Progress Takes a Step Back

As a child I was taught to recite out aloud the fundamental rights offered to me as an Indian citizen in school. I sat alongside my classmates; children from different faiths, different castes, different upbringing, but united in the common grounds of belonging to a country that taught us that we were all equal in the eyes the laws of our country. That we shared the same rights. After all, it was to achieve this freedom of choice and dignity of life that our people fought and paid for so dearly during our struggle for independence.

Fundamental Right #1

Right to equality, including equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.

 

But this week, this sentence became mere words. This sentence that has been taught to us so that we could understand and appreciate the beauty of the law that offered us the freedom to live the life of our own choice has become a farce.

India was hailed as having made a landmark step forward in 2009 when the Delhi High Court ruled in favor of decriminalizing homosexual acts. I celebrated alongside all the people of my country who believed that prosecuting people on the basis of sexual choice that are consensual was a sin and that it went against every law of equality and freedom. But it seems that my country isn’t willing to take a stand of righteousness. Instead it has allowed itself to sink into backwardness, cowardice, discrimination and a blatant disregard for equality and freedom.

I grew up without having to worry about my orientation. I could fall in love, get married, have a family, and no one would bat an eye lid. I had the freedom of choice which everyone celebrated. Was it because I was an extraordinary citizen who brought laurels to her society and country? No. It was simply based on the fact that I was heterosexual. I had the right to be happy, a very basic right of every human being. Or so you would think. And now, there will be many like me, growing up with the same desires of wanting love, family, happiness and celebration, all being denied of this basic right just because they have a different sexual orientation. Are they robbers stealing other people’s belongings? Are they murderers claiming lives? Are they rapists violating human dignity? Are they pedophiles committing vile acts of horror? No, they are human beings like me, trying to live a life of their own choice, hurting no one, coercing no one. But being attacked, cornered and stolen from based on the fact that they have a different choice.  They might have had a better chance at a free life were they robbers, murderers, rapists or pedophiles because our society seem to prefer these groups of human beings over honest, happy, socially conscious, but gay, human beings.

Is this the heritage I pass to my children? Is this the heritage passed to me? Is this what my people fought and sacrificed lives for? For acts that deny courtesy and respect to other human beings?

Today I am ashamed to be a citizen that is part of a system of such inhuman laws.

I hope tomorrow brings changes.

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Progress; a Pseudo-Name for Chaos

I recently got into a conversation with my mother, a woman who has the ability to multi-task and take on the woes of the world onto her fragile little shoulders like no one else. Amongst the many social work she is a part of, the Tribal Outreach Program of Kanyakumari is one she is involved with.
The tribals. Words that people hardly dwell over. Where do they live in a world that is so quickly evolving into an urban jungle? What do they eat? Where do they work? How many of us can actually say that we have lent a thought to them?
The outreach program extends medical help, family counseling and other aid to these people through a mobile hospital that makes its round to tribal areas. Situated in deeply remote parts of the terrain, these people are completely cut off from services that the urbanites take for granted.
Before the urban culture, before Bill Gates made his millions, before the first airbuses were invented, the tribals existed in peace and harmony with their surroundings. These are people who have lived amidst nature and her splendors, who truly understood her, who never took her for granted, who appreciated all the offerings and never exploited any part of it. Talk to them even now and their knowledge of the forest and their sheer love for it is mind blowing. They lived on the land, farmed on it, made makeshift biodegradable houses of twigs and branches and kept moving before the land was depleted of all its richness and minerals. Their way of life was in tune with nature’s balance and harmed her in no way. The tribals of the Kanyakumari area hunted wild boars which provided them with their main nutrition and protein. It kept in balance the population of wild boars and their world was one of total balance with them giving back to nature as much as they took.
Then crawled in ‘Progress’. DFO’s and Forest Officials who ‘learnt’ about nature and her forests and understood all about her through text books and power point presentations. Who probably became DFOs because they couldn’t get through their IAS. People who had no grasp on the reality of nature and had no true love for her. These people became the decision makers and passed laws in the name of ‘Progress’.
When the delicate balance of nature is disrupted, it ends as always in chaos. And the people who suffer are the ones who have not contributed to the chaos at all. The tribals in Kanyakumari were banned from farming, from building huts, from hunting wild boars; mind you all this was for ‘Progress’ after all. The aftermath? They lost their livelihood, their way of living, the culture, their source of food; in short their lives as they knew it. Soon the wild boars increased in numbers and started killing people and destroying farm lands and the tribals were forced to look for hard labor to avoid poverty and starvation and now live in complete chaos.
So I place the question out there. What is ‘Progress’? Is this what we understand of it? Who are we protecting and who are we helping? Land and livelihood is stolen from these people who have never harmed any one in any way while whole forests are cleared in India, protected animals pushed onto the brink of extinction by these same officials who turn a blind eye when the green notes are tucked into their pockets. So are we really moving ahead? Ironic isn’t it?

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