cities · civil society · development · environment · skill development · Uncategorized

Battle of the voices

– Nidhi Batra, Sehreeti

I have been on a little trip this weekend – a trip of ‘rights hoping’ .

It began yesterday with hopping through three different perspectives claiming their rights – coincidently all at the same venue – oblivious of each other and how their truths were so different.

Started with a close-knit environmentalist group – Programme for environmental awareness in schools (PEAS) trying to integrate the learnings of environment right from school education to smart cities to the right of consumption and saying NO to GM crops and YES to kitchen gardens.

Right below where the above discussion was happening, was another conversation happening with Biggies of ‘Development’ or rather real estate in name of development. They were discussing ports and industrial corridors. And they were fighting for their rights too. Rights to get quicker clearances. Right to cut paths through forests. Right to acquire land and displace people, of course in the name of development. And right for recognition by the government, since let’s face it , as they said – it’s only them – the private sector who can get the money. (since I have my personal bias towards this group – I am choosing not to mention who they were)

In the same building, at the same time was another marginalised group of street performers represented by Centre for New Perspectives (CNP) fighting for their identity and recognition of their skills and the taboo that is attached to them. Right to livelihood, identity, right to creative skills and right to dignity is a very difficult terrain. I was just listening, like many others in the room – hoping earnestly that we should be able to find a solution for them.

Just in moments of leaving this venue where I had already juggled through three different set of activists, I went to ‘celebrate’ the death anniversary of a gender rights activist I had worked with, who fought for the rights of other women, and at the time of her death was fighting for women’s equality in another nation – where she was brutally shot. Martha Farrell Foundation and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) awarded civil society organisation working on issue of gender equality at the event, post which, we  swayed in sufi music of the Sufi Gospel Project who aptly reminded us of what Rumi once said – The wound is  the place where light enters you…

Today morning I went for a nature walk (birding and fauna walk) with another set of group (I am Gurgaon, Vijay) who have literally toiled hard to protect the Biodiversity Park of Gurgaon yet are unsure whether the local, state or even national government will allow the park to breathe as a ‘forest’ which it is.

And then during the walk, our mentors – Vijay and Peeyush were describing how nature has its own way of fighting for their rights and at the same time co-working and supporting each other. From colonising grass on a rocky terrain which sets up the right kind of environment for other species to start growing over time, to how birds and animals are such an integral part of pollination, to a tap root of a native plant with an ability to go down as much as 60m, to native creepers… ah and many more… and I kept remembering the book..’The hidden life of trees’, which tells us how trees are almost like people- communicating and nurturing each other over their long course of life..

But then, people are nothing like trees. We don’t even hear each other voices – even when we might just be sitting just few meters away, in the same cultural building..

And it leaves me ruminating on what I am doing..

I work with all  of the above.. yes the biggies too.. hoping  that maybe I could afterall get my voice and of many others…heard day..


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