An incredible 100,000 people are expected to participate in a third march protesting the condition of the sacred river Yamuna this spring – and this time, organizers say, they will not budge or negotiate with the government.
Two previous marches by the Save Yamuna campaign in 2011 and 2013 yielded some results -- for instance, the government agreed to construct a sewage canal to stop Delhi drains discharging pollutants and sewer waste into the river.
But the construction plan is still tied up in a maze of bureacracy. And the protestors’ main demand to release the original clean Yamuna water from the Hathni Kund Barrage in Haryana, where it is diverted for agriculture and other purposes, was not met.
This march, says volunteer Ravi Monga, will be different.
“For the first march, we didn’t have the numbers,” he explains. “With our next attempt, we had some leaders whose motives were not spiritual enough and who agreed with the government.”
“But this time we have huge numbers, and we have left behind those with personal ambitions – so it’s a purely spiritual protest,” Ravi adds. “What’s more, there will be no understandings to be achieved, no negotiations to be made. There are no options. It’s either a yes or a no. That’s all.”
The main march will be preceded by a smaller event on February 22nd, during which 10,000 members of the Pusti Marg sect of Vallabhacharya from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi will assemble at Rajpath boulevard in Delhi and walk the four kilometers to the Jantar Mantar protest grounds.
Meanwhile the main march, dubbed Yamuna Muktikaran Abhiyan, will leave the town of Kosi in Braj on March 15th and visit Hodal, Aurangabad, Palwal, Prithla, Jharsetli, Faridabad, and Sarita Vihar, on the way to Ramlila Maidaan in Delhi.
The foot march, or padayatra, will be organized by sadhu and environmentalist Ramesh Babaji and his Maan Mandir organization; the Bharatiya Kisan Farmers’ Union; and Pusti Marg.
Thousands march towards Delhi in 2013
The 100,000 participants will include many sadhus and representatives of spiritual institutions from the sacred towns of Mathura and Vrindavana, as well as Mathura/Vrindavana lawyers’ and doctors’ associations and business unions. Along with them, of course, will be many Brijbasis and devotees from all over India.
ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission officially adopted the Save Yamuna campaign in 2013, so Ravi also hopes the ISKCON temples in Delhi and Vrindavana will participate.
“We will have Harinama sankirtan all the way, chanting and dancing from day one until the last day,” says Ravi. “When we arrive at the Ramlila protest grounds in Delhi, we will have 24 hour kirtan, great prasadam, and maybe some Bhagavatam classes too. It will be a purely spiritual affair. We will not allow political parties to come in and raise their slogans or put up their banners.”
Ravi promises that this time, around 25,000 people will stay on at the protest grounds and won’t go home until they receive a straight answer from the government to their request: pass an order to release the Yamuna at the Hathini Kund Barrage so that there is an adequate flow of water for the holy river’s entire stretch.
According to Ravi, this is a straightforward thing the government can do “in one stroke” by simply signing an order. But political pandering has halted the process.
However, with a recent change of the country’s leadership, the Save Yamuna campaign is “definitely expecting results this time” from new Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and the new pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata political party.
“Before the elections, he promised that he will bring back the Ganga and Yamuna rivers,” says Ravi. “So it’s within his commitments. He has to do it.”
Devotees of Lord Krishna and the Yamuna – the river that flows through His childhood home of Vrindavana – around the world can help by visiting saveyamuna.org, scrolling down the page and signing the online petition to the Indian government. The petition can also be printed out and mailed to your local Indian embassy, which Ravi says is more effective than signing online.
“Serving Braj and Yamunaji is a direct service to Krishna and Srimati Radharani,” he encourages.
And he quotes Radharani herself from the Garga Samhita: “Where there is no Vrindavan, where there is no Yamuna river, where there is no Govardhan hill,” she says, “In such a place, my heart finds no happiness.”
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