Skin-deep Hinduism

Desperate Hindu extremists are making a mockery of the real problems that the river Ganga faces

Published: Thursday 31 August 2000

If you are a self-respecting Hindu, have deep religious feelings for the river Narmada, and are worried about what the Sardar Sarovar Dam might do to the river, you don't matter. At least not to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (vhp). But a dam on the river Ganga in Tehri is a different proposition. vhp chairperson Ashok Singhal, better known for his nuisance value than Hindu ideals, announced that the Ganga Raksha Yatra (Ganga Protection March) of the vhp was only to protect the purity of the Ganga from the Tehri dam and that he was all in favour of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. A pity assembly elections are due next year only in Uttar Pradesh and not in Madhya Pradesh.

A large dam in India is a very serious and complex issue. It is an extremely difficult choice between the fates of poor people displaced by dams and the constantly increasing demands of a developing country for water and electricity. The issue brings about extremely polarised responses from those in favour of large dams and those against it. Politicians and bureaucrats have failed to come up with solutions or alternatives. And then comes the vhp . In a rather desperate attempt to garner some political support by whipping up Hindu sentiments, the fringe group is trying to jump right into the middle of scene to provide some comic relief, lest the issue get too serious. Newspaper reports pointed out that environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna, who has been at the forefront of the anti-dam campaign in Tehri, distanced himself from the march.

One might act generously and excuse Singhal for knowing as much about the environment as the bricks going into the Tehri dam wall. But doesn't the man have eyes, or a nose? Can't he see or smell the filth that is dumped in the Ganga? If Singhal's Hindu credentials were the least bit believable he would have launched a campaign to clean up the sacred river. But, sadly, that would never translate into votes.

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