Thursday, September 28, 2006
For Medha Patkar
I have written from time to time about various dates which are significant for me.
Among them is today’s date, 28 September.
28 September for me connotes unremitting struggle, for justice, for the oppressed.
The link for me between this date and its meaning - lies in an event on this date, in 1989. This was a massive people’s rally in Harsud, a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, asserting the will of the people who were going to be ousted and displaced by the Narmada Valley Dams Project:
We shall drown, but we shall not move!
Much water has flown along the dammed Narmada river (the most sacred river in Hindu religious consciousness) since 28 September 1989. And that ancient town of Harsud itself went under-water, in 2004.
But for me that date, and the personal meaning derived from that immense gathering in Harsud of Indian citizen activists and toiling, marginalised people, supported by thousands of others across the country through their local solidarity actions, and the fierce resolve asserted there (and tested repeatedly thereafter) – remains alive, enough to remind me of the struggle for justice whenever I come across the numbers 28 and 9.
Thanks to my association with people like Dr MKA Siddiqui, I have learnt that this is what jihad (in Islam) means: struggle for justice for the oppressed.
An activist, a person with the disposition of working with and for the victims of injustice, struggling for justice – is a jihadi; a struggler for justice is a mujahid, and the term to describe the activism of strugglers for justice would literally translate to Harkat-ul Mujahideen.
Out of his kindly and affectionate disposition, Dr Siddiqui had once told me that I was a true jihadi. No compliment could ever be sweeter and richer!
Post-script: I just learnt, thanks to the website of the International Institute of Social History, that on 28 September 1864, the Saint Martins meeting hall in London was packed to the roof with craftsmen and workers from various countries. The proposal to establish an International Working Men's Association met with great enthusiasm. Karl Marx did not belong to the organizers and was not among the speakers, but he was a member of the presidium and he was chosen (with 54 other persons) in the Preparatory Committee to extend the IWMA. Not before long he would pull the strings of this First International.