Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Protest against Force and Farcical Protest

My dear friend, Atul, who is a thoughtful chap, and with whom I have had several interesting debates and differences of opinion, writes this piece on what he saw in the first week of March in New Delhi, in the name of Protest. He compares the protest against Bush and the "protest" against the denial of justice for Jessica Lal, a model who was brutally killed seven years back in a restaurant, and whose case occupies newspaper space like no case before. Atul's views are expressed in this write-up of his and I am privileged enough to host Atul's view here on "A New Praxis....". Here is the writeup:

Why does a society resort to agitation politics? Correction in that syntactical error, for agitation politics. A contract, social for those who bear it, political for those who enjoy it, fails. It fails when those, in whose name a democratic polity swears its existence, join the ranks of history’s eternally condemned. When does a society resort to agitation? Usually, when its faith in what it lazily understands as ‘system’, crumbles. It’s to dwell in a blind well to assume that the reaction emanates only when the system falls apart.

The country’s capital saw two protests on March 2 and March 4. The former was against that idiotic evil George W. Bush and his brutal American empire, against a supposedly realist Indian government’s foreign policies and, for many, against a simplistic sacrilege committed in a ‘liberal’, ‘civilised’ country of that cold, old Europe. The latter was against an audacious, shameful crime committed seven, repeat, seven years ago. The difference and similarity between the two protests end right here. But something else takes over.

Those who protest everyday, every minute, every step of the life. Whose lives are a living protest of governments and their anti-people policies, chose to go ahead with the business as usual. There was nothing extraordinary for that bright lady and her comrades from Bihar to march barefoot in the heat from Ramlila ground to Jantar Mantar with her little child in the lap. They perhaps walk more ground in the unsparing sun to fetch water or toil in the field everyday. For these people of the sweat, it was a lot of them at work, collectively. Is it not an embarrassment that ‘outsiders’ outnumbered the city folks in protest? I don’t know. Maybe city folks understand governments, and empires better than villagers and town folks. Aren’t we the repositories of the great, greater and brand-new (not borrowed from a dictator next-door)‘enlightened’ national interest? Woolsure.

Others, less numerous, who abhor agitation, happy and satisfied in sweet little velvet worlds of nocturnal variety also came out to protest against the ‘system’. And where? At that thoughtless symbol of colonial absurdity, India Gate. They assembled to protest all right. But ensured their comfort on a pleasant evening that allowed for the glamour of candles to emboss. No sweat please, it may dull the eau de whatever. They came in designer dresses to protest a model’s murder. Glamorous protest - of, for, by- glamorous people. There is not much to be surprised here. It’s a reflection of our own closed mindsets. We assume this democracy to be a continuous pleasantry. Once in action, it won’t stall. And if it does, we are not the ones suffering.

It’s sad that it takes a high profile travesty of justice for this apathetic lot – the social elite- to swing into action, if only for a couple of hours. Thousands and thousands of crimes, more heinous than this, take place in India every single day. Against women, children, dalits and adivasis. Justice is abused in village after village in the feudal India every single day. Why isn’t that a reason to protest? Everyday. Why ? What of the thousands of revolutions brimming in stifled pockets of rural India since ages? And pray why do we need a film to colour us into an awakening?

That justice is due to Jessica is not up for debate. The killer/s ought to be punished, justice must be done to the family that continues to wait for wrongs to be redeemed, and an example of a sensitive judiciary, police, and authority must be set. Of course this has been a travesty of justice. But there cannot be a selective understanding of travesty. Justice has no double standards. This was not meant to be a society where some are more equal than others. A million hits on a website devoted to ensure justice for Jessica? Virtual justice of the new age? This is not about justice. This is about our collective indifference, our ability to shut ourselves away from the street-struggles. The ‘system’ has acquired a reality of its own. It has become smooth, frictionless for the want of public-accountability. If we can’t affect something with a million voices across the land, are we serious about transforming it by encircling that dead monument of the dead?


Subhanil said...

nice blog...i had not read atul before. but he has fascinated me quite a lot with this piece of writing.

vjanand said...

Nice observation!! Sure, there are plenty of things wrong with the 'system' but it would be really great if Atul can post solutions to his various questions.

No sarcasms here :) I'm genuinely curious to see his thoughts on these issues.


Dust-Biter said...

No post in the past 2 weeks...Busy ??

Vidya said...

i have got an opinion on this posting ..Being new to your group shall i share my views with u people ?

Srini said...

you are very much welcome, Ms Vidya!. Please proceed to add your comments. Rgds, Srini.