Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stand up and be counted ...

A judgement of the Delhi High Court thrilled me -- no end.

I remembered with love and affection my dear friend from the 1970s, Askok Row Kavi of Mumbai, a bold journalist and daring editor for his pioneering magazine, Bombay Dost. I have supported the struggle Bombay Dost put up "against the tide" for all humans with a different sexuality.

In my classes, since 1987 in Pune, my students have learned to respect, promote and support various "minority" issues: the beautiful, special and different peoples and causes of our world. One of the reasons why I gave my blog the title, "Against the Tide" is to highlight "minority" issues and the resistance put up by minority groups and peoples.

For example, I have been asking some of my best students, who care deeply about stray dogs, to write about the persecution these street animals face from otherwise sane and respectable citizens.

Though we had pet dogs at home when we were children in Solapur and Manmad, my mother cared deeply about strays. In a quiet moment she would take me aside and warn me that, if I did not care deeply for and sustain my mother tongue, Konkani, this beautiful and ancient language could be annihilated like the stray dogs of this world.

Other issues are strictly not minority issues, but need to be taken up "as if" they affected a minority. For example in Pune, can you imagine that citizens have to campaign for pavements to walk upon? The rights of pedestrians are being neglected in Pune, while civic authorities are creating a city that is friendly for two-wheelers and cars.

Most citizens have to walk at some time or the other; so apparently pedestrian rights seem to concern the majority. But since the "right to walk safely" is being trampled upon, protecting pedestrian rights becomes a minority issue.

Lovers of trees, open spaces, gardens, the hill slopes, small water bodies, rivers, also have to be constantly vigilant. Trees, gardens and open spaces, that cannot protect themselves, are under threat.

My friend, Vinita Deshmukh, who edits the small but courageous weekly newspaper, Intelligent Pune, would say the Right to Information (RTI) law is also a key minority issue that needs to be stoutly defended, considering how even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants to scuttle this pro-people legislation by making “notings” by bureaucrats exempt from its purview.

We each can and ought to pick our own minority issue to campaign for. This is what makes us a democratic society, where citizens participate in governance and not merely vote in elections.

Your support is my strength,
- Joe.

Pune, India, Sunday, 12th July 2009.

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