Sunday, April 09, 2006

Nonviolence and the Indian State

As Mr. Katz in that magical Czech movie, Obchod na korze (The shop on main street) says, ‘When the law goes after the innocent, that’s the end. The end of the rule of law. The end of innocence”. Although he was talking about the nazi SS action in the small Slovak town, a very similar incident happened on midnight, April 5th 2006, when around 500 policemen and women descended near jantar mantar in Delhi. There were there to arrest a single 52 years old woman, who is respected the world over as the non-violent peaceful mass leader. 21 years of the movement she is leading, which includes people who have suffered the worst atrocities in the hands of the state in the name of development, and not a single violent incident can be attributed to them. The collective mass movement were able to convince everybody besides the Indian state and the judiciary about the harmful effects of large dams. All Ms. Medha Patkar was demanding that the government acknowledge the plight of around a million Indians, displaced from their dwelling places, their farms looted, their homes broken, their morale shattered by the attitude of the government. All she asked for is to send a cabinet committee to assess the real situation of the displaced people and make the report public. In India, truth needs the stamp of the State, truth cannot be considered true, as long as somebody from higher up says so publicly. Who cares if there are 15000 poor people in the streets of New Delhi shouting their throats off, telling the world what the government has done to their lives, to their future, to their souls. According to the present government of India, and the vast middle class India, 15000 poor Indians cannot be trusted. Truth is elusive, they say and it takes the colour of the goggles that one is wearing. So, who here has goggles on his eyes, or as actually is the case here, pretends to be blindfolded.

A little backgrounder. On 28th March, the Narmada control authority, decided to raise the height of the dam from 110 mts to 121 mts, thus facilitating the displacement of 35000 more families. That is done, even when the current number of people displaced has not been provided any alternatives to sustain their livelihood. The Supreme Court order in 2002 in this case was another in the long list of ‘nothing_but_foolish’ judgement made by the apex court. But even that ‘another_nothing_but_foolish’ judgement categorically asked the narmada control authority and the affected state governments to fully rehabilitate the people already displaced, land-for-land, before allowing any more height increases. Did the state governments of MP, Gujarat and Maharashtra and even the central government of India implement the judgment in letter and spirit? The government of MP has already said that it does not have enough arable land for satisfying the needs of all the project affected families. What then is the rationale in increasing the height of the dam at this juncture? That was the sole demand of Ms. Medha Patkar and 100000 people of her organization and countless more who show solidarity with her.

Unfortunately the attitude and action of the central government was not very susprising. For 7 days she was on a hunger strike, the most Gandhian of all peaceful protest methods, in the heart of Delhi with three others. They were all sitting near Jantar Mantar, the favourite place of such protests because of the minimum inconvenience caused to the common people. So, what scared the government? It is magical, how the simple strategy of hunger strike shakes even the most powerful and oppressive states. The ‘honourable’ prime minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh chaired a meeting of his cabinet colleagues that very same evening to access the situation. Supposedly the agenda of the meeting was to discuss the ground situation in the Narmada valley, but most likely the decision to attack Ms. Patkar and her movement was taken in the very same meeting. Considering the miniscule power that our ‘honourable’ prime minister yields over his cabinet colleagues, it comes as no surprise that he wants to make the most of it by attacking innocents like NBA and people affected by Bhopal gas tragedy (who were ruthlessly lathi charged and arrested by Delhi police hardly two days back). That too in the most cowardly way of sending 500 armed troops in the middle of the night when most of the people are either sleeping or have left for their homes. If that is not dastardly, then what is?

I will leave the important question of how much disaster can big dams be for some other topic. Right now I am concerned with the way our state and central governments, reacts to any kind of peaceful and nonviolent mass movement. In the land of Gandhi, the weakest sections of the society like the dalits and the tribals are killed, maimed and brutally repressed just for standing up for their rights. Or just for expressing their views which might not conform to the corporate and political interests. Irom Sharmila is being force-fed for past six years by the state. She is also protesting nonviolently. All she asks for is the revocation of AFSPA from Manipur, which gives supreme immunity to Indian army positioned their, who in turn commit unimaginable brutalities. 12 tribals in Kalinganagar were killed earlier this year, just because they wanted proper resettlement before handing over their land to a private entity to make a steel plant. Fishermen were shot in Vishakhapattnam for asking for their right to fish in the sea. For years, Sundar Lal Bahuguna suffered in the hands of the state for protesting against tehri dam, which is now proving to be a disaster for the people and ecology in garhwal hills. The people in the slums in Delhi and Mumbai were similarly repressed after the state destroyed their homes. The whole of our government machinery is acting like a supari killer. Their role is defined in protecting the interests of the rich and powerful. The whole of its energy goes in that direction.

As mere citizens, concerned with the plight of our fellow citizens, what can we do? Or can we do anything at all? To show solidarity will go a long way. We need to shout as a group, shout out loud to remove the wax from the ears of the government of India, so that they can hear us. We need to generate enough heat and light so that the blindfold is removed in from of the Government’s eyes. We know the truth. We know that the poor dalits and tribals of narmada valley are leading a life worse than those of animals. Even the pets are treated in a house in a much better way. Let us trust thos 15000 homeless people who are their shouting out loud; let us not let those voices go unheard. Let us do whatever little that we can do. The land of Gandhi needs to show more sensitivity to non-violent mass movements. Let us understand that non-violence is not a compulsion for those who have lost out everything in the hands of state, it is an achievement. To sustain in the non-violent path for 21 long years despite repression is an achievement. For starters here is the link to the petition that we can sign to show our support to the movement:


At 8:05 am, Blogger chiku said...

Anoop I am a promoter of Just joking, enjoy this for emailing big files.

I guess you had the same concern as of mine. But, ofcourse this issues belong to the category of law vs politicking. Definition of politicking in democracy as for people and its betterment. These is the peoples betterment, so enjoy. Just curious, r u member of any ngo, cry etc.

I am sure you will not be able to guess about me. Keep guessing, cheers :)

At 2:24 am, Blogger chiku said...

Anoop try this:
This would help me to shout at you rather than commenting on your blog.

Have you heard petrified of Ford Minor. Do hear that, also tell me how is RDB (Rang de basanti) or same boring amir khan.

At 7:27 am, Blogger Amit said...

Dude, you from BSN Jhansi only right?


At 7:31 am, Blogger Anoop Saha said...

To Chiku:
thanks for your comments. Iam not a member of any NGO, at least not actively. BTW, Iam sorry, Iam not able to guess who you are.

To Amit:
naa re. This dude is not from BSN Jhansi. This dude is from Bacheli, which is 11 km from Bhansi.


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