Indian Spiritual Leader Dies After Months of Fasting

Posted June 14th, 2011 at 4:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Indian spiritual leader Swami Nigamanand, who was on a hunger strike for 115 days to protest environmental abuses in the country, died late Monday at the age of 36 in a hospital in Uttarakhand state.

Nigamanand was fasting to bring attention to pollution of India's revered Ganga River, also known as the Ganges.

Nigamanand, who began his fast in February and had slipped into a coma last month, died in relative obscurity, compared to the fast of a celebrity yoga guru Baba Ramdev to protest corruption. Ramdev is very much alive and in the spotlight.

Sociology Professor Mala Kapur Shankardass says Ramdev's fast became a media frenzy because anything which has an impact on politics or on socio-economic aspects gets much more attention.

Shankardass said environmental protests like Nigamanand's tend to be limited to the affected regions. He said environmental issues are not yet on the public agenda like corruption.

India's government has been beleaguered by a series of recent corruption scandals. The largest involves the sale of telecom licenses at below market rates, allegedly causing the loss of up to $40 billion to the government.

The hunger strike is a traditional form of protest in India and was used as part of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence movement.