LOS ANGELES, CA – Well known social activist Medha Patkar was in Southern California over the weekend of Feb.8-9 and in her interactions with the community energized her listeners, making clear that compassion and idealism is meant for all. Revered throughout India for giving a voice to the voiceless, Patkar has successfully...
Patkar conveyed, to a crowded auditorium about the ineptitude of the politicians in India and the inequalities she has witnessed towards certain communities within the country. Her efforts alone have been instrumental in bringing together numerous movements under the banner of Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM).
The main question asked by the younger demographic was how they could help the cause from so far away and with the lack of financial gains. Patkar stressed the importance of contributing time over money. She specifically said “we have to sometimes have to use a thorn to remove a thorn.” She advised the younger crowd to use the technology in the US to research the affected areas in India where injustice is talking place and to email her team with observations.
One of the main atrocities Patkar has championed against for the last three decades has been the building of various mega dams near areas of large forested populations. The constructions of these dams have displaced hundreds of thousands of aborigines from their dwellings. As Patkar said, “economic development was to take place in such a way that there would be no concentration of property and economic wealth in the hands of the few.” Mega dams, as she refers to them, are built purely for economic reasons while the ecological concerns are always overlooked. One alternative given to mitigate this problem was through the harnessing of resources. Patkar put pressure on the state to utilize the bountiful resources India has at its disposal and convert this into reusable energy. This, as she states, “would fulfill the basic needs of every citizen in the country.”
As with most polarizing figures, controversy tends to follow and Patkar is no exception. Many of her detractors have recently been casting her as a traitor for her comments about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a political wing that formally launched in November of 2012. When asked whether she has officially joined the AAP, Patkar danced around the question by stating she “supports their efforts but is not a member.” Although her answer seemed very political, she has vehemently denied the allegations that she has joined active politics and turned her back on those she has fought for on numerous occasions.
As with most successful activists, committed followers as well as die-hard detractors will always be in tow. But even her opponents cannot deny her ideological consistency and courage of conviction. As she eloquently stated at the end of her lecture, “there will always be people who support our movement and there will be people who oppose; what matters most is your conscience and your commitment.”