I looked out of the window and saw a small crowd gathering in the park. Most of them wore the white traditional clothes of India with a Gandhi Cap balanced on their heads. They held a long wooden staff in their hands at the top of which was tied a tangerine colored cloth. It fluttered restlessly in the early morning wind.
The cloth was fashioned in the form of two triangles. Its color a deep orange like that of the sun dipping in an evening sky. This piece of cloth represented the community that had brought about a day-long shutdown in the entire state of Maharashtra. This piece of cloth was the symbol of their agitation. The symbol of their protest.
I got to know about the reason for the protest only yesterday. One of my colleagues mentioned it during tea-break. That there would be no Uber on the roads due to the shutdown. “They are protesting for the reservation,” he told us. “There would be a march,” he continued saying after taking a sip of lemon tea, “a few disturbances here and there.”
The protest was one of the many we see these days. The crowd gathered state wide and clamouring for reservation in government jobs. Demanding for the compensation of the wrongdoings they have suffered at the hands of the ‘so-called’ upper castes of India. I wondered what wrong-doings this crowd and suffering it was protesting about. The park entrance was choking with expensive bikes and not so downtrodden car.
Introduced as a way to bring up the downtrodden and demarginalized strata of India, Reservation is now used as the vehicle on which every society wants to travel. The people who actually need a reservation and should be benefitted continue to remain poor. Instead, the other people who don’t need a reservation, don’t need any support, and have become used to walk on crutches, used to the habit of demanding privileges.
As my colleague was telling about the protest I remembered about a history lesson I read in my school. On the same day seventy-five years back a similar protest was organized in India. It became famous as the Quit India Movement. This protest failed in its objective to make Britishers agree to leave the country. But it resulted in sowing the seeds of a dream that took roots in the collective consciousness of the people of India. And which finally resulted in the Independence of our country five years later.
It must be a different kind of crowd then. Even though it must have looked similar to the one I was witnessing in front of me today. The crowd dressed in white kurtas and white sarees. The same Gandhi cap on their heads. Even then they must have carried wooden flagstaffs in their hands. But that flag represented not one, not two, but every community of India. They were not fighting for themselves. But for the country. Even if it meant giving up on their lives. It was a selfless crowd then. We don’t see such crowd these days.
Blessed must be the time which saw such spirits. Such self-sacrifice and self-surrender. Even in the times of such captivity, and such hardship. When people looked beyond themselves. Beyond the difference of cast and color and creed. When the Indians were Indians. Without the subtext of a religion or a community. When they lived and fought and died for one goal. One ambition. To free our country from the clutches of the Britishers. To make our nation better.
Blessed was that time. Blessed was that ambition.
They don’t make such crowd anymore.