Kerala’s computer science graduate-turned activist on fast-unto-death for clean…

As a fresh graduate in computer science, Atmabodhanand wanted to launch a start-up. But the native of Kerala instead chose an ascetic life and turned his focus towards striving for a clean and free-flowing Ganga, an agitation that has claimed lives of two activists, GD Agarwal alias Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand and Swami Nigmanand, both members of Haridwar-based Matri Sadan ashram who died fasting for the cause.

Brahmachari Atmabodhanand, too, has been on a fast-unto-death for the past 77 days, at the ashram in Jagjeetpur village, 5km from Haridwar, and refuses to call off his agitation until the central government meets the demands to save the river, its ecology and the conservation of Himalayas.

Atmabodhanand, the youngest among the determined seers at the Matri Sadan ashram, says he is ready to give up his life for the cause that seers Sanand and Nigmanand took up and ultimately paid for with their lives. While Sanand died after being on a hunger strike for 111 days, Nigmanand died on the 105th day of his fast-unto-death.

“Swami Nigmanand and Swami Sanand were forcibly lifted from the ashram and died mysteriously. I don’t have any hope from the government. They are just playing a waiting game to arrive at an ideal opportunity to also forcibly shift me and then give me the same treatment that was meted out to the two seers,” Atmabodhanand said, and points at the ‘samadhi’ of late Nigmanand on the ashram premises.

While he was pursuing his graduation, Atmabodhanand and some of his batchmates had planned a start-up to provide employment opportunities to the youth.

But destiny had some other plans. “I became more inclined towards spirituality and reading through books and searching online spiritual material, I realised that a materialistic life has its limits but a spiritual life is beyond time and centuries,” he said.

Without informing his parents, Atmabodhanand left Kerala five years ago for the banks of Ganga in Rishikesh.

“Once there, I shunned my denim jeans and branded shirt for a saffron clothing of dhoti-kurta as worn by the seers. I stayed at several ashrams but didn’t find most of the saints and the ashram residents as driven into spirituality as I had imagined. During the pilgrimage to Shri Badrinath shrine, I met Swami Shivanand Saraswati of Matri Sadan ashram, where I came to know about Swami Nigmanand’s martyrdom and the causes of Ganga taken up by the ashramites,” Atmabodhanand said.

In the past four years, the seer has taken up eight agitations and has almost become synonymous with the ashram.

Dr Vijay Verma, who has closely followed the seer’s agitations, said it’s not easy for human beings to sustain even a week without food but here is a young seer just relying on water, lemon and a bit of salt for nearly three months.

Swami Shivanand Saraswati, who himself has carried out numerous agitations, said that the strength to fight on comes from believing in the cause.

“When we sit on agitation for Ganga, its ecology and for saving the Himalayas and humanity, we don’t need food supplements but the support of people.Faith, determination and truth are the aspects that propel us,” Shivanand said.

Brahma Swarup Brahamchari,spiritual head of Jay Ram ashram, said that Atmabodhanand is a new generation idol who has opted for a road that is tough but only a few can tread on this journey.

First Published: Jan 09, 2019 16:07 IST

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