Is Fasting Unto Death Still an Effective Tool of Protest in India?

Politics

Is Fasting Unto Death Still an Effective Tool of Protest in India?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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t the end of a 111-day fast, at the end of which he even gave up drinking water, 89-year-old activist GD Agarwal died of heart failure. His fast was part of his decades-old crusade to protect the Ganga, and by its end, he had written three letters to PM Modi but received no response. However, the Prime Minister was quick to send his condolences for the activist’s passing on Twitter, raising the question of why Agarwal’s death made national news, but the media largely ignored his fast. To understand the place of fast’s in modern Indian consciousness, we can take a look at two recent high-profile fasts, by Hardik Patel and Anna Hazare.

“I can die for those who love me, who want to keep me alive. But my friends, I would not oblige those who want to kill me by dying.” With these words Hardik Patel ended his 19-day fast earlier this month, after appeals from other Patidar community leaders.

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