I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of Pune. Freedom from the agony caused pot-holed roads. Freedom from the misery caused lack of footpaths. Freedom from congestion, pollution and the rattling PMT bus that never works.
Five decades ago, a great Indian (Ambedkar), in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Indian Constitution. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Indians who until 1947 were en-slaved who in the flames of withering injustice (from British). It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But 50 years later, the Puneite is still is not free. The Puneite is still sadly crippled by the manacles of bureaucracy and the chains of selfish politicians. 50 years later, the Puneite lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 50 years later the Puneite is still languishing in the corners of his city and finds himself an exile in his own land (waiting for the PMT to
arrive). So we have come together today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to cash a check. 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 Puneite was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to live cross the roads safely, the right to safe public transport and the right to living in dignity.
It is obvious today that PMC has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens are concerned. Instead of honoring this obligation, PMC has given the Puneite a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are innsufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this city. So we have come to cash this check - a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security to live in dignity. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind PMC of the fierce urgency of now.
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism (through projects such as Sky Bus). Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of degradation to the sunlit path of justice. Now is the time to lift our city from the quick sands of injustice to the solid rock of high quality of life. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the PMC to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Puneite's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating freedom from indignity. 2006 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Puneite needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the PMC returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in Pune until the Puneite is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of Pune until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom from indignity by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy (intellectual) which has engulfed the Pune community must not lead us to distrust of all civic officials & politicians, as their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We (nor they) can walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Puneite is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of social brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel (on pot-holed roads), cannot gain lodging in the comfort of good roads, well paved footpaths and good public transport system in the city. We can never be satisfied as long as a Puneite cannot get his voice heard and a Puneite believes he has nothing for which to vote (due to resentment that politicians will not do anything anyway). 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 say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Pune dream.
I have a dream that one day Pune will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men live in dignity."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Parvati the sons of this city will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood and look at their city fondly.
I have a dream that one day the rest of Maharashtra, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice (after Pune sets an example).
I have a dream today.
This is our hope। This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we 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 city into a beautiful symphony. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if Pune is to be a great city this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of Parvati. Let freedom ring from the Mula-Mutha.
Let freedom ring.
And when this happens, we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every lane of the city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of Pune's children, will be able to join hands and sing, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"