Right to Live dharna (Day Ten): Arousing the interest of passers by, a policeman, the media and a comical stray puppy, but not the arrogant politicians who continue to ignore us and the Supreme Court

Pragya Bhagat, Bhopal, March 1, 2007
What have we accomplished in the last ten days?
For one, the microphone has been put out of its comatose and is working again. We can be sure now that our voices won’t go unheard. The typical turnout has consisted mostly of women, but today a substantial number of fathers and sons are visible. The tent is bustling with activity as sixty people crowd the carpets and spill out into the cooking area. Mothers are forcing mouthfuls of scalding chai down their children’s throats. Young men are smoking their rolled beedies while others are projecting betel juice across the road. Women are chopping vegetables by the large cauldron steaming with the flavors of sliced carrots, diced garlics, and chunks of cauliflower that are being plunked one by one into the boiling concoction below. The singing that is usually reserved for post-dinner relaxation gets an early start. “Tumhari kacheri gherenge, Savdhan ho jaiye!” That’s right, Mr. Policeman, we’ll put you in the jail you throw our people in. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Not only is the Tinshed in full swing on this fine evening, the street below seems to be busier as well. A scooter stops in front of our tent, and its driver spends a few minutes reading our display before speeding off. A pedestrian slows down as he passes our dharna, staring intently. Even one of the policemen from across the street mustered the courage to take a stroll on our side of the road and actually read the boards that have always invited inquiring eyes. Of all the policemen that have been lounging around for ten days, he is the first one that bothered to be semi-interested in what we were doing rather than looking for signs of trouble. The two men that walk their dog in the morning have changed their route to circle our tent before heading back. People are finally noticing us as a constant presence. It’s about time.
Part of the publicity we have received is credited to the media, newspapers in particular. In the past week, twenty-three articles and/or pictures have graced the pages of both local and national newspapers. That averages out to more than three articles daily, which is tremendous yet unfortunately inadequate to get a response from the Madhya Pradesh government.
In addition to media support, we have a new member who spends twenty-four hours at the Tinshed. We call him Johnny Lever, named after the Bollywood King of Comedy. Initially, he wasn’t welcome in our tent but his doe eyes and playful nature have won a few hearts. Yesterday night he was even given a bed sheet to sleep under. I can’t imagine how thrilled Shivraj Singh Chauhan would be to know that a puppy is the newest addition to the Right to Life Campaign.
What have we accomplished in the last ten days? It is a question that can not be answered in a few sentences. Nor can it be described by detailing each event of every hour. We can only look at each moment’s successes and tribulations, and decide for ourselves what the past ten days have led to.

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