The Middle Finger

“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. Now the law of nonviolence says that violence should be resisted not by counter-violence but by nonviolence. This I do by breaking the law and by peacefully submitting to arrest and imprisonment.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

When I read about the 1965 protests and hear about it, I used to wonder why the current generation does not feel the need to rise up against the so many things that are happening around. Why is there no response to the injustices and where is the revolution, we were all waiting for?. After some time, I lost hope that the politicians and the movie stars have castrated the youth of this state enough to ensure that another uprising is not possible.

So, it was with a bit of negativity that I started looking at the Jallikattu protests when it started.

A bit of background here. I am from Madurai and have never seen a Jallikattu. I know that it is happening in the villages around, but never bothered to visit and see one. It is something the villagers do and I am not really interested. However, I've read enough of the Tamil history to know that it is an ancient tradition which has undergone significant changes in the past years and is now practiced as a marginal sport in a few villages. The ban on it when it happened also meant that the slowly dying tradition was given a quick blow.

The Protests
Siruseri SIPCOT entrance
So, it was with interest that I was watching the students standing in the service lanes of OMR with placards protesting. What do they know about Jallikattu anyway?. And almost every college in OMR was in the roads, but there is no disruption of traffic - it was congested but regulated by the students themselves, no violence, no dancing in the tops of the public transport or anything. It was  a bit refreshing.

By the end of the second day, the protests have spread to all the major cities in TN and all the students across the state were standing in the roads, shouting slogans, no violence - not even the stray ones, just protesting. It was transforming into a mass movement. The crowds in the Marina started swelling.

By the third day, it was huge. Now I started seeing more people on the roads standing and shouting slogans. The IT corridor is full of IT employees standing there after their shifts and protesting. It was just amazing.

That's when I realized that I am witnessing something historic.
These are the protests of my lifetime.
Marina in the Morning

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Why do we protest? I think Jallikattu only is the tipping point in a series of events that led to it. The evidence can be seen at the protests itself, where while Jallikattu remains the focus point, the speeches are about all the issues in the state.

The Cauvery water issue, the Tamaraparani water issue, the Tamil fishermen deaths, the farmer suicides, the demonetization disaster - everything gets a mention. There is a strong sense of being treated as a second class citizens within the Indian union - where our interests take a backseat to every other state/person's priority.

The ruling parties - both central and state - are seen as completely  incompetent and selfish, which I agree with. The leaders of these parties are the ones who get shouted against. I cannot think of any leaders before Modi and OPS, who were spoken in such derogatory manner by any one - let alone an entire state. And I believe, that was entirely justified.
Protest or Festivities?
Conforming to a national identity was never a part of the union. The National identity should be a confirmation of the existence of different cultures with different traditions and languages. Conforming to a Hindu ideal  or any other ideal , as defined by the rulers will only serve to lose our identity as a people and will help in ensuring that this 3000 year old state loses a reason for existence. This goes for every state which is there in the country. If we cannot be an union of federated states, the protest is the only solution. Of course, this pisses off the right-wing, as they see any protest - கலகம் - as a threat to their agenda. Herein lies the root cause of these protests.

Is it justified to have these grievances? I believe yes. The simmering of these sentiments over the past so many years has reached the boiling point now and just got released through the Jallikattu issue. The total insensitivity of the rulers to address any of the issues has forced the hands of the protesters.


“Amandla Awethu (Power to the people)”
- Nelson Mandela

I went to Marina twice in the past 2 days and came back satisfied that Civil Disobedience when practiced, can be the force to reckon with. There crowd has increased day by day and the volunteers are doing a great job keeping the place clean, regulate traffic and there is not one incident - however minor it may be.
We are what we define ourselves to be.
The environment is electric with people shouting slogans, food gets distributed at regular intervals, people come and drop off water bottles/packets in bundles without worrying about who it gets distributed to, women carrying large cans of juices, coffee and tea set up place and distribute. It is just amazing to see the spirit of people in ensuring that there is a constant flow of food and water, the mobile toilets are in place and everyone is taken care of.

The entire place feels like a big family picnic with street drams, performers, campfires going in the sandy beach, music bands, folk dancers and continuous speeches by ordinary people all the time. The protests are the chic place to be if you are in Chennai now.
முஷ்டியை உயர்த்து..
I was with my family in Marina till 11.30pm yesterday and can see a large number of people who have come with their families - small kids with placards, shouting 'தமிழன் என்று சொல்லடா, தலை நிமிர்ந்து நில்லடா', women forming their own groups and shouting slogans and at 11.30PM, I saw a total of 3 policemen controlling what seems to be about a 100,000 people in the beach and we felt absolutely safe.

This is an entire state showing a huge middle finger to the central and state governments and all the so-called leaders.

What I had witnessed is a Revolution.

What now?

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

The governments are now acting. So I think Jallikattu will happen and the protests to a logical conclusion. But what has happened now will make the government to act on trying to ensure another protest does not happen. I think that will be futile.

The iconic mobile torch moment..
The people who were at the protests in the various parts of the state would feel a personal victory against the government and will get politicized in their views. That is a good thing. The kids who were at the protests will grow up with a memory of what happened and will not hesitate to repeat it when it is their turns to protest the injustices of their time.

I am incredibly happy that the youngsters of this state has ensured that the future will be much better than what it looks like today.

And once again, Civil disobedience or Satyagraha , as practiced by a much-vilified old man, has proven to be a mighty weapon against unjust rulers and laws. I bear witness to that.

And I am much privileged to be a minuscule part of a movement which demonstrated that.

1 comment:

Jeysri Prakash said...

Beautifully written. I was able to feel the same emotions and spirit I had yesterday at Marina...

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