Drifting effortlessly from quoting Shakespeare to Gandhi to the voice of the ordinary resident from rural India, social activist Aruna Roy, while delivering the second K. Sankara Menon Memorial Lecture on ‘When all the world’s a stage’ at Kalakshetra Foundation, discussed the various forms of dissent, and its seminal role in a democracy.
“In Shakespeare there is a constant critique, where you have a main plot and an under plot,” she said, adding, “The main plot does its narration in stylised poetry and talks about great things wonderfully.” But then there is the under plot which is where Ms. Roy placed herself. “The under plot critiques, mocks, laughs and comments on the main plot. But, we are linked to them,” she said.
Talking about the importance of critique in a democracy and democratic system, she said, “We don’t want to destroy them. We want to bring them to book.”
In Maharashtra alone, she said, 25 lakh people have used the Right to Information act, and the number edges one million in the country. “We always celebrate resistance in retrospect. But we should look at what is happening around us,” said Ms. Roy, talking about the protests surrounding the POSCO project in Orissa and the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.
Going back in time, she discussed how she developed a burning desire to live like Gandhi did after she visited Sevagram. “Ever since I visited Sevagram, there was a burning desire to live like Gandhi did, in a village, with the poor, in a mud hut and to savour the life of that person. It was as important to me as the politics that came with it.”
Talking about the early days of formation of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, she spoke about the trials and tribulations of a people who have to go miles to fetch water.
“The children go hungry, but they never beg in rural areas. So it is this wonderful culture of being, singing and dancing and leading a holistic life because like Shakespeare, rural people lead a holistic life. They can’t find the division between tragedy and comedy, and don’t understand unity of place,” she said.
Speaking about how the individual awareness about the RTI movement was built she quoted ordinary residents from the rural landscape. “When I send my son to the market with 10 rupees, I ask for accounts. The government spends billions of rupees in my name, and why should I not ask for accounts,” she quoted one of the residents as saying.
She appealed to everybody not to shy away from politics. “A democracy makes you and me political because we cast votes, we make decisions as to who will rule us,” she said, adding that, “They have an obligation to answer us, and we have a duty to question what they do and don’t do.”
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, chairman, Kalakshetra Foundation, and Dhritiman Chaterji, eminent actor also participated.