U Wisara’s Last Stand
By Wei Yan Aung 6 April 2019
YANGON—Buddhist monk U Wisara began a hunger strike in prison on April 6, 1929, after he was forced to wear plain clothes instead of yellow robes thus abandoning religious observances.
The monk had been subjected to imprisonment and torture by the colonial government for inciting sedition. When he was imprisoned for the second time for his anti-colonial speech, he was transferred to a prison in India.
During his third imprisonment, the monk refused to eat until he was allowed to wear the robe and fast on Sabbath day.
The colonial government of the time ignored calls from a number of Myanmar political organizations and members of the public to fulfill the monk’s demands. Instead, the prison authorities force-fed him to keep him alive.
U Wisara died 166 days into the hunger strike at the age of 41 in Yangon Prison. His death heightened the anti-colonialist sentiment among Myanmar people, and monks were later allowed to wear religious robes and fast while in prison.
Voyle Road in Yangon, named after a British lieutenant who died in the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, was changed to U Wisara Road in his honor in 1940. A monument to U Wisara was also unveiled at a crossroads near the western gate of the Shwedagon Pagoda in 1943.