Is Gandhigiri a much abused idea and do we respect it anymore, asks Tara Narayan, after visiting veteran crusader for democratic rights Rajan Savllo Ghate who is fasting anew unto death at Azad Maidan in Panaji…his fast commenced at 11 am on a hotter than usual November day, that is November 16, 2018. To everyone who turns up to support him or express concern he simply says, “I am fasting for my democracy!”
WHO is Rajan Savllo Ghate? Ask 10 people on the street and they will ask back, who is he? Very few out at street level are aware that a man called Rajan Ghate is fasting for the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to resign and let the next government of Goa clean up its act for the larger cause of democracy! Ask him why he has gone once again on a fast and this time he says simply, “I am fasting for my democracy!” His democracy, as if it not every Indian’s democracy too!
In this time and age anyone choosing the hardest way to raise our consciousness comes as a shock even for cynical media people. The question occurs: Why must anyone go on an indefinite fast for qualitatively better government? Isn’t the idea of going on a fast for a cause now obsolete, old-fashioned and the bottom line — who cares? Will the government, this government, care? Dying or getting killed is so much collateral damage for a government which does not respect democracy!
And again why should a malingering Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar care? And, can anyone who goes on a fast unto death force the chief minister’s hand on the subject of whether or not Goa has a fully or minimally functioning government? The last nine months have not been easy for Goans with a chief minister who likes to keep the reins of power tightly in his hands. Even if it is no longer news that he is suffering from pancreatic cancer and it’s just a matter of time before it is curtains down…from all accounts and practically speaking the chief minister of Goa has retired (with only a few privileged having access to him in the privacy of his home).
Even his own ministers in government are rebelling one by one now! Some say Rajan Ghate is just another RTI activist who has made a name for himself by fasting in the past for everyone’s right to information on how the government of the day functions and what has gone wrong where and how…some say he has political aspirations. Why not? Anyone may aspire to be a politician for reasons good, bad or ugly. In a democracy it is we, the people, who vote and elect or sack whoever grows too big for their boots in politics. It is not only Rajan Ghate’s democracy. It is also ours, each one of us who are either committed to our own personal good or the larger good of the people of this country.
It is every aam aadmi and khaas aadmi’s democracy. India’s Constitution subscribes to a democratic government. It was written by Babasaheb Ambedkar, a man this country reveres and looks up to with respect. As does Rajan Savllo Ghate, who like so many of us also imbibed a few ideas of about how democracy should be practiced courtesy Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi…in fact, fasting has because a celebrated cause if it is for the cause of the many. It is appreciated not just by Indians but the world over. We call it Gandhigiri.
Let us say Rajan Ghate is fasting unto death because he wants to remind us that when a government loses its raison d’etre for being in power — for the good of the people of this country — then it is we, the people, who must remind all the fine folk up there who feast off the public exchequer that life is not about by the government, for the government or of the government.
The irony is that after 71 years of enjoying the fruits of Independence we’re back in square one with yet another man declaring a fast unto death to remind us that if we compromise and continue to turn a blind eye to political dadagiri we will lose our hard-earned Constitution-guaranteed human right not to become puppets, slaves, fools — perennial victims of government loot and plunder. It’s not funny that someone has to go on a hunger strike just to remind the government of its duties, accountabilities, responsibilities — along democratic lines and not ruthless dictatorial lines!
WHAT choice does an aam aadmi have in a country when nothing works to stir the conscience of a government? Going on a fast worked when Mahatma Gandhi was alive and everyone respected his call for introspection for the cause of fundamental primary issues like justice and democracy. But then who killed him point blank in cold blood? Denial is the name of the game contrary to black and white confirmation. Who killed Mahatma Gandhi? Not me! But Gandhiji went on to become a hero for the masses and classes even if in pockets here and there we see only paise feko, tamasha dekho kind of lip-servicing every Gandhi Jayanti!
Gandhi gifted us with a sublime story worth hanging on, it’s the gift of a powerful idea — if you want to create a better world for all do it through non-violent, peaceful ways. Ahimsa — not himsa — is evergreen! So we have one Rajan Ghate who may be a familiar name in political and by now considerable RTI circles in Goa, going on a fast unto death. He had announced early in the month that if the chief minister of Goa does not resign he would go on a fast and this time too unto death.
Nothing happened. Rajan bab commenced his fast for a public cause at Azad Maidan and this time around he confides, “I have no security and no medical cover from the government’s side…they can kill me if they want!” He announced at a press conference on November 15, that he is going on a fast unto death until the very sick chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, resigns.
Politicians may come and politicians may go but the government must continue to function in a democracy. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar owes it to the people of government to hand over the reins of government to one of his party men and take a much deserved break to live or die in peace (the chief minister of Goa is not suffering from a common cold or cough but pancreatic cancer and has been more or less an absentee chief minister for the last nine months).
Governance from the inside out and outside in is affected and takes its worst toll on aam aadmi. So there he is — Rajan Ghate — appealing not to the lowest common denominator but the highest in public service. Do not sneer that going on a fast is easy nowadays! It is not, try skipping all your three meals one of these days and staying alive on water alone…and then perhaps you may learn how difficult it is to fast, especially when one is seeking a just victory but finds only bitter death courtesy the shortcomings of a government in power. We have it on good account that fasting is good for the conscience but only a man close to a yogic lifestyle may fast in equanimity for any length of time.
Most of us are more bhogi and rogi than yogi — ask Baba Ramdev who is rolling all the way to the bank these days, or even Yogi Adityanath waxing lyrical over gau mata’s right to live in dignity while children die because of inadequate oxygen bottles in government hospitals. The hypocrisy of those who subscribe to an ideology of hate rooted in a racial and religious mindset usually backfires overwhelmingly on the innocent, vulnerable and helplessly not equal.
A large number of people in this country which has been preaching ancient “Indian” sanskar, fast involuntarily every day because they can afford to put only one meal on the table daily if they are lucky! Perhaps it is to remind us of this in a nutshell that one such as Rajan Ghate is on a fast unto death at Azad Maidan until the chief minister of Goa comes to his senses at life’s end….but the question is will they let him die or heed his appeal? Will Rajan Savllo Ghate be a victim of political pulchritude?
It is now or never — Goans from all walks of life must quickly join hands to support this man or suffer the consequences forever after. For all you know we’re heading towards a situation when Bharatdesh may well turn into a Saudi Arabia clone — just different religion, same outdated patriarchal chauvinism!
WHO Is RAJAN SAVLLO GHATE?
Ask his friends! He has many friends judging by the group always around him where he is currently on an indefinite fast at Azad Maidan for the resignation of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. His friends generally agree that Rajan Ghate is a one-man army! The general perception is that he has been and continues to be a social activist of the very best kind, his father was a freedom fighter.
He has helped many people in Morjim and Siolim from where he hails. He is married and has one son, moved residence to Assagao recently. Even earlier on Rajan bab’s name is associated with preventing the illegal purchase of land by foreigners in Morjim. He has always been a strong advocate and defender of the Right to Information (RTI Act 2005) and co-founded the Goa RTI Forum which now has over 200 members.
According to the forum’s Sandeep Heble their members may be described as RTI activists, they offer help to anyone wanting to file an RTI application for accessing information from a government department. The Goa RTI Forum offers one platform to anyone seeking information and meets informally every three months or so. Rajan Ghate continues to be one of its co-ordinators and committee members, he is only one of five Indians to be awarded the national RTI award in 2010.
Rajan Ghate is a member of the Panaji Block Congress since September 23, 2017. He went to Tope Society’s High School in Siolim, studied at Goa University. He went on an indefinite hunger strike at Azad Maidan on April 21, 2013, demanding for the appointment of chief information commissioner and state information officer at the earliest. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had visited him then and offered him tender coconut water to break his fast, with assurances that SIC and CIC would be appointed by July 29, 2013.
Rajan Savllo Ghate is one of Goa’s evergreen heroes for a common cause — for the larger good of Goa and Goans! Definitely a good man to have on one’s side in good times and bad times.
Rajan Ghate’s wife, Deepika Rajan Ghate, shared an eloquent open letter from the Goan RTI Forum to the government…
Goa RTI Forum expresses disappointment over the official stand taken by the ruling party during the press conference addressed by its President Vinay Tendulkar on November 21, as regards the hunger strike being observed by RTI Activist Rajan Ghate at Azad Maidan. The Forum passionately appeals to the government to reconsider its stand.
In a democracy, government must be for, of and by the people and it must be warm, embracing and sympathetic towards its citizens at all times. Government may or may not agree with views or some of the actions of its citizens but it should respect constitutional rights and must take positive suggestions as well as criticism in its stride.
Citizens in general may be aligned to some political party or the other but they do not cease to be citizens merely by entering into political parties. So too is the case with RTI activists. There are many RTI activists who are in the Congress, many in AAP and there will be many in the ruling party as well. But they are all citizens of this Country and need to be respected. Arvind Kejriwal, a prominent activist in now in Aam Aadmi Party. Our own Chief Minister Mr. Manohar Parrikar has himself been a very prominent exponent of the RTI Act and has utilised it to good effect in the past. Another significant BJP leader Subramaniun Swamy has exposed so many corrupt practises through the RTI Act. It is pertinent to note that BJP has been one of the first political parties to have a special RTI Cell through which it has filed several applications on various issues during
the previous regime, to expose wrongdoings of the previous Government. Will all these people cease to be activists simply because they are part of political parties?
Hunger strike is a non-violent form of protest and government must not look at it negatively. The issues raised by Mr. Ghate need to be addressed. Labelling someone as activist belonging to “X” political party or “Y” political party and putting that person down is not the right way for a progressive thinking state like Goa. Government’s own partners have also made similar suggestions which it may or may not consider, but some liberal discussion on this can be a good way forward.
Goa RTI Forum recalls that when Rajan Ghate had observed a hunger strike last time to appoint RTI Commissioners in Goa, it was Mr. Manohar Parrikar himself who met Rajan and assured him to take necessary action in the matter. Mr. Parrikar, at that time, we must recall, called himself the “biggest supporter of RTI”.
Mr. Ghate has been a prominent figure in the state who has fought for preservation of Goa’s land. In the past, he has exposed the violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) by foreigners in buying lands and following his agitation, the Centre had issued notices to 400 properties in Goa purchased by foreigners.
Human values need to be preserved over and above all political considerations. Mr. Ghate’s only contentions are that the CM who is presently ailing must distribute his portfolios to bring about better governance and efficient administration. While the Government has a right to agree or disagree with him, it should not discard him or leave him in the lurch simply because he might be a member of some political party or the other.
We must not forget that even the British engaged in talks with Mahatma Gandhi when he went on hunger strikes whereas Mr Ghate is our own citizen. In view of this, Goa RTI Forum passionately appeals to the Government and the ruling party to reconsider its present stand vis-à-vis Ghate whose hunger strike enters its 7th day today (Nov 22). It must take a sympathetic view towards the activist and National Award RTI winner. As his health keeps deteriorating day by day, some engagements and talks with the activist to get him to end his strike and get back to good health will be the right way ahead.
— Goa RTI Forum