August 8, 2008

So we all were 'troubled' by what happened in Ahmadabad and Bangalore. We all were extremely disturbed, and we all wished for peace. On the 6th of August, there was a peace gathering that was held by an NGO (Citizens For Peace) in South Mumbai.

Personally, I felt the entire event to be very 'unnecessary', for there were many who just spoke, lamented, cried--but no one really discussed how a change or a solution could be brought about. It was the same old sob story, where people assembled, quoted, dispersed and forgot.

Two weeks after the blasts in Ahmedabad, who talks about it now? Everyone is back to living their own lives. During the blasts, the media covered all the amputated corpses it could find, weeped with infants who were to grow up having no 'saaya' of their pitas (fathers), showed innumerable women crying hysterically beating their chests, and now, two weeks after, the media has moved onto covering other 'important' issues, such as Abhinav Bindra winning one bloody gold medal in rifle shooting. Now, isn't India is really 'shining'?


Below is an article I had written right after the 'Peace Talk' gathering held on the 6th. It details what all happened at the gathering:

“We can and will triumph if we all stand together, with two powerful weapons: great pride in our rich diversity and unflinching unity at all times.”

--The Declaration for Peace

Prompted by the gruesome bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad that have once again disturbed the peace of the nation, the Citizens For Peace, in support with other NGOs, held a gathering on the 6th August 2008, the 63rd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. This gathering was held at Churchgate’s Patkar Hall, as a desperate call for peace.

Using Gandhi’s quote, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind,” as their slogan, the evening’s compere, Rajni Bakshi, siad that the gathering was a result of the “sadness and fear and also the helplessness we all feel when such bomb blasts happen.” The assembly was attended by several well-known personalities like Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das and Ameen Sayani.

Javed Akhtar spoke of the grim contrast that existed in the country. While on one side, “the IT industry is booming,” he said, “on the other side, India has the most illiterate people and poor labourers...” He said that India had not left a single ‘type’ of terrorism alone. He was sad that before considering the existing problems at hand, the first thought that worried him was, “whether we’ll be able to exist at all.”

While the poet read out a few of his most thought-provoking poems, Shabana Azmi read out their English translations. Overwhelmed by the atrocities, she broke down into tears at the podium, saying how helpless and weak she felt, and how “some serious steps had to be taken, and not only symbolic gestures,” to regain the country’s peace. Anita Deshmukh recited Vasant Bapat’s Marathi poem, ‘Deh Mandir Chitta Mandir’. Ameen Sayani remembered how the current situation reminded him of Gulzar’s line—“Roz subah mere ghar akhbaar khoon mein lath-path aata hai.” Actor Nandita Das quoted Martin Luther King, “In our times, we will repent not for the evil deeds of the bad, but for the silences of the good.”

The event came to a full circle, when the Children of the Happy Home—School for the Blind, moved the crowd by singing some of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite songs, including, ‘Vaishnav Jan To’ and ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram’. Gerson Da Cunha read out the Declaration, which was required to be signed by all those who were present. The assembly ended on a peaceful note with the lighting of the lamp and the singing of the National Anthem by the people in chorus, giving us a sense of Indian solidarity.

The event was rather hollow, a superficial attempt at highlighting what already exists in our country, for no one discussed the issues or how they could be ‘resolved’. Those who spoke, merely quoted others, sang or recited poetry. At the same time, at least such attempts by the ‘literate and aware’ and their public expression of thoughts increases within each one of us the desire to move towards a peaceful India , contributing in our individual capacities to build a nation of empathy and love.