Days 9 and 10 – through bandit held hills to Guna

Tuesday 28th February and Wednesday 1st March
After spending the night just a few feet from the road in Rajgarh, we began the walk to Guna just about half an hour before sunrise. The aim was to get to Guna (which has a population of about half a million) by midday so we could spend some time doing publicity and outreach there.
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We soon passed through the first real pocket of bandit-held hills. For a stretch of about 10 kilometers, we all banded together and walked as a tight group. This was unusual because usually the padyatra stretches over a whole kilometer or two in length, with small groups walking together and individuals walking alone. “Ek sath!” people kept yelling, “[stay] together!”
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Once we were out of the hills, we stopped at a small roadside temple to borrow their back yard for a meeting. This meeting involved all padyatris, not just the 10 representative leaders. We had to talk about what we were going to do in Guna and who was going to take care of which tasks.
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Shortly afterwards, everyone gathered around the truck and Sathyu made sure all the padyatris, some of whom cannot read, knew and understood the exact points in all six demands of the padyatra, in anticipation of discussions in Guna. The sides of the supplies truck are covered in illustrations of the problems facing gas and contamination affected Bhopal and the demands we are placing before the central government.
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A press conference was held at 5 p.m. at the Varun Hotel on the main road in Guna. In it, Sathyu addressed the issues and demands behind the padyatra and connected them to the issues surrounding Bush’s arrival in India, which has sparked massive protests all over the country, including in Delhi, where 1,000,000 were protesting, and here in Guna, where some people were burning effigies of Bush and Cheney in the streets.
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About a thousand gas and contamination affected people protested in Bhopal, as well. It seems obvious to everyone in this country that what Bush represents is nothing but trouble — all
different kinds of trouble, but certainly including the kind of corporate exploitation that led to the disaster in Bhopal in the first place and the kind of policies that will reward rather than punish those responsible by even further opening up India’s doors to their insatiable and greedy hands.
There is some sad news, too, from the padyatra. About a dozen padyatris were compelled to turn back to Bhopal because of health problems and mild injuries from the extreme physical demands of walking the distances we are walking in the gruelling schedule to which we are strictly adhering. Dr. Jay and Dr. Qaiser came up with a jeep from Bhopal and took a few people back with them, and the rest returned by train. Here are the names of those who left us: Ezaz Khan, Ganesh Prasad, Anwar Siddiqui, Laxmi Bai, Sayeed Khan, Anwar M. Khan, Dwarka Bai, Sharda Bai, Jija Bai and baby Karuna, Bharat, and Vijay. It was painful to see them go, especially after coming so far. There are many still with us who are facing severe pain and other health problems, but they are staying on for the time being.
Last night we stayed at another Sikh gurudwaara in downtown Guna. Sleeping outside would be impossible and undesirable in a city of this size. The tile floor felt good on our overheated bodies. We were totally famished by the time we had our first meal of the day after 5 p.m. Many people just fell asleep after that.
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One thought on “Days 9 and 10 – through bandit held hills to Guna”

  1. There are not enough words to describe my admiration for your march, and if it were at all possible I would be marching with you too. I am a student in high school, as well as a member of Amnesty International and Greenpeace (both organizations dedicated to promoting human rights and a clean environment for all to live in). I wish you the best of luck and a safe journey in your march.

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