Way back in 1990, thousands of Goan students came down to Panaji to join the rally called by the Architecture students who had been protesting peacefully for 18 days. Since the Government was not responding to their valid demands, as a last resort, the students laid siege to the entry points of the city thus crippling all traffic.
As the leader of that agitation, I was called upon to sort a commotion at one corner. A local salt-farmer was vociferously objecting to the obstruction of his cart. Since our intention was only to create a nuisance for the Government, and not the people, fresh instructions were given that all pedestrians and vehicles of farmers, fishermen, elderly and ailing persons were to be allowed passage.
By afternoon, our siege brought us success. The Government succumbed to our demands. The next day’s newspapers carried headlines of our success. But one vernacular daily carried a small news item about an ailing woman‘s being denied passage by our siege. They had to take a long winded route to get to the hospital and the woman had died enroute.
My smile disappeared. I felt responsible for her death for I had planned everything about the siege but I had not planned for ensuring that those who were not responsible for our problems should not be adversely affected. I told my friend, Sunil that I wanted to go and apologise to her family. Sunil cautioned me against doing so as I could get beaten up by the angry family members. However, I decided to go and Sunil insisted on coming along and sharing the consequences of my mistake.
When we reached the house, there was a huge crowd there that had just returned after the cremation. I pushed my way through it till I reached the dead woman’s husband and introduced myself as the person who had organised the siege that was responsible for the delay in his wife getting access to life saving medical treatment. I stood there ready to be slapped but the man said, “Don’t be too harsh on yourself… it was destined to be so…” I broke into tears as he hugged me.
“Protesting is fine, son, as long as it does not punish the innocent”, his words guide me in every cause that I associate with. Every time we have to lay siege as a tool of protest, we must ensure that we are not forcibly obstructing the lives and livelihoods of our fellow citizens.
To BE BETTER at protesting with a siege for a cause…
We must save the innocent from a painful pause!