Pragya Bhagat, March 12, 2007
Today is the day for the Principal Secretary to prove himself as a man of integrity. Today is the day the Chief Minister could accept the survivors’ demands with a few flicks of his pen. Today is the day when the fasters might start eating again. Today might be the beginning of the end of needless suffering that has taken the lives of thousands and continues to do so.
As the Principal Secretary goes to meet the Chief Minister at 6 pm, the fasters condition continues to falter. They have lost a total of twenty-five kilograms over the course of eight days. The only thing that the Electral is doing is stabilizing their condition. By no means is it providing them with the sustenance they now desperately need. How does Shivraj Singh Chauhan ignore the deteriorating health of six people, knowing very well that he is responsible for their empty stomachs? A person with a sliver of a conscience would have given these six ample time to express their grievances instead of curtly acknowledging their presence for three minutes. He draws thick, unrelenting lines that divide those he will benefit from and those from which he will not. The line of religion allows him to shower his attention on primarily Hindu New Bhopal. The line of class is drawn along how much money you have in your pocket, correlating with the amount of concern that will be directed towards you. These are the lines that segregate the thirty-six affected wards from the twenty non-affected wards in Bhopal. 6 pm becomes 7, then 8. At nine o’clock, there is still no news from the Principal Secretary. But there is other news- tonight, the police might decide to pay us a surprise visit. So the fasters decide that they would sleep somewhere else on this clear star-studded night, a distance away from the tent.
Sleep comes quickly, only to be disrupted at 1:30 am. Fifteen to twenty policemen in khaki and women in navy blue sarees raid the tent, lifting the blankets of the confused sleepers. Where are the six fasters, they ask abruptly. Everyone claims to not know. The police come two more times during the course of the night, and in the morning, they are circulating around the tent, writing down the names of the fasters, including those fasting for a day in solidarity. The expressions on their faces are priceless as the fasters arrive in auto-rickshaws.
We were worried for your safety, we didn’t know where you were or if you were okay. Imagine, the police concerned for the safety of the fasters. What they were concerned about was where the six individuals were so they could remove them from the Tinshed, possibly to force feed them or take them to the hospital. Call it what you may, the government is finally beginning to take action where its citizens are concerned. It’s another story that this concern is portrayed through twenty-four hour police monitoring. Finally, they have started to pay attention.