It is a powerful image: Scores of fishing boats, big and small, their coloured flags fluttering, ready to set sail, all at once, for a 600-kilometre-voyage that has nothing to do with fishing. The “boat yatra”, planned this summer, is the latest in the series of people’s movements that have spread across Gujarat, more prominently along its 1,600 kiliometres of coastline. In the boats will be the fishermen, and the farmers—who have, perhaps, never ventured into the sea before—united in their grief against the state government and the man who heads it. As far as images go, this one is in itself an indictment of chief minister Narendra Modi, and the arbitrary industrialisation of the state under his watch.
Our cover story (“Gathering storm”) profiles the many mutinies brewing inside Gujarat, fuelled largely by the indifference and arrogance of the government. Journalist Ayesha Khan’s story tells us that in the frenetic race for industrialisation, the government has forgotten one important section: the people who are going to be displaced from their land and forests, and the fishermen who will lose their catch. They have cobbled an alliance, and have sworn not to let the government get away with thinking that they don’t matter. The alliance cuts across caste and religion, and represents the coming together of the people in an unprecedented way, especially since the 2002 riots.
If you’re wondering why you didn’t hear about this before, it’s because the media, both Gujarati and English, has largely chosen to ignore the massive protest rallies that take place routinely these days.
Our other narrative (“Life Lessons”) this month, is the story of the children of Sonagachi, Kolkata’s red-light district. Journalist Annam Suresh, who has been filing eyewitness accounts of life in brothels for over 15 years, tells us about children growing up in an environment that is programmed to force them to a life of crime, and addiction. Survival here depends of how soon you get schooled in crime, and girls turn sex workers in early teenage—pushed often by their mothers and brothers, as also the myth that sex with a virgin is a cure for sexually transmitted diseases. Getting out is almost impossible for these children, and the inside only holds the promise of a life as a sex worker, pimp or a criminal.
Don’t miss our essay on Human Resources Minister Kapil Sibal’s quest to provide a cheap tablet computer for all Indians. The essay (“Why Aakash is not the sky”) says that the cheap tablet exercise, which has a budgetary allocation of Rs 765 crore, is a misadventure.
Saurav Kumar, Editor