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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

 

'I HAVE A DREAM'



40 years back on the same date (Aug 28, 1963) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's
speech on 'I HAVE A DREAM' in Washington DC transformed the United States and
lead to several civil rights movement and human rights acheivement, not
only in US but across the world...On the same day I am paraphrasing some of his
words and articulating my dream as an Indian Citizen and as a person living
with HIV, for Indian AIDS Movement and to India itself. YES, THIS IS MY DREAM
FOR ALL THOSE INFECTED AND AFFECTED BY HIV, AS WELL AS THOSE WHO ARE AT RISK
AND MARGINALIZED IN INDIA...

BEFORE GOING INTO MY DREAM I WOULD LIKE TO WRITE A SPECIAL THANKS TO MARTIN
LUTHER KING'S JR.S WIFE AND HIS FAMILY WHO GENEROUSLY GAVE ME PERMISSION TO
QUOTE DR. MARTIN LUTHER KINGS WORDS TO PARAPHRASE IT TOWARDS HIV/AIDS...(I HAVE
SEND THIS MSG IN BCC TO DR. KING'S FAMILY AS WELL AS CC TO PRESIDENT OF INDIA)

Sincerely

Surendra
Cambridge CB1 1EG
UK

*****************************
Fifty five years ago, a great Indian whom we now call as Father of the Nation,
Mahatma Gandhi, led our country to be free from British  Colony. His momentous
struggle and dedication should be a  great beacon light of hope and light  to
millions of Indians living with HIV/AIDS who had been seared in the flames of
withering injustice. After nearly two decades of HIV epidemic, and personally
with 17 years of living with HIV/AIDS, I am writing to you that we as a nation
must  face the tragic fact that the People with HIV/AIDS in India is still not
free.

 



Still 55 years years after Independence, the life of an average Indian living
with HIV/AIDS is still sadly crippled by the manacles of prejudice and the
chains of discrimination. Still 20 years into the Indian HIV Epidemic, the
People with HIV in India  lives on a lonely island of poverty, prejudice,
discrimnation and in fear in a free country.  Fifty Three Years later after the
Independence, the average Indian with HIV/AIDS is still languishing in the
corners of Indian society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So I am writing to you today to dramatize people with HIV/AIDS and those
affected by the epidemic's appalling condition. When the architects of our
republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every
Indian was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights
of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that India
 has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens with HIV/AIDS
and those at risk  are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation,
India has given People with HIV/AIDS,  a bad cheque which has come back marked
"insufficient funds." But I refuse to believe that the bank of justice is
bankrupt. I  refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great
vaults of opportunity of our nation.

So I am writing to you all of you in this forum and those who are fighting to 
cash this cheque -- a cheque that will give us upon demand the riches of
freedom and the security of justice. I am writing to all of you to urge India
to remind this with  the fierce urgency now. This is no time to engage in the
luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is
the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of discrimnation, inaction
and prejudice to the sunlit path of equity and justice for all including those
infected and affected with HIV/AIDS. Now is the time to open the doors of
opportunity to all . Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of
injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. which Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru had
always fought for and dreamed for...

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to
underestimate the needs of People with HIV/AIDS, their families, drug users,
gays and or sex workers.. This sweltering summer of the marginalized 
legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of
freedom and equality. 2003 is  not an end, but a end of a begining. Those who
hope that People with HIV/AIDS, Gays, Sex Workers, Drug Users  needed to blow
off steam, should soon be content with a rude awakening if they try to do
business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in India until
the People with HIV/AIDS and those at risk and disenfranchised  is granted his
citizenship rights.

But there is something that I must say to every one in this forum and those who
are fighting for equity...in the process of gaining our rightful place we must
not be guilty of wrongful deeds, we must not engage in infighting, personal
attacks or fight over ever shrinking Donor funds.... Let us not seek to satisfy
our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We
must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting of state
sponsored persecution by diplomacy and through negotiations for policy change.

The movement of People with HIV/AIDS and those at risk has engulfed the 
marginalized community must not lead us to distrust of all policy makers , for
many of our policy makers, as evidenced by our present President, and by our
recent parlimentarians meeting, on HIV/AIDS, they  have come to realize that
their destiny is tied up with the destiny of people with HIV/AIDS and their
freedom is inextricably bound to the disenfranchized community's freedom.

 



We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall
march ahead. We cannot turn back. Some of you who wrote to me personally and
asked me,  "When will you be satisfied?" . To you my friend, you know who you
are, I  will not and shall never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with
the fatigue and ravaged by disease , cannot gain an admission in Hospitals or
not been able to access the essential life saving medicine. We cannot be
satisfied as long as the  Sex Workers and other marginalized commnity mobility
is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as
drug user in Manipur cannot get treated without getting arrested  and a Person
with HIV/AIDS in New Delhi and Bombay and Chennai believes he has nothing to
live for.. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until
justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of People with HIV/AIDS has faced and continue to
face great  trials and tribulations. I am not unmindful that there are
dedicated NGOs  where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of
persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have
been the veterans of creative suffering. Let's continue to work with the faith
that unmerited  suffering is redemptive.

Lets go back to Manipur, lets go back to Ahmedabad, lets go back to Bangalore,
lets go back to Bombay, lets go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern
cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not
wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite
of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is
a dream deeply rooted in the Indian dream, a dream that was envisioned and
championed by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

I have a dream that one day that Indian Government will  rise up and live out
the true meaning of its Constitution on equity and justice for all..  I have a
dream that one day sex workers from Bombay and the  former pimps  and the
police will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood with out
been feared of been trapped or been arrested.  I have a dream that one day even
the state of  India, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will
be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice for people with HIV/AIDS
and other marginalized communities. . I have a dream that soon enough that
people with HIV/AIDS and those at risk with live in an Indian nation where they
will not be judged by the sex, sexuality or disease status but by the content
of their character. Yes, I have a dream.

This is my dream and my hope. Hope, the faith with which I may be able to
return to India without the fear or fervor of been persecuted, discriminated or
prejudiced  or brutalized.. With this faith I will be able to hew out of the
mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to
transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of
brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to
pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for
freedom together, knowing that
we will be free one day.

That day be the day when we will be able to realize the meaning of Gandhi's
dream and struggle for a free India" And if India is to be a great nation, this
must become true.

Let's work towards this freedom.

Surendra
E-mail: <surendra@CritPath.Org>