The Art of Walking

Pankaj Tiwari & Abhishek Thapar

After COVID-19 broke out in India the ruling dispensation implemented a hasty, inconsiderate and strict lockdown across the Indian state without giving any substantial thought about its impact on the precarious working class communities. Tragic fallout of the irresponsible implementation of the strict lockdown was the pushing over the edge of the migrant worker communities across India. The lockdown, in a matter of hours, resulted in a jolting halt to the economy and many daily wage laborers and other precarious workers were rendered jobless, moneyless, food less and under the fear of contracting COVID. In such a desperate situation, the migrant workers who were living in large Indian cities were left with no choice but to turn towards their homes in remote villages and small towns of India. Trains, buses or other public transport was suspended. The streets were barricaded and under a curfew. Millions of workers took to the streets and decided that they had no choice but to walk towards their villages and towns with their children, families and a few belongings. These distances were from 300 to 2200 km. Few died on the way, few lost their children, few got killed by a train, few survived to reach home.

Our new project, ‘The Art of Walking’, wants to raise awareness in Europe and beyond about the ongoing struggle of migrant laborers displaced after the COVID-19 lockdown in India. We will start a walk from Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Calais, France on 3rd July covering a distance of 312 km over 13 days. The walk seeks to connect the crisis in India to an ongoing global humanitarian crisis that spells privilege, as much as it spells dispossession, loss and homelessness. The walk retraces the unfortunate path of structural violence and apathy. It is a meditation and mourning. During the journey we will initiate conversations with other migrant artists and build solidarity across Europe on some of these issues. The journey will conclude with a meal. It will be cooked, shared, and eaten together at Calais with everyone.

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