Sunday, 31 May 2009

Chopping Trees to Develop

It had to happen one day - the rampant cutting of trees around the city has finally hit my backyard, front yard, my threshold - 120 trees around the CNR Rao circle at the main gate, IISc, are slated for the axe. Its inevitable, we must proceed with the times. We must develop. We must progress. Even if this means we hurt, kick, scream and vehemently oppose such progress.

The larger common good,
as defined by a few,
will be rammed
down our throat,
will make us choke,
suffocate, die,
even as we defy,
and question,
what is this good?
which clears space,
where trees stood?

Bangalore traffic doubles every five years, and our ever changing governance is ever ready to demolish slums, axe trees, destroy heritage and replace it with wider roads, mazes of underpass, overpass, roundabouts, all to keep up with growing traffic needs. It is ready to lie, define, our life, happiness and success, by counting the cars that are on the roads, and squeezing even more.

But, what about people? What about people not in cars? Are roads about transporting people, or clearing spaces for cars - to move, to park? What fraction of Bangalore drives cars? And should our progress only cater to this set? Do they realise, that in their names, the government charges ahead, ready for progress, armed with axe and coffers -ready to be filled. For, lets not pretend, it is neither the well being of its citizens nor longer term development of this city drives these projects.It is corruption, and its infiltration deep into the very pores of our governance, the filthy game of power and greed that propels the development agenda.

And are there no alternatives, except to drive, widen roads, sacrifice air, breath? Our public transportation is abysmal, our walkways erased, no cycle paths, no green space, to linger, meet, wander. We are converting this city into a giant, grey, parasitic colony of consumers and consumables - and IT IS FOR OUR GOOD??? Thank you, but NO, thank you. We oppose, vocally, vociferously, loudly, clearly. We will not stand by and let this be done. We exercise our democratic right to fight progress which will not benefit us - we oppose, fight, because we dare not do otherwise.

You can most meaningfully join our voice by adding your signature here.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Raipur Satyagraha

I have recently returned after participating in my first Satyagraha, a civil resistance and a protest, an effort to 'invite truth', or even create it. I was part of a group protesting the two year incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen in Raipur in a sham case implicating him in Maoist activities. The state's key witness has turned 'hostile', denying that Dr. Sen could have smuggled Maoist letters from the prison, which is the primary charge against him. Dr. Sen is in urgent need of medical attention and is still awaiting bail to obtain treatment of choice.

Dr. Binayak Sen is one person, of the probably thousands languishing in Indian jails without access to due judicial process entitled to them - a safety blanket to protect their civil liberties and human rights. Our 'Satyagarh' in Chattisgarh was a cry, a yell, a scream in many hundred voices, not only for justice in Dr. Sen's case, but all those others, wrongfully detained, many for substantially longer, under much more hostile and severe circumstances. It was a call, loud and clear, that we, the ordinary people of India, shall not let this be, that 'we shall not surrender!' We take responsibility for our bad governance, our rotten judiciary, our corrupt officials, mainly our own apathy in face of a hundred thousand wrongs that surround us, suffocate us, destroy us, and the very concept of a 'we' and 'us'.

There was no apathy in the Raipur Satyagraha. Minstrels sang, feet danced, voices of poets rang out with hopes for humanity and tears of their nightmares. There was no apathy when we marched under the blazing summer sun, young, old, women, children, all, with voices hoarse to wake the world. Fists clenched, held high, to shatter through the deceit, the lies! Protest calls of power, passion, in a battle cry to end wrong doings, not the wrong doers. We were strongly, forcefully, inviting truth, to come amongst us all, to end suffering, of all those suffering. For, can inflicting any pain be right? can any wrong doing be justified? are there any laws, principles, doctrines, greater than the sovereign right of all men to be free, to live, according to the current of their own inner voice? And, should we not protest, since our heart cries in pain? in shame? for all those suffering - wrongfully, willfully incurred at the hands of our own elected officials and appointed police force, who are meant to safeguard individual rights and thereby protect the existence of our nationhood?

Democracy fails without civil liberty. When human voice is silenced, questioning clamped, dissenters eliminated, then democracy itself becomes a sham. This is the state of affairs in Chattisgarh.We were just a tiny team of brave hearts in a war zone 'inviting truth'.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

An Open Letter to the Police

For all of you who comfortably sit, accept and pride in India, world's largest democracy, its accelerated drive to development,progress, measured in roads, malls, airports, dams, industries, consumerism aped after western models, there are many secret, darker sides, to us, our nationhood that we hide deep inside. One such story is told here. Read it. Then, either remain awake, or go back to sleep.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Gulabi Gang

Stories like that of the Gulabi Gang bring a new level of inspiration to all grassroot movements and a bright ray of hope for the down trodden, weaker sections in our society. Thanks to 'The world as we know it' for this excellent article. Check it out here.