Silence as bad as violence itself in Azadi ka Amrit Mahostav year
In Gandhi’s land, how do we protest when malevolent jackboots are on the ground? Light a candle, have silent marches, write petitions and keep the chain going...
Published: 11th September 2022 05:00 AM | Last Updated: 10th September 2022 06:17 PM | A+A A-
We need to wake up to the shrinking free space for the citizenry in Azadi ka Amrit Mahostav. After all, it is a festival of the awakening of the nation. Now slowly but surely, the parchment barriers of constitutional rights are being transgressed. We also see the ‘principalities of dominance’ creeping up on us though often not directly yet. But this is how rights get eroded; piece by piece until your piece goes without you realising it. Regardless of regime, it has happened often enough. It happens because of our silence. Silence is such a seductive option to pass off as seemingly neutral when one is actually complicit.
In the Nazi pogrom, six million Jews were slaughtered when 60 million Germans chose to be silent. Surely, there was fear that high price would have to be paid for resisting oppression and being vocal in opposing it. But that could have saved the day. The rulers would not have been as brazen and audacious then. India is poised in an analogous position, but what are the options before us?
Many believe the judiciary and media have fallen short of the high expectations the citizens had. The police have become the final arbiter of who should be incarcerated and who would be out. The freedoms can be snatched away without notice, for calling power to account or for locking horns with the powerful. Constitutionalism is forgotten conveniently. Silence here can be as bad as violence itself.
When the ‘culture of erasure’ is in full play, the silent majority will forget in time to come that anything unusual had happened. They also get acclimatised to the heat just like a frog in water being heated. The frog, despite the option to jump out and save itself, stays put and dies. Once you make silence the default response, the less you react to the egregious changes and the more you take it as normal. That was the objective of the political stratagems too -- to take your power away without you realising it. It started taking others’ power away first and it looked as if it would not affect you at all.
In Gandhi’s land, how do we protest when malevolent jackboots are on the ground? Light a candle, have silent marches, write petitions and keep the chain going. Write in newspaper if you can, write poetry if you are capable of, just to pinch yourself and others that all that is happening is not normal and they can be stalled. At the minimum, fact-check WhatsApp forwards and those spreading salience of our country, even if it feels good, and point out the holes in them. They may not be stalled and everything may continue to rage and envelope you like fire spreading, but you can ensure that the conspiratorial system doesn’t change you and you manage to protect yourself from its onslaught. Maybe fewer people will be influenced too. Protecting your authenticity is absolutely important in this turbulent time.
Don’t give credence to the opinion, speech and grandstanding of sadhus, sants, mullahs and mahants. They have their designated role, which doesn’t include talking about society and politics, giving calls for genocide and spreading hatred. In the house of God, their negative thoughts should disqualify them from religious leadership. It is a pity several people get misled, but they deserve to be shown the corner they deserve.
It is also imperative that we do not forget the events and people. The judges who briskly send the appellant to the jail upturning the jurisprudence; the policeman who referred to a four-year-old post for jailing a journalist; the municipality which moved bulldozers, inflicting collective punishment for dissent, that too without process. These actors might have the excuse of excesses for meal-ticket motives, but they cannot be condoned. Hungry people and pickpockets steal money, but they land up in jail regardless. Acts of omission and commission when linked to advancement, aggrandisement and cosy existence cannot be ignored. The quaint lines from Aamir Aziz’s poem 'Sab yaad rakha jayega/Sab kuch yaad rakha jayega' comes to mind.
‘If you murder us, we will come back as ghost and still write; we will write about mentioning the proofs And unveiling the murder you have committed. We will write clear enough so that the blind could read it.’ Apart from eternal vigilance, what is required is a determination not to forget, and willingness to not remain silent. Otherwise ‘halahal’ (poison) may change the character of amrit.
Satya Mohanty is former secretary, Government of India. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.