The Short-Lifespan of the Inflatable BT Brinjal (Delhi 2013)

Inflatable BT brinjal shortly before it’s destruction in Delhi on 18.03.2013.

*Brinjal is the word for “Aubergine” or “Eggplant” in India. BT brinjal is the first GM food-crop that the biotech industry has been aggressively marketing in India. Lucy tells the story of what happened with the inflatable Brinjal, that was brought into a protest against the Indian Governments new Land Bill.

The farmers refused the leave Delhi when the one day of protest was over- they stayed for 3 days sitting, cooking, sleeping in the streets of the capital. The arrival of the 6 meter inflatable BT brinjal*1, made by a group of artists and activists in South India, was welcomed with cheering. It was tossed back and forth over the crowd, spinning slowly and then bouncing back.

Suddenly a farmer leader on stage was shouting “we must resist the Land Bill just as we must resist the GM industry – and not believe their propaganda. BT Brinjal Nasho! Nasho*!” (Nasho means “destroy” in Hindi. )

Suddenly, and savagely, the brinjal was beaten with sticks and kicked, and publicly destroyed. When it was found on the ground, a group of old men were still hitting the deflated and flaccid ex-brinjal.

After the destruction, it was found being torn to shreds by three punjabi farmers. Seemingly they were still venting their rage at BT brinjal. Then it turned out they wanted to use the remains as a tarpaulin – indeed, the protest stretched to 3 days, and farmers were all sleeping in the streets. So the inflatable lived on as a sleeping mat for the farmers.

Three punjabi farmers use the remains of the inflatable BT brinjal as a sleeping mat.

Background of the Protest:
From 18.03.2013 TILL 21.03.2013 there was a massive mobilisation of 40.000 farmers from all across India in Delhi. It was a huge protest against the Government’s new Land Bill which will allow more agricultural land to be diverted for non-agricultural purposes. The government is acting as an agent for industry, removing farmers from their their land. In India 70% of the population practice small-scale farming. This grabbing of farmers’ land is in keeping with  the current paradigm of development which sees the villages emptying and agriculture being corporatised, whilst both the urban population and consumption swell.

The Eurocentric Media-Trap
One of the mainstream newspapers, The Hindu carried a good article (see picture) with an image of the inflatable BT brinjal. Unfortunately the photo – not representative of the event-  was taken in the minutes just as the brinjal had been inflated and was initially being carried into the crowd. Of the 40.000 people present, only two were western. We were careful to stay away from the BT brinjal  as we knew the press love the western-centric images and it diverts attention away from the indian grass roots movements (Westerners are commonly associated with big funding, NGOs and diminished autonomy for movements).