People have, and will continue to lose their homes and villages because of the increasingly intolerant and right-winged attitudes, among all religions of the world.
It has been a year since I started working on the issues of the displaced. As an artiste and activist, I have been trying to draw attention to their awful plight. I joined Kanu Kalsaria’s march, wrote about the still homeless gas victims in Bhopal, the Adivasis in mining areas and forests areas plundered in the name of development, sat in the dharna against the cruel rehabilitation that came as a consequence of the Sabarmati Riverfront Project. And at Darpana, we are always ready to use art for change. So, we decided to embark on a year-long project looking at different aspects of displacement, and the many circumstances that lead to people losing their homes, their moorings, their roots.
Religious persecution has been seen world over, whether it was the conflict in Bosnia twenty years ago, the Rwandan ethnic cleansing, the recent Myanmar persecution of the Muslims or our own Muzaffarnagar riot story. People have, and will continue to lose their homes and villages because of the increasingly intolerant and right-winged attitudes, amongst all religions of the world. This remains a major cause. Also responsible is the political persecution resulting in asylum seeking. Another huge cause is trafficking and human slavery for the pleasure or comfort of a few. This might be trafficking for sex or for cheap domestic help.
The present case of the row between the USA and India, over the personal spat between a diplomat and her maid, is not even the tip of the iceberg. The violent abuse of people sold into the sex trade and those treated as indentured labour in homes (especially many Indian-American homes and amongst Arabs with Philippine and Sri Lankan maids) is legendary and mostly undetected. A relatively new entrant to the causes, is perhaps today the most wide spread — ‘development’ and building infrastructure for roaring economies. Over the last forty years, and especially the last twenty five years, millions have been uprooted in India for industrial expansion, mining, special economic zones (SEZ), and for ‘beautification’.
And with no uniform policy for rehabilitation, most of them eke out the rest of their lives in abject misery. Dumped far away from their cities or villages, they are given uncultivable land. They are far removed from educational facilities and healthcare, pushing the lives of their next generation into misery and darkness.
Also, have you visited Pirana, Ahmedabad’s dump site? You can smell it from a mile away as the air is thick with flies. As soon as you alight from a vehicle, your arms, neck, face and whatever part of you is uncovered is covered with flies. There is filth and muck and slime everywhere. This is where the families have been settled, those that have made way for the Sabarmati project, so that we can fly kites there, or cycle, or pretend to look at books at a book mela. It is worth visiting, to put into perspective what happens to the unseen and unheard minions, who make way for our pleasure. It is worth a visit to find out if we still have an ounce of conscience left, for what we so readily embrace.
Do you think I exaggerate? Or that I jest? Call my colleague Bharatsinh Jhala at 27551389 and he will arrange a visit.
It is because of this that we are creating, and will tour the shows, we will present here next weekend. To make us realize what we are perpetrators of, unknowingly; to make us raise our voices together to stop this from happening.
The writer is a noted danseuse and social activist