Striking work, mass leave, dharnas, demonstrations, setting buses on fire, pelting cars, buildings and policemen with stones, beating up fellow citizens – these are some of the most common and, sadly, accepted forms of protest in our country. This speaks volumes about the leadership post independence in a nation which experimented successfully with nonviolent resistance to overthrow the British empire over which the sun never set for a few centuries.
Today, there was a heartwarming piece of news in The Hindu.
Vengeri a small village near Kozhikode is launching a protest against the BT Brinjal about which there is so much misgiving among the public, agricultural scientists, environment activists and certain political parties.
The controversies surrounding it is reason enough to shelve this genetically modified variety of vegetable - temporarily, at least.
"After what Bt cotton did to the farmers of Vidharbha, methyl isocyanate to Bhopal residents and Endosulfan to Kasaragod’s children, we do not have faith in the prescriptions of multinationals" said Babu Parambath, co-ordinator of Niravu.
My concern here is not the veracity of the theories doing the rounds, but the initiative taken by the a village near Kozhikode, in this state of Kerala which indulges in the most revolting, arrogant, unethical, lawless type of protests, at the drop of a hat. A group of people have decided to protest in a civilized, creative and constructive manner, by growing traditional brinjal to produce enough seeds to pose severe competition to the multinationals BT.
Brinjal campaign from today
KOZHIKODE: Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran will launch a campaign on Sunday to popularize a traditional variety of brinjal found in rural areas as an alternative to Bt brinjal.
The function will be held at an organic farm near Netaji Library at Vengeri. The farm is managed by Niravu, a collective of 101 people of Vengeri. A. Achyutan and Shobhindran, environmental activists, and Sister Ancilla of Providence Women’s College will speak. Niravu will distribute nearly one lakh saplings of the brinjal variety in the coming day
It is significant that the official launching of this protest project is by the minister. Of course, considering the official stand of the left against the multinational invasion into the agriculture sector, it is not surprising that the present Kerala government should get enthused over this project. But, this is a matter that goes beyond politics. It is recognition of a new type of politics - politics by the enlightened mass. Here, a small innocuous village in Kerala is showing 1. the way to protest democratically against a policy decision that is perceived to be anti people and 2. how an enlightened people can be meaningfully and constructively involved in governance.
It is significant too that an Educational institution - Providence College - is a leader of this movement.
Can we call it a modern day Salt Satyagraha?
I do not know if I am technically right in drawing that comparison, ‘cos Salt Satyagraha was based on deliberate violation of the ‘law of the land’.
The Vengeri model is a sustainable mode of protest that invests power in the hands of the people, provides an opportunity to walk the talk regarding an alternative mode of development and enables the literate people of Kerala to utilize their enlightenment to evolve a manner of protest different from the teeth gnashing INQUILAB ZINDABAD.
It, however, waits to be seen how the BT lobby reacts to this.
More important, it waits to be seen how supportive the government will continue to be, once the multinational lobby become proactive against this.
My father used to say (am not sure if he was right), the Japanese mode of protest post WW II was working overtime!
Nothing brings the authorities to their senses and to the realization of the legitimacy of a protest other than the ethicality of the means and the public weal consciousness that informs the end. The latter shouts out loud and clear through the former. It puts the authorities on the defensive, making it difficult not pay heed to the concerns of the people expressed in a calm, moderate, civilized and PRODUCTIVE manner which cannot in any way be faulted as lawless.
More than half a century after the death of Gandhi, Gandhiism shows signs of rebirth in a little village in Kerala.Today, I am proud to be a Malayalaee.