Hunger strikes a common tradition in Andhra Pradesh

Anna Hazare is not the only person to use fasting as a tool of protest. Andhra Pradesh boasts of a number of people who have fasted for their causes.

Fast unto death seems to have been the popular theme for protests , playing a major role in the political history of the State. A few have succeeded and paved the way for development and relief for the people.

The police say that they have now enforced regulations for conducting hunger fasts at the Indira Park, the protest chowk. “No one is allowed to go on a fast without prior permission and that too for a maximum one day,” says Police Commissioner A K Khan.

Some present-day political agitators in Andhra Pradesh use fasting as a tool to war against the government as well as to achieve their personal and political goals.
Among them is 46-year-old Manda Krishna Madiga, president of the Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS). Madiga, a veteran ‘faster’, tops the list with nearly 32 fasts stretching over 40 days in the last 8 years.

His classic success case was when he fasted several times for children with congenital heart diseases, forcing the State government to launch medical camps to identify the children with holes in their hearts and provide treatment for them.

His latest was a two-day relay fast last week for the release of TRS leader Dr C Sudhakar of Warangal, who was imprisoned for rioting and attacking buses coming from Andhra region into Telangana in November. On Tuesday, Madiga led a procession against the attack on a dalit minister by Home Minister Sabita Indira Reddy’s men. In 2008 MRPS activists fasted seeking the release of party workers after they attacked a vernacular newspaper for castigating leaders of caste-based organisations. In November 2007 several physically challenged people were led by Madiga on an all night vigil protesting the pension doled out by the government to the handicapped.

But the fast that turned political history was that of Potti Sriramulu, who fasted for 58 days from October to December 1952 and died for the sake of a separate Andhra State (separation of 13 districts from Madras presidency).

Other well known leaders have also used this tool. Former congress chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy staged a hunger strike to protest against hike in power charges in August 2000. TRS chief K Chandrasekhar’s fast in December 2009 for the commencement of the process Telegana state, turned counter productive when the Centre held it back the same year.

TDP Chandrababu Naidu joined the ‘fast-unto-death’ bandwag on,  in December 2010 allegedly for farmers until he was forcibly lifted and taken to the hospital by the police.
A strange story is that of former Congress minister Komtireddy Venkat Reddy’s fast for Telangana, where he ended it while waiting endlessly for AICC officials to entreat him to withdraw.

Both police and lawmakers say they are helpless when the ‘Satyagraha’ tool is misused by agitators for their casteist and political advantage.

“This is one of the banes of democratic system, but a welcome feature clinically” says Dr V L Ramachandran who advocates such fast once a week to keep mind and bowels free.

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