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Ritual Tribute

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The Rampur Tiraha police firing on Uttarakhand Statehood activists, going to Delhi for a dharna at Rajghat, took place on 1 September, 1994, when the movement was its peak. It was part of the Mulayam Singh Yadav led UP Government’s effort to quell the separate state demand with brutal force. Another similar incident took place at Khatima on the same day. Curfew was imposed in Dehradun and other places the next day, during which even more people died in police firing, the most terrible at Mussoorie. Despite this provocation, the movement remained entirely peaceful under its declared principle of non-violence. It is a shining example of a modern day agitation in comparison to what has been witnessed in other parts of the country and the world in recent times. This exemplary conduct brought about the political change required to create not just Uttarakhand, but also Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which had for long been making similar demands.

While Uttarakhand has developed in many ways at a more accelerated pace than the parent state of UP, achieving a higher standard of living, it still remains quite distant from its original objectives, particularly that of rejuvenating the hills. At the same time, justice has not been provided to those martyred or injured in the several firings that took place. This has displayed the major deficiency in the judicial and prosecutorial systems. One of the reasons for this is that almost none of those who led the movement became part of the subsequent political regimes that took over. The two major national parties harvested the political fruit of the agitation and were unable to adopt the grassroots culture required. In fact, one of the ironies is the rehabilitation in the political and intellectual mainstream of those who worked actively to sabotage the cause. Even more, caste and regional considerations, which are anathema to the spirit of Uttarakhand, have taken centre-stage.

Uttarakhand, which was established on the basis of noble principles, has compromised in many ways their implementation in everyday life and politics. Instead of looking ahead and adopting a model of development that anticipates economic, social and environmental challenges, the trend is towards avaricious and excessive consumerism. The state’s many advantages in various fields, primarily education, have been sidelined, which naturally deprives the coming generations of the advantages being ahead of the curve would provide. It becomes all the more important, therefore, to not just ritually pay tribute to the martyrs on days like 1 September, but to recall the spirit behind the movement so that progress takes place in the right direction.