August 15 is India's Independence Day. B and I spent the day marching to save South Asia in Richmond, California, while keeping an eye on the India Day parade in New York.
We spent our day in Richmond, California, participating in a mobilization to turn up the heat on Chevron, a major California polluter, and part of a group of companies that's been trying to thwart the best efforts of citizens from around the world trying to come up with a fair, realistic, science-based approach to dealing with global warming.
The mayor was there, as were labor activists, environmentalists, community health organizations, and representatives from communities around the world where Chevron has a presence (Burma, Nigeria, Ecuador, etc.) The message: Chevron, the 5th largest corporation on the planet, needs to stop poisoning the communities it operates in, and stay out of the climate talks, where the future of the planet will be decided.
In Bangladesh and West Bengal, rural communities are dealing with declining fish catches, and bigger floods and droughts. In Bangladesh today, climate refugees are losing everything they own. This is not theoretical. The front-line affected communities of Bangladesh and West Bengal didn't invent this problem; many of those affected don't even have reliable access to electricity. Man-made climate change was caused by developed nations like the U.S., and we need to take a leadership in dealing with the issue; things won't magically change by themselves.
On the other side of the country, the tri-state Federation of Indian Associations was holding its annual India Day parade in New York. The last year was particularly significant for people of Indian origin, as the Delhi High Court just overturned Section 377, the 150-year-old British-era legislation that criminalized gay and lesbian Indians. Unfortunately, the organizers of the India Day parade didn't get the hint, and refused to let Indian gays and lesbians, their friends, and allies celebrate this momentous victory as part of the parade. (Yup, you can have a Pride parade in Bombay, but you can't have a gay float in New York.)
The Indian-American community supports the Indian government's decriminalization of homosexuality, and B and I did our very small parts to directly question the organizers about their stances. A feminist organization ultimately invited LGBT community members to march with them; I wish we could have been there to cheer them on.
The ultimate result? Loads of happy Indian-American LGBTQ people in the parade, and public embarrassment (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) for the organizers. While parade organizers have previously gone to court to keep gays and lesbians out, the Indian government's change of stance is a game-changer. New York India Day parade organizers can choose to wallow in their cultural conservatism in New York, or change with the times as India moves ahead.
(photos by Roopa Singh)