Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anti-Quota Rally - 21st may

Today we attended anti-quota rally. The rally was against government’s decision to implement cast-based system in higher education. Lots have been said and lots have happened so far on this issue of reservation and quota. Students have come out on streets demanding equality.

It really needs courage to shout for own rights and the youth is rightly doing that in many cities now. It was just a beginning for Pune. A few days back received an email about the rally and it happened today. It was one more ‘First Ever’ for me.

Though all over it was projected that ‘Medical students are protesting' and 'medicos have come on the streets’, the fact there was much more pleasant. It was really good to see the people from all the fields gathered and that too for the same cause. There were professionals, there were engineers too. When there is a mob, different mentalities and views are bound to be there. When the crowd grows beyond 1500 in number then the task controlling these people becomes really tough. I did not know that I was going to get chance to see everything.

The entire event was (to be) organized by ‘Youth for Equality’ – who had come up with their own way. Their pamphlets had clear list of their motto and the purpose behind the rally. The group had completed the legal formalities for the rally almost 3 days in advance however the scene there was a bit different.

Police had informed them in the morning that they could not allow the rally to happen. It was due to the fact that the protest in other cities had taken a violent face. However no one from the gathered crowd was in the mood of taking a back at that moment.

In spite of this bad beginning, the group went ahead with a big sabha. People cheered the speakers and it ended with following note,

“There will not be any official rally. ‘Youth for Equality’ is not officially going to take any responsibility of the any rally. However if you all fee that this rally should happen then you can still do it. Start marching in pairs of 2. We can have silent march WITHOUT disturbing traffic or anybody. Indian constitution gives us right of expression. Let us practice it.”

That was amazing stand taken by the organizers considering the fact that there were police standing outside. The march began as expected. The Entire mob (of almost 2000) started walking from SNDT play ground and finally came down on the road. Every one was in a team of 2 and was walking. A few also had the sign boards in hand. The group which was NOT officially organizing the rally was controlling the crowd which was now a line of thousands of teams of 2.

The organizers made it sure that the march is not disturbing the traffic. It was almost 4.30 pm and traffic had just started building up.

It might be little exaggeration, but I had started remembering all the freedom fighters and their stories. Not many times, we get chance to fight against the wrong. And believe me, when we do, it feels really great.

Finally everyone reached Sambhaji Park where the rally was supposed to end. The organizers thanked the participants and requested to disperse. They promised to convey the further updates to everyone.

And the next drama started …

The police van was standing outside the park since it was almost past 6pm. The peak traffic and the busiest road along with the HUGE crowd inside the park were perhaps making them worried. The organizers mentioned that during the whole movement nobody would make any illegal act and hence would not gather collectively at the park because it was also not legal.

A few from crowd came forward and asked, “Why the heck did we walk for last 2 hours?? Just to disperse?” “We would not go anywhere. Why to go when we are fighting for right thing”

Well… dint I say, we are bound to get people with different mentality! No doubts that everyone there was with the same cause but perhaps the patience levels were different. The moment people found no further clear course of action, they started thinking. Thousands of minds came up with thousands of ideas and it was the beginning of the chaos. The mob which walked silently during the peak traffic hours without disturbing anybody was about to burst on the busiest road of Pune in just 15 minutes.

The “organizers” really had tough time explaining the after-effects to the crowd. The crowd was now in hundreds only but still together it was still BIG. Police were about to call double police force than the crowd. The organizers did not really want anything wrong to happen. The reason was clear – because they had some plans to do and one wrong move was going to ruin them before they could have even started. Who cares? In such moments, no one listens to the logic!

All the freedom fighters whom I was remembering a few minutes ago were now staring at me. That was bad. That was really bad. People started arguments there inside the park. A few of them started shouting and booing some politicians. Gosh! It was irony. Everyone had gathered there to get away with castism in the country and now the crowd was now screaming against some people and not their decision. Had someone brought those people in front of crowd and killed them right away, perhaps the anger would have died out … despite of the existence of the cast-based systems. No wonders why people said ‘hate the crime and not the criminals’.

I really hope, what I said just now was not the fact.

Finally I realized one more scary fact. To make this rally happen, almost hundreds of students had signed non-bailable warrants. Meaning thereby, hundreds of careers which had not even started were at stake. And still a few asked to these organizers “WHY? Why did you sign such warrants?”

Organizers who were arguing with the Police a few hours ago were now struggling with their own people! I don’t know what should I name it but the entire scenario was disheartening. After the successful march of 2 hours, the last half an hour was really heart-breaking.

There were people who had some really good plans in their minds and made the march successful. There were people who were really upset with government’s decisions like others and were part of the march. With the crowd gathered around the latter were really making the situation tensed.

Make no mistake; no one was having ill-thoughts. But still it happened. After lots of debates and arguments, the crowd dispersed. Perhaps a few went because there was nothing ‘happening’ for a long time. A few vanished because they wanted to and a few disappeared by seeing the less crowd.

Finally everyone – the organizers and the remaining public – agreed to come up with a strong plan next time and went off. Police also were happy to see that their extra force did not have to come and the situation did not go out of control.

A few were still wondering in the park in small groups and deciding about the action they can take independently! Perhaps this is what people call ‘divide and rule’. There was a mob that was together a few minutes ago and was all set to protest against the government’s decision. And now after a few arguments by a very few people the crowd was in different groups deciding for themselves and forming their own groups. Those who were wise … said the things and went off. But those who were not, they were still there.

Whatever happened, that was happened inside the park. For outsiders, it was enough to understand that the youth has really awakened. The organizers also would have realized the same!

Let me end this with a very positive note. Despite all arguments and debates that took place there, the whole mob would surely come together again whenever the next steps would be taken. The reason is very simple – all are young and hence they do not have much ego! And all share really good motive. Hence they are bound to come together.

Let us come together people and do a collective effort to remove the cast based system from the country. It is not for any individual … it is for everyone … it is for us!
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