Monday, February 15, 2010

"Bitti kotruu Bt beda!"

Either the Government must have the capacity to educate and reform the people or the people must have the capacity to educate the Government.
- Sri Sathya Sai Baba


I have been reading Eknath Easwaran's Gita where he draws heavily upon Gandhi's philosophy and example to illustrate many points. I was inspired by the duty Easwaran extolled of putting all our thoughts, words and deeds on the side of everything that supports the unity of life and withdrawing our support from things which violate the same. As Gandhi said, non-co-operation with evil is the civic duty of all citizens.

So when I found out from Greenpeace India's emails that Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh would be in Bangalore on the last leg of public consultations on the introduction of the first GM food crop, Bt brinjal, I knew I had to go and be part of the protest group. I emailed friends and family to find out whether anyone would join me - my sister S signed up, bless her heart.

All that previous evening I mused about the wonderful souls who would turn out on the morrow and lend their skills and speech and presence in protesting against the corporate greed that held so lightly the livelihood and health of millions of people, and the earth itself. The song "Endaro mahanubhavulu andariki vandanamulu" kept playing itself in my mind as I thought about these modern day heroes. The next day I arrived at my mother's house from where S and I were set to depart for the public consultation, and the tv was on full blast. And what song should play but "Endaro mahanubhavulu"!! With that auspicious omen, we left for Central College where the meeting was taking place.

When we arrived there, there were huge anti-GM posters and groups of people shouting slogans and carrying placards and the place was simply chockful of policemen - the driveway was thick with them. We stood around a while, and then thanks to S's initiative, started to edge around the garden towards the main entrance to the building. No-one stopped us, so we got in and walked to the auditorium. The first two aisle entrances had men spilling out of them, but the third had a couple women in there and was relatively less crowded so we squeezed in and got a good view of the proceedings.

Jairam Ramesh was dressed in colourful khadi and sported long hair and looked as environmentalist as anyone else. He was giving both parties a fair and open hearing. He seemed well up on all his facts and quoted most ppl's emails verbatim at them. It was evident that he was an extremely intelligent, well-educated and well-informed minister indeed. He also had quite a bit of the brahminical intellectual arrogance about him. When one lady introduced herself before speaking, he interjected with an amused smile, "Oh, you've sent me a lot of emails!" at which she shot back, "And I'll send you lots more!" Those anti-GM ppl were awesome! Everytime an anti-GM point was made S and I lifted our arms over our heads and clapped for all we were worth while yelling "ooooooooooooooooo" approvingly to indicate our support. I'm afraid that was the inarticulate extent of our anti-GM support at this event :)

The proceedings were suddenly interrupted when a group of slogan chanting ("Bt brinjal bedve beda!!") Raitha Sangha people, whose chant we had been hearing get louder and louder, suddenly burst into the auditorium, and parting the sea of ppl in one aisle, streamed down it like a river towards the dais. The tv cameras promptly turned and zoomed in on them. They did their shouting for a while and then quite as suddenly disappeared. I read in the paper the next day that they had been bodily carried out by the police. Fast work that! All I could do was whisper to S, "Thank God they didn't choose our aisle!" At one point a pigeon suddenly swooped under the curtain and winged its way into the auditorim where it circled the entire place once and twice before dropping out of sight. I thought that was a good sign - a sign of peace and freedom.

After an hour or so, S and I made our way out of there and picked up anti-GM posters to take home. Our auto was decorated with one of them on our way back, and my car now proudly sports those posters on the back. The minister's final decision will be announced tomorrow. [The next day Jairam Ramesh declared a moratorium on Bt brinjal and was lauded by environmentalists, farmers and top scientists for his courageous decision. Long live Jairam Ramesh, you're a hero!!]

It was wonderful to be part of those amazing energy dynamics and to add our little part to the focused mass of consciousness that existed there. Despite the seriousness of the situation, I kept smiling now and then during it all. It was, after all, a joy to be alive and to put ourselves in a place where our thought, word and deed were aligned and joined with a thousand others' for a noble and worthy cause.

Is there anything more we can do? Greenpeace India has rendered yeoman's service in whipping up awareness on the issue and mobilising people from all over the country in making their opinion known. We can donate to support them in their outstanding work and to join their continuing fight against genetic contamination of our food.