Medha Patkar is a relentless and indomitable revolutionary. Her active campaigns for indigenous peoples’ causes form the means. Her endless struggles against corporate greedy motives shape her purpose.
She leads to inspire generations of collective beings that we often don’t find time and inclination to become while working within the framework of capitalistic expansions of individualistic self-centrism– to love our common land, our river, and the mother earth. And her convictions enthuse the world to consider genre of critical values that we often fail to notice—suffering all alone, and celebrating with others. Fighting on behalf of the landless. And fighting against the land-grabbers.
Sometimes, human beings as simple and beautiful as Medha Patkar are all we need for making the world a better place to live in.
Thanks are due, to fellow traveler Sivagami Subbaraman who sends me a thought-provoking critical article.
The outside of the Intensive Cardiac Care Unit (ICCU) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi feels more like a police station than a hospital. Three policewomen, four male constables, a plain-clothes security officer, and a hospital guard create a daunting atmosphere. The police fortress monitors her and regulates all visitors. Even after they moved her out of the ICCU on April 16, nothing has changed. It is impossible to meet her. She has allegedly been arrested under Section 309, IPC, for attempted suicide, but no chargesheet has been filed. This is illegal.
With each day of the indefinite fast, Medha’s health deteriorates; her blood sugar level falls, her ketones rise, threatening irreversible damage to her kidneys. But she smiles, “The people of the valley are my inspiration.” Her feet are bandaged, she ironically points out how they are treating her psoriasis but not the real crisis (the dam). Despite her gradually failing physical condition, her will to fight is indomitable. She recalls cell phone numbers, quotes legal language, and rattles figures on megawatts, villages, and dam technicalities with unbelievable ease. Her body might object, but she dictates powerful statements and letters with a keen astuteness.
On the 10th day, the nurse brings her a glass of lemon water. But one sip and she spits it out. “This has sugar in it. Don’t cheat me.” From then on, the lemon and salt remains in her room, and Vijayatai, her close friend and a constant factor in her life for the last 20 years, mixes it in front of her. This is not a fast for publicity. It is not a fast for show or sympathy. It is a fast for a just cause. Let the fascist fallacy-flexing symbol of violence, Narendra Modi, see what an indefinite fast of a satyagrahi really means.
It is torturous. On the 18th day, she writhes in pain, she shivers as the blood in her veins has gone cold. “Why are you doing this to yourself,” I ask in anguish. “The fast is the last resort, always,” she tells me. “It is the point of ultimate commitment to the cause. It is not just a political strategy, but has to be perceived within the framework of your values and vision. Mediators are often wrong about the fast. They have to constantly be reminded that they need not worry about me, but about the valley’s life. We see it not as pressure, but as an appeal to the nation. When normal democratic means of a non-violent struggle fail, we are left with no other option.”
The doctors at AIIMS are supportive, their respect for her is evident. On the 20th day, though they plead her to take something, they do not force-feed her or put her on intravenous drip. “Once you’re in the war, whether violent or non-violent, you have to fight to the finish. I learnt this from my father, a trade unionist. Kabhi haar nahin manna.” Her parents have influenced her; her mother works for women’s rights.
As I write this, on the morning of the Supreme Court judgement (April 17), it’s the 20th day. “Why are you counting?” she asks. “I’m not,” I say, but I confess I am deeply distressed. Because I have lost faith in the Indian State and its institutions, because every norm of democracy is constantly being subverted, because violence is systematically being used against non-violent struggles. And I am afraid that the price of petty, fascist, power politics is being paid by someone I deeply respect and love: a global symbol of non-violence, truth and struggle.