Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Open letter to Anna Hazare on his visit to Gujarat (26th May, 2011)



 Prashant   A  Centre  for  Human  Rights, Justice  and  Peace

                             Post  Box  No.  4050,    Navrangpura,   Ahmedabad 380 009,    Gujarat,    India

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26th May, 2011



Dear Annaji,


Welcome to Gujarat - to you, Arvind Kejriwal and  Swami Agnivesh,


At the outset, we sincerely commend you and the others for the stand against corruption in India.  In December 2010, when Swami Agnivesh was visiting us, we readily accepted to support this campaign because corruption seems to have become a way of life for many, in most parts of the country.


Now that you are in Gujarat,  we hope that you will make a sincere effort to see how corruption has not only become institutionalized, but in fact, has entered our system in such a big way that everything seems to be 'alright' as long as there are a few who reap the "benefits" of a so-called "development model". 


We therefore invite you to look closely (among other things) into


1.      The nexus between the politicians and the corporate / industrial sector

Be it in the urban or in the rural areas, the poor and the marginalized have literally no say as the corporate houses manage to steam-roll their way.  A classic case which has been flaunted all over is about one big corporate house getting all its permissions in a few days.  Does the Gujarat Government have an industrial policy?  Will a small entrepreneur be treated the same way? Or is it the big bucks / big guys that matter here?


2.      The plight of the victims of development-induced displacement

The poor, very specially the slum dwellers in the urban areas and adivasis have been displaced because of so-called "development". The River Front Development programme in Ahmedabad is an example of how the poor are uprooted overnight. Adivasis, displaced by the Narmada Dam are still struggling for justice and compensation. Your colleague Medha Patkar can furnish you substantial data on this.  Besides, the small farmers of Mahuva will surely tell you about their situation.


3.      The trigger-happy policeman of Gujarat

Gujarat is famous for its trigger-happy policemen. For several years, encounter deaths seem to become the "in-thing".  The powerful industrial / mining lobbies play a significant role in this.  Some of the policemen (now in jail) have amassed unbelievable wealth because of their "encounter speciality".  Fortunately, because of civil society and judicial interventions, there has been a halt to it, but the fact remains, that these encounter deaths were because of the nexus between the police and powerful vested interest.





4.      The endemic corruption which destroys, pollutes our environment

Gujarat pays scant attention to the environment (an RTI activist Amit Jethawa was killed because he took on the vested interests who were destroying the Gir forests). There is enough of data showing that chemical and pharmaceutical companies pollute several of the rivers / towns of the State very specially Narmada, the estuary in the Gulf of Khambhat; Vapi and Nandesari.  This is obviously done with a total connivance of the Gujarat Government.


5.      The situation of the adivasis

The State has a sizeable number of adivasis.  These have been systematically denied forest lands which are rightfully theirs.  It is common knowledge that the tribals continue to be victims of exploitation and at the mercy of Government officials. Adivasis in this State continue to be denied their rights to the forest lands.


6.      Government programmes not reaching the poor

It is also common knowledge that several from the Government are involved in plenty of scams.  The Sujalam Sufalam scam, the 'MGNREGS' scam and the Fisheries scam are just at the tip of the iceberg.  In order to get things done or for that matter-to get a job or a plum-posting, people certainly have to pay hefty sums. The scams here run unto crores of rupees.


7.      Communalism in Gujarat

To assume that communalism has nothing to do with corruption in Gujarat is, not being able to read a reality!  The hegemony perpetuated on the minorities, by the Government and some others is a moot-point of how corrupt our system has become! The victim survivors of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 are still denied justice and even today adequate compensation is not given to them.  There are enough of instances of how minorities are systematically targeted through subtle and not-so subtle ways and denied access to opportunities and privileges which are rightfully theirs.  Those who take a stand on behalf of these victims are consistently hounded, intimidated, harassed… and even framed! 


Dear Annaji and your colleagues, what we present to you is just a tiny bit of the reality which has gripped the State for the last many years.  It is true that plenty of aggressive propaganda has perhaps shown things in a different light.  We also get fooled by the 'cosmeticization of society', by some of the urban middle class who are obviously reaping the benefits.  On the whole, we live in a society which thrives on myths, lies and illusions!


While we welcome you once again, we humbly request you to open your eyes to the reality here in Gujarat: of the poor and the marginalized, the dalits and the adivasis, the child-labourers and women who are victims of violence, the poor fisher-folk and the small farmers. They all bear the brunt of a corrupt system. 


We have taken a stand and we truly appreciate your stand.  Yes, let's work together for a corruption-free Gujarat in order that we move towards a corruption-free India!


Yours sincerely,



Fr. Cedric Prakash sj




Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Moment of Silence

A Moment of Silence

Before I start this poem,

I'd like to ask you to join me

In a moment of silence

In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11th.


I would also like to ask you

To offer up a moment of silence

For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes

 For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.


And if I could just add one more thing...

A full day of silence

For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.

Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.

embargo against the country.


Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.

Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin And the survivors went on as if alive.

A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam - a people, not a war - for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives' bones buried in it, their babies born of it.

A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war ... ssssshhhhhhh. ..

Say nothing

we don't want them to learn that they are dead.

Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia, Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.


Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador ...

An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua ...

Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos ...

None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.

45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas


25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.

There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.

And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west...


100 years of silence...

For the hundreds of millions of Indigenous peoples from this half of right here, Whose land and lives were stolen, In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.

Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness ...


So you want a moment of silence?

And we are all left speechless

Our tongues snatched from our mouths

Our eyes stapled shut

A moment of silence

And the poets have all been laid to rest The drums disintegrating into dust.


Before I begin this poem,

You want a moment of silence

You mourn now as if the world will never be the same And the rest of us hope to hell it won't be.

Not like it always has



Because this is not a 9/11 poem.

This is a 9/10 poem,

It is a 9/9 poem,

A 9/8 poem,

A 9/7 poem

This is a 1492 poem.


This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.

And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:

This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.

This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977.

This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York, 1971.

This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.

This is a poem for interrupting this program.


And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?

We could give you lifetimes of empty:

The unmarked graves

The lost languages

The uprooted trees and histories

The dead stares on the faces of nameless children Before I start this poem we could be silent forever Or just long enough to hunger, For the dust to bury us And you would still ask us For more of our silence.


If you want a moment of silence

Then stop the oil pumps

Turn off the engines and the televisions Sink the cruise ships Crash the stock markets Unplug the marquee lights, Delete the instant messages, Derail the trains, the light rail transit.


If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of Taco Bell, And pay the workers for wages lost.

Tear down the liquor stores,

The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the Playboys.


If you want a moment of silence,

Then take it

On Super Bowl Sunday,

The Fourth of July

During Dayton's 13 hour sale

Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful people have gathered.


You want a moment of silence

Then take it NOW,

Before this poem begins.

Here, in the echo of my voice,

In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand, In the space between bodies in embrace, Here is your silence, Take it.

But take it all...

Don't cut in line.

Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.

But we,

Tonight we will keep right on singing

For our dead.

                                           ----- Emmanuel Ortiz


(Emmanuel Ortiz is a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish- American community organizer and spoken word poet residing in Minneapolis, MN. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, and is the coordinator of Guerrilla Wordfare, a Twin Cities-based grassroots project bringing together artists of color to address socio-political issues and raise funds for progressive organizing in communities of color through art as a tool of social change.)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Here are some immortal words ,that befits a disciple of Christ...
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.
 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
~Martin Luther King, Jr

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
PRASHANT   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052,
Tel :079-27455913/Fax:079-27489018