Revival of a dormant hope

No sincere activist ever rests on their gains, but many sincere activists are broken or emotionally (or otherwise) brutalised to the point of withdrawing.
File Photo of CAA protests in 2019.
File Photo of CAA protests in 2019. (Photo | PTI)

On June 4, 2024, I woke up expecting that it would be just another day in terms of the wider world: expecting the status quo, on a collective level. Another day in India in particular as we know it, let’s say, while elsewhere on the planet — a planet already in the throes of a climate apocalypse that mega-corporates and governments consistently refuse to thwart or to attempt reversing — human suffering persists at large. I knew that many others, others who share my beliefs or my feelings about the state of the nation and the world, had been bracing for that day. I had not, because in the last few years, specifically after the CAA protests and the onset of the pandemic and everything that it wrought, I had sunk into a certain cynicism.

But that morning, I watched the results of the latest Lok Sabha election come in and felt for the first time in an entire decade a lightness within me a lifting, a hope. Yet, through the day and the next, even when it appeared like a miracle might truly shift the tide, I never permitted myself to expect it to happen. Instead, within the confines of knowing that the broadest strokes would remain unchanged, I perceived how the intricate ones already had. I let myself feel that, to believe again that justice and goodness hadn’t entirely died out in service of bigotry and greed. I especially felt empowered by the knowledge that a very strong opposition, which had received the people’s mandate despite numerous reports and evidence of intense media manipulation, voter suppression and other anti-democratic exercises, can shape and where necessary restrain the incumbent leadership’s actions.

I still believe this to an extent, even though the exhilaration — so sparklingly palpable on social media that day, and more ebullient still because of the silence of rightwing trolls and WhatsApp groups — has subdued now, as the reality of what didn’t come to pass, and the fear of what may, and the enormity of the work still ahead to restore or implement egalitarian practices and systems makes itself starkly obvious. It is growing dim once again, already, but for several hours, or even a couple of days, we saw a vibrant red balloon against an ashen landscape, reminding us of what we hope for.

No sincere activist ever rests on their gains, but many sincere activists are broken or emotionally (or otherwise) brutalised to the point of withdrawing. It is not for anyone to say what we must do, for indeed that goes against the spirit of what we are fighting for. We can only say: maybe we can. We can continue to stand up for what’s right. We can, in our own daily lives, deradicalise those around us through example and engagement. We can place cautious trust in those who have proven that they will fight for a better India, and who are in positions to speak truth to power. We can also hope that the day when we can take the Constitution or the concept of human rights for granted, will come. But it won’t ever come if we stop resisting now.

Sharanya Manivannan


The columnist is a writer and illustrator

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