But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God — 1 Peter 2:20
‘Jana gana mangala daayaka jayahe………’ the closing notes of the national anthem rose to a crescendo as the tricolor fluttered in the wind. As a proud Indian, it is difficult not to feel a euphoric sense of patriotism every time one rises to attention for this beautiful song. The bold color bands within which the charkha nestles, tells of the rich history and heritage of a nation that emerged as a sovereign, democratic and secular republic more than seven decades back.
But today, the feeling was different. The anthem failed to stem a rising sense of insecurity that had been slowly seeping into my mind over the past few weeks. The court verdict directing the State to demolish 350 homes that violated the then existing boundaries of the coastal regulation zone had pierced the heart of Kerala’s collective psyche and everyone was inempathy and support for the unfortunate victims of the tragedy. The reaction of the residents progressed from a stunned silence to angry protests, and finally to a dull acceptance of the inevitable as the Supreme Court stood its ground and demanded the eviction at the shortest possible notice.
That the residents were innocent and had no knowledge of the ‘crime’ they were being punished for, made little difference. In fact, these citizens who have been promised justice, liberty, equality and fraternity under the constitution of India were even denied the right to a fair hearing in the highest court of law that had indicted them. Many of them were leaving empty handed, having invested their life’s earning into this home. Loading whatever they could into lorries, they were unceremoniously shunted off to temporarily arranged habitations to keep the date deadlines. If the efficiency of the execution of the court order is kept up, we will see these tall buildings that was once the place they called home, being razed to the ground.
Overnight they had become refugees in their own motherland.
The incidents of the past few weeks have shaken the confidence of the people of Kerala. As honorable tax paying citizens contributing substantially to the growth and development of this great nation, we trusted in the nation’s capacity to protect its citizens. Now we know that there could be circumstances like these when we are denied the right to present our case. Now we understand that we can be punished for no fault of our own.
What makes the situation even more untenable is that the disputed land was all set to be included in CRZ-2, which would legalize the present location of the buildings. If this becomes operational, it adds a whole new dimension to the present situation. Once the buildings are reduced to rubble and the State bears the cost of the destruction and removal of debris, not to mention the environmental degradation that can be expected as a result of this massive operation— then one can plan to build them all over again— in the same spot! Like a child with a Lego set who constructs building models and pulls them apart at will, our government machinery will soon be caught up in a bizzare Lego game, where the building is demolished, and is then permitted to be built in the same location, once it is within permissible legal boundaries. Between the two acts of destruction and construction would lie the shattered lives of the residents, the danger of serious environmental degradation and the heavy financial burden for the State government which is already beleaguered with obligations of compensations for flood victims from last year.
Whatever may be the outcome of this, our hearts reach out to the evicted residents in their time of deep distress. From a Christian point of view, we can find great consolation even in these sorrowful circumstances when we see how close this is to the conditions of the life of Jesus and His ultimate death on the cross. For Him, a home of brick and mortar was never important. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem and remained free of the shackles of a permanent residence.In answer to a follower who wanted to go back to live with Him, He said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Mathew 8).
Not only was He homeless, He also suffered and died on the cross for no fault of His own. Those who have been chosen to bear these very same burdens in this life can be sure of a special place in the kingdom of God and a divine protection as they traverse through the present trials. These are circumstances that give us the rare opportunity to meet Jesus face-to-face, and if we submit ourselves to the intense joy and gladness of His presence and protection, we will understand as St Paul did, that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:39.