We have heard a lot about ‘yatras’ recently. The unfortunate stranding of thousands on the Chardam yatra in Uttarakhand and the debate revolving around Modi’s elevation , LK Advani’s opposition and his famous Rath Yatras have made the headlines in the past weeks. Most of our yatras are based on religious (maybe political) grounds. Ever heard of a yatra for peace, a yatra to end war and ensure justice to victims of war? No? Then you probably haven’t heard about Cindy Sheehan’s ‘Tour de Peace ‘.
War leaves, in its wake, thousands of deaths and consequently millions of destitute families. Self-defense and security are top concerns of any nation, however, unnecessary massive military spending does drain the economy of funds that could be put to better uses such as education and social welfare. ‘Tour de Peace’ was started by Cindy Sheehan, popularly known as ‘Peace Mom’ to inspire people with her message of peace and environmental sustainability. Cindy Sheehan, a citizen of California, lost her son Casey Sheehan, a US army specialist, during the Iraq war. Devastated by his death, she launched herself into an aggressive antiwar campaign in 2005. She made the international headlines when she camped outside President Bush’s Texas ranch, demanding an audience with him to stop the war. Since then she has been engaging actively in both social and political spectrum to stop war and bring justice to innocent victims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
‘Tour de Peace’ is the latest initiative by Sheehan, in which a group of people led by Cindy started riding on bikes starting from Casey Sheehan’s grave in California on April 4 , the day of Casey’s death. The journey will culminate in the White House on July 3. The mission of ‘Tour de Peace’ is to demand “true and positive change” from the US govt and raise funding for helping the innocent destitute victims of Afghanistan and Iraq. In an interview to the Toledo free press, she says “Bike rides are often held to oppose terrible diseases. We believe that war, plutocracy and environmental destruction are diseases with the potential to turn fatal. We’re riding because, while we may have a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the White House, we do not have peace. We have expanded presidential war powers, a new type of war fought with flying robots and biweekly meetings in the White House to check names off a “kill list.” We have expanded powers of warrantless spying, imprisonment without trial and retribution against whistle-blowers.” In this unique ‘yatra’, Cindy hopes to connect with new friends, reconnect with older ones and bring some changes in these burning issues.
Though the peace mom has been on the forefront of the antiwar movement for several years now, the US national media has not given ‘Tour de Peace’ much coverage. After all there are many issues of “importance” to be covered. Kim Kardashian’s kid, North West and Paris Hilton’s worries are obviously more important! To draw attention to her cause, Cindy has announced that she will perform a tightrope ride on her bike, naked, while chewing on a vegan pizza on July 4 at the end of ‘Tour de Peace’. This stunt will be performed on a stretch from Washington Monument to the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park. The horrors of war and the stringent war laws are not something to be discounted so lightly. We have seen the likes of Julian Assange and Snowden being persecuted for revealing shocking information to the public. Today, these issues may not be affecting us directly, but we still do need to take the onus and express our solidarity and support towards these causes, if not in person at least in spirit to ensure a safe and prosperous future for all.