We are lucky to be born in a country which has a functional democracy and expression through art, dance, and music is a part of the culture. The history of our independence is marked by non-violent expression and after 200 years it worked. All you need is determination to bring change and an individual or group to take initiative.
Anti- BRAI messages painted across a banner in New Delhi.
This year Lohri, a harvest festival and one that is important to farmers, was celebrated in the East of Kailash community and the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi with a difference. Along with the usual music and dance around the bonfire and the distribution of popcorn, gachchak (sweet made from jaggery) and gur (jaggery), the communities expressed their displeasure with the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill and genetically modified (GM) foods.
There was street play which highlighted the threat our food and farming faces from genetic modification. People came together and condemned the bill, and dumped it along with all the other evils, into the Lohri fire. The BRAI bill will create a single-window-clearance system for GM crops into the country. Personally I feel there is no better way to celebrate the Lohri festival, than to protest against a bill that risks seed sovereignty and independence of our farmers.
The youth at Music for Harmony, organised by Pravah at Dili Haat, chose to express their opposition to the bill by splashing colour on a canvas. Over 200 people painted messages of 'safe food', 'no GM Food', 'Drop the BRAI bill', on a massive canvas. The central message of the beautifully coloured canvas was, "Delhi Says No to BRAI."
While the recently concluded winter session of Parliament did not see the introduction of the undemocratic BRAI bill, concern is looming with the impending budget session. It is great to see that the residents of Delhi are using every opportunity they can to express their concerns over a piece of legislation that will take away their choice to safe food.
The public in India have expressed themselves in different ways to show their opposition to the BRAI bill. They have signed a petition, joined protests or a public consultation, and have also written to their local MPs.
I am not sure how long our government is going to take to wake up, listen to the public and scrap the BRAI bill. But I am sure that we will not stop expressing ourselves till this bill is withdrawn.