QUEEN’S ROAD: Last week, it was Shruti Seth and Kavita Krishnan. This week, it is Amartya Sen who is being hounded on Twitter. For saying that the government is interfering too much in the functioning of educational institutions among other things. All it needs is a dissenting view-point to get the Internet mob to spew vitriol.
It is showing dissent too but in a way that cancels out other people’s right to dissent. The troll brigade is not thinking as individuals but as a collective of hate. Then there is another kind of dissent. The kind that the FTII students are showing. The kind that a few pockets of scribes are showing after a few of their colleagues in the past few weeks were killed for chasing stories in dangerous terrains where money and power rule.
Governments snuff out dissent by perception management and sometimes, violence but powerful individuals who have too much to lose do it too.
Bill Cosby, accused in hushed tones of rape has also been accused of buying silence from victims as well as media houses. But it is when the intolerance for dissent infects the democratic fabric of a nation that we need to worry. When artists and authors are banished from the land of their birth and their creative and emotional roots, when films are banned, books pulped, journalists burnt to death, sensitive information about powerful people snuffed out, justice denied to the voiceless and the powerless, that is when we need to worry.
We need to worry when the powers-that- be decide they want to control how cinema is made, how kids are taught, how history should be retold, what parts of our culture must represent the whole of our culture. A country is afterall not an ideology, a face, a name, a leader.
A nation is not just its politicians and industrialists. It belongs also to ordinary people with no power and agendas, to artists, writers, film makers, whistle blowers. It belongs to street children, to dispossessed farmers, to acid victims and survivors of sexual crimes.
To inconvenient activists and NGOs that want to fight for the nation’s forests and last remaining pockets of unindustrialised land. To reporters who dare to file reports such as this, “Chattisgarh- Mining begins houses damaged without consent of communities, displacing 150 families.” To those daring to talk about a sexual harassment case in Delhi University. To Dalit boys and girls who fall in love with someone born in the "upper-class.’’ To victims of riots and political murders. To the poor who get mowed under the wheels of the cars of the rich and the famous.
And to those who see things as they are and say, “This is not right. I will show dissent. Without fear.” The day, all of us can show dissent without fear will be the day, the nation will belong to all of us and not just to some of us.