Istanbul protests – Close Parallels to Delhi #repression

Last week of May 2013 a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and yoga students.  Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees.  Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.

They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.

No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.

But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray.  They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening of May 31st the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.

Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.

They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:

The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.

Sounding familiar. Wow. The only two differences that I see from what happened in Delhi late last year are – the original reason that triggered the protest ; and the press was not blacked out (we had Arnab and co. covering it for a week!). Well, to be fair, there was some biassed reporting. But it was there.

In Delhi, the protest started by asking the Government to ensure protection and safety for the citizens. When the police started using force, it quickly turned into “asking for the right to live as honorable citizens” too.

Cuppa chai and handwarming on a roadside fire …

OFFBEAT WEATHER(Image courtesy: The Hindu Images)

“It was 2003, and I can still remember as it was yesterday. I can still smell the charcoal fire….”

Ok, I will stop with the Titanic dialogue. But yeah, today morning’s heavy fog in Bangalore, brought back memories of Delhi. It was December 2003, the winter before I defended my Phd in the US and returned back. I had come to the VLSI conference in Delhi, Bangalore (with a bag full of resumes! :-)). The conference was over in 3 days, and I had 2 more days. I wanted to see the Taj ; and someone in the family had recommended Panicker Travels – which was apparently the default travel agent for any tamil guy in Delhi, because some of the drivers spoke Tamil, stopped in Veg joints etc. So I called them up, and booked myself a one-full-day guided trip of Taj-Mathura-Vrindavan. It so happened that, Mr. Panicker did not have that many takers in that chilly weather, and so I was consigned to join another similar tour from some other travel operator (all transparently arranged ofcourse), but that is another story.

Now coming to the  highlight of this post (and the subject line ofcourse). Once in every 3-4 hours, the bus would stop at a highway food joint for some tea/snacks/food/whatever; and ofcourse, the men went on to add free fertilizer to the fields behind the dhaba. In one of these joints, I spotted a road side fire, with a few guys sitting down (hmm .. how to describe this pose .. ah .. in a way, one would sit down on an Indian toilet!) around the fire, and warming their hands. I had always wanted to do this — and there it was, right in front of me. I jumped at the opportunity — Let me tell you — there are few other pleasures in the world, which can match this. The temperature was around 5 deg Cel, smoke came from your nose and mouth, even without a cigarette, and you toast your hands and body sitting in this unholy pose around the fire. I tell you again, there is no other equalled pleasure. Hmmmm.

PS: There is one  distinct after-effect though. Once you get back to the bus, you realize that your whole body smells of charcoal, and the smell does not go that easily !