A Lesson Well Learned…

human-rights.jpgThis world is strange!! . There is always a huge gap between ideals and reality. Well, I am one of those individuals who never make an attempt to realize this truth until an incident that I witnessed proved this fact to me.

I am a bit too keen about international issues and especially the play of politics related to them. One of the major issues that very often catches my attention, probably of the youth in general, is the blatant violation of human rights that we see around in the so- called civil society of ours. Now the images that come to all our minds could be – let us begin from India – the ongoing Nandigram Crisis, Gujarat Massacre (recent Tehelka revelations), Bhopal Gas tragedy (the justice is still awaited), the brutality of Armed Force Act in the Northeast to international platforms where Darfur Crisis grins at humanity, the War in Iraq, the behind the curtain scenes in Guantanamo Bay, the ever boiling Israel-Palestine issue, massacre of democracy in Afghanistan, and of course terrorism in various shapes and sounds and hues. The social issues of racism, gender discrimination, poverty, cultural differences can also form a thread in the strand of human rights violations.

But let me add another sort of violation to which I was subjected a few days back. The most interesting fact to be noted is that this is a well-accepted violation. The victims never make an attempt to escape this tragedy; instead they become silent victims of this special Indian variety of Holocaust. I should not be keeping the surprise for any longer. The perpetrator of crime in this case is Delhi’s very own Blue Line buses. No it is not about the killing spree to which these buses have resorted to, but it is about the gross injustice the poor commuter is subjected to within these buses. I am not a daily Blue Line commuter. I depend on them when I am left with no other choices. The Blue Lines are so infamous that my grandparents back in Kerala have strictly banned me from travelling on them. While the lucky few among us could afford to abide to such a restriction, this is not the case of majority of people in this country. People are forced to climb into these buses so as to reach their workstations on time. But does this mean that they are to be subjected to the cruelty that even animal protection activists too would object if subjected to animals. Should we send an S.O.S to SPCA?

I boarded the blue line bus from Noida to Delhi. Since I take time to spot the destination on the nameplate, I fail to have a look at the rush inside the bus. At least for now, this mistake would not be repeated. That day turned out to be the worst day in my life. I was standing near the cramped seats around the driver that were occupied by women. There were more than fifty people in the bus. To my surprise, another twenty more entered the bus. I decided to get off the bus but my attempt was in vain. No one could move either backward or forward. Passengers were bulging out of the windows thanks to the windows without panes. Everyone was rude and impolite. Since I am not fluent in Hindi, I could stand without embarrassment when I was being verbally abused. But I was happy that I was travelling without my feet on ground though I was not floating. A “HATAYOGI” on my own account. All the while, I was astounded to notice the blank expression on the faces of other passengers. Everyone was comfortable in the most uncomfortable positions one could imagine. My helplessness forced me to enter into conversation with a fellow passenger who too seemed to be of my age. This is the best remedy to divert one’s attention from the hits and punches that are unintentionally aimed at oneself. The girl I entered into conversation was not fluent in English, but I could very well follow her chaste Hindi. To my query whether she finds this to be a violation of human rights, she very casually replied that human rights violations are meant for those who can ‘afford’ the fantasies attached to it.

Popular, powerful and political figures are eligible to take shade under this precious concept. For ordinary citizens, it is just a fancy word. When I suggested on sending a complaint letter to Delhi government, she grinned at me and said, “Whom does the government serve? They serve rich, powerful and themselves, and most of these buses are owned by this class of elitists.” Then I knew that I was not living the reality, either I did not realise or I conveniently avoided having any knowledge of the fact. The latter would be more accurate. I could afford to do so since I avoided being a victim. But then the rightful citizens of this land have taken this inhumanity to be a part of their day-today hassles. Had an actor, an activist or a VIP been a part of this group of ‘ordinary citizens’, then the situation would certainly be different. Ironically in this largest and most populous democracy, it is not the majority of citizens (trapped in the gas chambers of the Blue Lines) who are powerful but the minority of elites who hold the magic wand.

All I could think for the rest of the day was, when I am pretending to be incapable of addressing the slightest of the human rights violations on the pretext of a just-not- possible belief in changing the system, do I deserve to talk about the gross humanitarian crisis in Darfur in my International Relations class. But then this is a strange world!

Annapoorna Karthika