Month: October 2007

March of the lesser gods

On Sunday, while the much-publicised marathon was making Delhi run, there was yet another march which hardly got any print or screen space. It was that of the dispossessed, the lesser gods comprising 27,000 landless peasants and marginalised tribes from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.
In a ‘peaceful mutiny’, they marched their way to the capital on foot, asking the government for a piece of land to live, failing which they volunteered to be put in prisons. Even after having traversed the 350 km padyatra, they were brimming with a “sense of burning injustice,” far from any inkling of fatigue, though perhaps not expecting much from the callous folks in the corridors of power.
As I was on my way to work, I could listen to their rallying cries, their revolutionary slogans. I stopped for a while, staring at the large, amorphous entities moving along in rows with their banners and flags. There were old, dhoti-kurta-clad bearded and turbaned men, still others in their twenties or thirties, clad in shirt and pants; women wearing saris in different shades, proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with their menfolks, proud to be a partner in raising their voices of protest, holding the banner of rebellion in their hands. The silent rebellers marched along under the gaze of the Delhi Police which had gathered at strategic places along their route, armed and well-prepared, to prevent any ‘untoward incident.’
What struck me most was that while the media was going gaga over the marathon, which had the city’s who’s who running, there was barely any attention spared for these powerless, luckless people used to their lives on the margins. I didn’t care if they were mobilised by any political party or if they had done it all on their own. The very fact that they had walked their way to the capital for ‘justice’ was a testimony to their indomitable strength and more so, the urgency with which they were seeking ‘justice’.
In the high-decibel din of the city life and the crescendo of other concerns, their cries, their slogans might not have reached the powers that be, who would anyways not care to look beyond the sophisticated confines of their cocoons. And so, the swarm of humanity, the multitude of men, women and children walking on the city’s serpentine stretch were reduced to be the tiny dots trailing along the black pitch.
The impersonal city swallowed all the hopes, concerns and dreams of a vast number of the village folks. They came, they cried, they asked for justice, but alas, it fell on our deaf ears. We had little time for them. We didn’t even care to know who were they, what they wanted, why did they need to take to the streets, why was there something burning in their eyes, what made them resort to the march. Indeed, it is our ‘pathological incuriosity’ that lies at the root of many things that go wrong with the world, making it difficult for all of us to inhabit.
If only the media, the people, the city folks, would have cared to know, cared to lend them thier ears! But no, it was ‘none of our business’. And it was business as usual for most of us. Those who ran in the marathon must have gone home, feeling a tinge of pride for having made it and hastening to see themselves on the small screen and in the newspapers. While those, who came to the city with a hope, went back, as if the might of the city has punched them in their faces, making them bruised and battered, throwing them back on the margins, ‘You, the dirts of the village, stay there and don’t hope for any piece of land. It’s a global village and everything here comes with a price tag. And yours is the unbearable deprivaty and destitution.’
Ah! the trauma of being on the margins! Ah! the angst of being denied justice, Ah! the agony of the dispossessed. But who has the time for all this? Who cares for the rural landless folks? Come, let’s raise a toast to our booming economy and the Diwali at the Dalal street.