Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mixed feelings at the Gateway meet

I will recount my personal experience about the assembly at Gateway yesterday which was organized to express solidarity for a better political order and to express the grievance about the incapability of the government in power to take strong course of action against terrorism.

I received an SMS on 30th Nov about this gathering. I had no clue who had called upon the meet and neither was I clear on what to anticipate from this gathering.

Though I am cynical towards general human tendencies atleast in terms of their involvement with things which require sustained commitment in the direction of politics, I wanted to understand if there are people interest in putting in serious efforts towards awakened citizenship.

Some observations:

1. I took a train from Andheri towards Churchgate at around 5:20pm. By the time I reached
Churchgate, the compartment was almost empty. Local trains are generally used by the middle class and below.
Inference: Not many people from the suburbs were targetting to reach that place especially from the weaker economic class.

2. As I got down at the station, I saw several youngsters flocking in groups sporting t-shirts with certain messages related to this gathering. I waited for my friend right across the station at Eros and saw hundreds of people heading towards gateway. They were mostly educated people comprising of professionals, students and some older age group people too. It was really nice to see this current of people in one direction from Churchgate towards Gateway. They were majorly the English speaking class of the city.

3. Then we started towards Gateway and were joined by some other friends of mine. Near that place it was extremely crowded while everyone was quite well behaved in terms of not getting into quarrels with one another or exchanging slangs and so on. People were shouting all kinds of slogans mostly of peace and order while primarily talking about removing the corrupt politicians and some were anti Pakistan as well (not surprisingly)

4. In terms of the gathering there were flocks of people moving in all possible directions. This was a clear indicator of the fact that people had not assembled there to listen to one voice but simply to express their sentiments in small ways. Thus it was more of a leaderless gathering of groups of people with the common thread being the angst as a result of poor quality of politics and ineffective governance

5. I went there to understand the possibility of a long term action and hence questioned some people about what beyond this evening? What would they do from 4th onwards (i.e the next day onwards) They didn't have any answer but they showed interest when i asked them for their mailids to propose an extended course of action.
Inference: The scene was dominated more by emotion rather than an attempt at doing something on a sustained basis

6. Someone handed over to me a pamphlet about some group by the name Mumbai Magna
Carta asking for Mumbai to be made independent of India with its own form of Presidential System etc which I really found in sad taste. Here we were gathering against corruption and poor politics and then someone starts talking about separtist outlook as if Mumbai is what only mattered to them!!!

Overall perception and feeling- The fact that we all could come together and express our sense of solidarity is a big first step since I have never seen anything of this nature ever in Mumbai by the educated class.
I am afraid that if this move doesn't get a vision and a focussed approach to long term action, the wave would subside. That is my biggest area of concern.

Considering the population of this city is close to 1.8 crore, for a strong social movement we need a much more inclusive and rigorous effort to improve the political order. We have to figure out ways of taking masses of people together with us.

Lets look for the next steps now.

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