Sunday, March 2, 2014

Making a world of difference

Making positive change despite limitations----


On 21 st August 2011, an Indian expatriate was arrested in Dubai for organizing a Gandhian protest march at Dubai's Al Mamzar Beach. The event organized without any prior permission through face book was termed as illegal as per the country's law. The Indian consul general Mr. Sanjay Verma rightly said that it was imperative to respect the local sensitivity and laws. 

The corruption movement sphere headed by Anna has stirred the patriotic emotions among Indians residing in India as well as abroad. It has served as a wake- up call, a cup of 'garam chai' in the morning, arousing people from the deep 'Kumbhakarna' slumber they had lulled themselves into. Not that the "common man" ever stopped complaining or lamenting - about the rotting of the system or the eroding of values, non-functional/dysfunctional governance. However, what most of us fell short of was taking a step, creating a ripple among the like minded and uniting to stand up for one's conviction. While nobody denies the greatness of the cause the Anna Movement and team Annahas had to deal with its fair share of criticism and controversy. There have been disparate views about fasting as a vehicle of protest. Some considered it as a threat to the democratic functioning of parliament, a blackmailing of government with the backing of popular support. Others opined that desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when a 42-year-old anti-corruption bill, which had been tabled 8 times in parliamentary committee, is concerned. Many felt that passing a mere bill can hardly initiate a systemic change, while Anna's supporters (a large chunk of public) felt this movement heralded the beginning of real democracy, a parliament run by people's participation. Anna's tough stance before the government and the speeches and opinions of team Anna in the public and the private domain (Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, and Arvind Kejariwal) have been viewed in different lights as well. 

NRIs across the world were glued to TV channels and various media reports of the proceeding of this pioneer movement. Nowhere in the history of protests, has there been a non-violent Satyagraha of this level against the failure of a democratic set-up. Yes, Irom Sharmila, the Iron lady of Manipur has unflaggingly dedicated 11 years of her young life to a cause by fasting. However neither her suffering nor her cause has garnered the mass support the Anna movement amassed. The debates and proceedings in parliament, right from Lalu's incredulity about a grand old man's ability to sustain such long periods of fasting to Arun Jailtley's extremely logical rhetoric were watched and heard with batted breaths. The NRI population travelled through the roller coaster ride as it continues till date, with many members of team Anna battling privilege motions and reeling under what is termed as the "divide and rule" policy of government. It becomes an increasingly frustrating journey when one is unable to find a proper closure, to tell the right from wrong and especially when one is unable to play a part in things that affect an individual at the physical or mental level. 

Most Indians dwelling outside the country are immensely moved by patriotic sentiments. This perhaps stems from separation pangs or from an unconscious, passive guilt. This is further aggravated by one's inability to participate or contribute in some way to the motherland. The urge to do something for the country and feel connected with one's own kind is tremendous. Many of us flounder because of our inability to find the right way to ventilate this desire. However where there is a will there is always a way. Indians staying abroad have found ways to do their bit for a cause or for their country. Indians constitute about 50% of the labor force in the private sector in UAE. Even during the treacherous summer months in UAE, the workers are engaged in earning their wages braving the hot sun. Aruna Shamkuwar an Indian housewife, based in Dubai, UAE, empathized with the plight of the worker. She started the individual initiative of donating beverages and food to construction laborers. Many like-minded volunteers who organize such drives on a weekly basis now join her. When the motive is to be an instrument of progressive change it is not difficult to find a path. People like Aruna may not have ignited the hope in masses that Anna did, but in her small yet beautiful way she has lighted a few spirits and brought smiles to tired faces. 

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