Krishna Teri Yamuna Maili!
By Binoy Thomas
Mississauga: Did you know that one of India’s most revered river, Yamuna, is dead? Now, that is not a teaser. This is what experts and activists are saying about one of India’s most important rivers that begin in the Lower Himalayas of the North and wind down through many cities and regions, including New Delhi, Agra, Mathura, for 1400 KM till it joins Ganga in Allahabad. Ironically, in Hindu mythology, she is the daughter of Sun God, Surya, and sister of Yama, the God of Death, hence also known as Yami and according to popular legends, bathing in its sacred waters frees one from the torments of death. Now a dip at the wrong place can lead you to the door of Yama himself!
Everyone has heard of how dirty is India’s most important river, the Ganga, and there have been many campaigns, aimed at cleaning up the holy river. But Yamuna’s fate is more serious, it’s in its death throes, and only concerted action from all concerned can save this once beautiful river that mesmerized Shah Jahan and encouraged him to erect the world’s most beautiful structure on its banks. Swami Brajraj Sharan, from Braj, the area that is considered holy by way of the thousands of temples situated there, is on a world tour to impress on whoever will listen to him, on the urgent need to address the issue, and save Yamuna. “I am here as a representative of Rameshji Baba Maharaj from Barsana, who first started opposing the mining mafia sixty years ago. After 58 years of campaigning, the mining came to a stop, the government of India declared a 5400 hectare parcel of the Aravali Hills as protested forest.
The current movement has its beginning in an event in the late 1980s when a few people fell violently ill after taking ablutions in Yamuna. “That’s when Baba Maharajji told us to try and control this pollution,” Sharan tells us. Subsequently, a large water wheel aerator and SIP tank were installed about 10km north of Vrindavan and the water that flowed downstream and collected in large tanks, was decent enough for devotees to perform their rituals. But the problem was much bigger.
Last year, it was revealed that not a drop of the original Yamuna water in the river that flowed through Brjajbhumi, where the Hindus believe Lord Krishna once roamed. “We found out that what we treated as a holy river was actually the sewage water from Delhi and other cities, and that 97% of the Yamuna water was being diverted into Haryana through Hathinikundi Barrage built in 2003 north of Delhi.”
Though the revelations have hit the public eye only recently, (it got a huge boost after being highlighted by Bollywood star Aamir Khan in his Satyameva Jayate), the facts were known as early as 1999 when India’s Central Water Pollution Tribunal had issued a ruling that mandated the release of more water from the barrage to feed the river. For political and other reasons, no action was taken.
Sharan tells us, “On its course, whatever little reaches New Delhi through various canals is soaked away by it down to the last drop. New Delhi marks the end of river. What flows beyond is simply partially treated sewage of Shahdra drain of Delhi and other smaller drains both domestic and industrial (not one drop of original fresh water from the river).”
Millions of faithfuls visit this region each year to perform rituals, not quite aware of the tremendous danger the sewage water pose to their health. The saveyamuna.org website is quite forthright when it notes: “It is a shame that they are duped into bathing and drinking the filthiest of waters as none of them realize that it is only poisonous sewage. Their spiritual emotions and faith are being hoodwinked.”
But then, this is not an issue that concerns the devout among Hindus alone, but affect each and every person who live along its route. From a small trickle of activists, the movement is growing in strength. The first major yatra to save the Yamuna attracted 10,000 people who marched for 40 days, connecting with the locals, making the issue urgent, more importantly, waking some slumbering politicians. Unlike the Yamuna, the march gathered support from different sections as it flowed through the various towns and villages, culminating in Agra where a local Muslim priest (Kazi) gave it a poignant twist. He declared that from that time onward, he would ask all the Muslim couples who appear before him to get married not just the three questions to which they have to say ‘kabool hai’ (yes, I agree), but will add a fourth one – ‘Do you agree on the need to clean up the Yamuna?’ He would wait to hear a ‘kabool hai’ before he declares any couple officially married.
After all, the save Yamuna campaign goes beyond religions and politics to the maintenance of the very stuff that life itself depends on – water.
The Save Yamuna Committee has launched a worldwide campaign with a goal of one million petitions to turn the screws on the Indian authorities, who it seems, in this case, are not without options. “The good thing is that this is not an impossible task, there are some very practical steps we can take to bring Yamuna back to life,” points out Swami Sharan.
March next year, they are planning a march again, where a hundred thousand people are expected to walk this stretch. Given that it will be an election year, don’t be surprised if Yamuna is once again front and centre for the politicians. Hopefully, it will not hijacked by the religious or the political lobbies with their own agendas, as it happened with Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. If you feel strongly enough, go to www.saveyamuna.org and sign the petition. Remember, Yamuna needs your support now, and soon, if the stench is not stopped now, the disease will soon spread to the other river systems.
Yamuna drowning in pollution near Delhi
Short URL: http://www.weeklyvoice.com/?p=16455