Day 35 & 36: Driving away the dark with Narmada friends, 600 join us from Bhopal for our march on Parliament: as the march ends, the battle begins

Day 35: Sunday, March 26th, 2006
Sunday was the prescribed day of rest for the group. We stayed for most of the day here at the Bharat Scout and Guide Camp facility.
Just before noon we entered an empty, ancient building just a hundred meters or so away and had a big meeting about what was going on in Delhi and what the next day would be like.
Biju and Dr. Jai arrived by train in the morning and they along with another, local doctor examined everyone who had decided to sit on the hunger strike.
Dr Anod checks Nafisa
And Gulab Bai
Almost half of those examined did not pass and were advised by the doctors not to stop eating.
In the early evening we all left our things here and headed several kilometers away to India Gate, one of Delhi’s most outstanding landmarks. We wanted to join activists who are now in Delhi to fight the Narmada dam project, which has destroyed a huge area of land in three states — Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. India Gate is surrounded by huge ceremonial grounds covered in grass and criss-crossed with foot paths and wide boulevards.
It was Sunday night and there were thousands upon thousands of people out enjoying the evening.
We couldn’t find the Narmada activists for a while. As it turned out, they had been held up by a scuffle with the police at the place where many of them are currently hunger striking. They did arrive, however, after a couple of hours, accompanied by world renowned writer Arundhati Roy, who warmly greeted us and joined with everyone in a candlelight vigil.
The vigil quickly turned into a candlelit song circle – together as one we sang both all the songs about Bhopal and all the songs about Narmada.
People from all over the park came and squeezed their way through the crowd to get a closer look and hear what we were singing about.
Dinner, cooked by the canteen here at the Scout camp, was waiting for us when we got back here. Sleep came quickly after that.
Day 36, Monday, March 27th, 2006
Today was both exhilarating and extremely difficult. We woke up
shortly after sunrise and began walking back to the park about half a kilometer away. As we made our way over there, a huge, winding crowd of people came walking down the road — 600 Bhopalis who had taken the train all night to join us here in Delhi for the last leg of our march to the government center. It was a beautiful thing to see.
There were people of all ages, from the people nearly 100 years old to countless babies and small children carried by their mothers and fathers. Many of them were family members of the padyatris, sweetly reunited after weeks of worry from both sides about all kinds of problems back at home in Bhopal as well as here on the padyatra.
Shehzadi greeting her family
Breakfast for the new arrivals
After spending some time in the park sitting together and happily catching up, we got up and prepared for our walk to the center of Delhi.
Sadhus making ready flags bearing the padyatra symbol
Garlands of flowers were handed out to all those who had walked on the march. The group stretched for blocks and blocks as we moved through the streets of Delhi.
BBC picture of the apparently endless procession winding through Delhi
Despite getting almost no sleep on the train from Bhopal, everyone seemed almost explosively energetic and loudly shouted and sang the whole way. “Phul nahin, chingaari hain!!” – “We are not flowers, but flames!”
At about noon we reached Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s main place of protest for grievances of all kinds. There we found ourselves in the company of several other groups who had come to Delhi, including the people fighting the Narmada dam project. Tear gas was fired upon at least one other group, and many cops threatened crowds with the thick wooden sticks they carry.
Nimmi handling the situation
The cops surrounding the Bhopalis were relatively calm and unaggressive. Nity did scold them at one point for driving away people who were approaching, curious to find out why we were there. “These people didn’t walk all the way from Bhopal just to talk to a line of police!”
Collage: “Determined women”. Click for larger image
We stayed at Jantar Mantar until just before sunset. Many people are sick this evening. Rashida Bi suffered for most of the day with a high fever and several other people have fevers along with vomiting and diarrhoea. Some people became severely dehydrated during the day and at least one woman who had just come from Bhopal over night collapsed from exhaustion. Our accommodations are being pushed to their limits by the number of people here now. Every bed is taken and about 100 people are sleeping on the ground between the small buildings here.
Please do whatever you can to support the Bhopalis from wherever you are, even if it means just sending a fax or email to the Prime Minister. This is a critical moment. Tomorrow people will stop eating. Today we were promised a meeting with Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi in the next few days, but there are no guarantees and we need all the help we can get to gain more attention from the Indian government. Everyone has come so far and is so exhausted, some very sick.
For now, a little bit of sleep for these 650 Bhopalis on shared patches of floor, under shared blankets, ever hopeful.
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