram also accused local police of succumbing to the pressure and dragging its feet to arrest those named in FIR.
The Uttarakhand government had on December 10, 2010, banned quarrying and stone-crushing along the Ganga, as the entire region was eco-sensitive. However, the association of stonecrushers in Haridwar managed to get a stay on the order.


Three US women told to leave India

The fear of proselytization by Christian missionaries has gripped the southern most state Kerala yet again. Three US women tourists were asked to leave the country following complaints that they along with the local pastors were trying to convert “poor families” to Christianity in the coastal area of Alappuzha district in Kerala.
However, the state police said that the three tourists were asked to quit because they had violated the tourist visa rules by trying to attend organized group activities and meetings. The circle inspector (CI) of police J Santhoshkumar who is investigating the case told the TOI that the three women –– Shelly Louise Deeds (50) a nurse in Pennsylvania, her daughter Katelyn Heather Deeds (15) and Diane Gean Harrington, a teacher at Wisconsin had arrived here about 15 days ago, and their tourist visas were valid till November this year.
However, the activists of some Hindu organisations complained to the police that the three were trying to convert the poor people by offering them material inducements. “They were targeting the poor families in the coastal area and were trying to convert them with several offers. The area had significant Hindu and Muslim population while only some recent converts were part of the Christian community. The pastors and foreigners were trying to influence the local people through the new converts. They had visited several houses in the area and conducted prayer sessions,’’ RSS taluk office-bearer Raghu said. The proposed prayer sessions by the local pastors and the tourists created a commotion in the area and the rightwing Hindu organizations threatened to launch a protest.
“We have not received any evidence to indicate the three US women were engaged in conversion-related activities. However,they were about to attend religious prayers session. They have come on visit visas and the law of the land doesn’t permit them to attend any organized meeting or group activities including the prayer sessions. We were not clear about their intentions. That is why we asked them to leave the country, and they agreed. There is no deportation involved. They are now waiting for their return tickets,’’ the district SP Asok Kumar said.
The police sources said they are gathering the details of the activities of the three pastors Sabu (47), Jacob (34) and James (45) from Kottayam district. The police said the US Embassy India had also been informed about the incident.