45, is the number of days that have passed in my 75-day summer vacation. All these days, I, have been watching news on the television, have been reading news, through the internet, and the newspapers. Never, did I come across an article in the newspapers or on the television about the fast unto death staged by Swami Nigamananda. Not until he died.
Today, I was watching a popular news channel which claimed in an advertisement that its reporters would go anywhere. But, they were not in Haridwar for about 80 days when Swami Nigamananda was unto his fast. They were busy reporting Shane Warne and Liz Hurley kissing in the IPL. We also wouldn’t have known about the Swami’s death. Not if he was lucky enough to spend his final hours with Baba Ramdev in the same ICU cabin. Yes, he died within a few hours after Baba Ramdev was discharged from the hospital.
Swami Nigamananda fought for the removal of the stone crushers polluting the river Ganga, a river close to his heart, and a river considered sacred in India. Baba Ramdev wanted the Government of India to bring back black money stashed, presumably in, Swiss banks. The larger issue being putting an end to corruption in India. And so, he fasted. His fast lasted 9 days. And all through these 9 days, there were hundreds of reporters from as many news channels who reported every minute and every second of what was happening at the Ram Lila grounds. No one, in these hundreds, cared about Swami Nigamananda until they found him in the ICU cabin with Baba Ramdev.
In as much as you think about the causes for which these two men fought, you can see that the Swami’s was a just one. Yes, you can get the stone crushers removed from the site, and make River Ganga, a little more cleaner. What the Baba is fighting for, a corruption free India, is what I like to call, the Indian Dream. Yes, every Indian dreams of an India that is corruption free, and one that looks like a carbon copy of America. I know, you know, and yes the Baba too knows, that this is a far-fetched one. I am, in no way, saying that this cannot be achieved. Yes, it can be, but it takes time. And by time I mean it would take about decades.
Baba Ramdev’s cause was, also, as a matter of fact, populist. One that catches the attention of people quickly. The media, run by corporate companies, is quick enough to differentiate those issues that grab the eyeballs, and those that do not. Obviously, the Swami meant nothing to the media until he died. In his death, he provided a stark contrast to the number of days that he fasted, and the number the Baba fasted. This is what the media lapped onto.
Like Swami Nigamananda’s fast, there are many issues that have been side-lined by the media. I learn from this article in The Hindu (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sainath/article2110433.ece) that in February 2011, Delhi saw one of its biggest rallies. Lakhs of workers from central trade unions rallied in the streets of Delhi protesting against rising food prices and unemployment. The mentioned article adds that this rally has been covered by the BBC, Reuters and the AFP, but not by the Indian media except when the rally caused traffic troubles.
As the Fourth Estate, the media has vast powers. Had they paid attention to the Swami’s fast, the Government of Uttarakhand would have stopped the stone crushers, and then the Swami would have ended his fast. We would not have lost him. I wish that the media is more rational and reasonable in the items that it chooses to cover. With its power, it can bring about changes that are beneficial to the society. Finally, it isn’t just important to be at the right place, but also of equal importance is to be at the right time. The media has failed in this regard in the case of Swami Nigamananda.
As a last note, corruption, female infanticide, dowry, the caste system, all these, are, the way I see them, moral issues. You just can’t put an end to these by enacting a bill in the Parliament. The solution then, is to educate. Through education, you inculcate moral values into the minds of the younger generations. And then, in the decades to come, as more and more people get educated, you can expect to see a country that is slowly, steadily getting rid of these social evils.
Another article about populism, (http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/sanjaya-baru-politics-vs-populism/431690/)