After an extraordinary 23 days without food, hunger strike strongman Paul Konar awoke Thursday with a weak pulse and extreme abdominal pain that worsened towards noon.
“Today, after 23 days without food, I am in a very weak physical condition, and my friends and supporters are very concerned about my health. The others who started the hunger strike with me on May 14 were forced to leave after 8 or 9 days due to health problems. I thank God that he preserved me for the last 23 days,” Paul said shortly before fellow workers called the ambulance that took him to George Washington University Medical Center.
Somebody needed to do something for others, so we, the Indian Worker Congress started this fight for justice. I took this risk of holding a hunger strike to achieve justice in this country for all people,” Paul said.
“Day by day my confidence is growing because I have been doing good for others. What I did is nothing compared to the sacrifice of Mahatma Gandhi, but I did what I can. If it should bring some happiness to others in the world, that is enough for me.”
Tributes from US civil rights and labor leaders poured in upon news of Paul’s hospitalization.
“Against steep odds, Paul Konar and his fellow hunger strikers have taken up the fight against human trafficking, worker exploitation, and the systemic problems with the H2B guest worker program,” said John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, which represents 10 million American workers. “All workers owe a debt to these courageous workers, and particularly to Paul Konar.”
“Mr. Konar’s remarkable strength and courage have taught us the true meaning of fighting for social justice,” said Marielena Hincapie, director of programs with the National Immigration Law Center. “This historic hunger strike has inspired many of us in the U.S. to make even greater sacrifices in order to achieve social change.”
Paul’s fellow workers and hunger strikers vowed to continue his fight for justice until they are granted legal protections to participate in a federal investigation into the traffickers.
“Here in the most powerful country in the world, a 54-year-old man named Paul Konar went 23 days without food, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi in the 21st century,” said Rajan Pazhambalakode, a former Signal Worker and organizer with the Indian Workers’ Congress. “We are carrying on this mission and continuing the hunger strike until we achieve justice in this country. ‘We shall overcome.’”