Jun 302017

We look up to leaders for sanity. The lack of it only empowers the wrongdoerWe look up to leaders for sanity. The lack of it only empowers the wrongdoer

Here’s the thing with protests. It’s not that people don’t. They do. Very often. And that’s the hallmark of a democracy anyway. But if you look closely, on a more regular basis, whenever there is a ‘dharna’ or protest march, the faces that show up, are the usual suspects — who either have an agenda (legit or otherwise). Or are more specifically inclined towards issues being raised on a public platform.

What was incredibly heartening for me about the nationwide series of peaceful public protests that took place across India and outside, on June 28, was that it wasn’t about people from a certain religion, caste, economic strata, or community, hitting the street, to make their voices heard, and simply say #NotInMyName. It was a spontaneous call. It echoed absolutely everyone’s sentiment. I wish I could’ve been there. I was travelling, unfortunately.

Sure, every democracy has its issues. But there comes a moment — as it happened with Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption rally in 2010, or ‘Nirbhaya’ in 2012 — when everyone feels that their backs are against the wall and things have genuinely spun out of control. That they must speak up. It’s at a time like this when the political classes at the upper echelons, usually silent, are forced to take notice. As did the Prime Minister, who made it clear that a lynch-mob, or vigilante justice, is not Mahatma Gandhi’s chosen path or method. And it certainly does not signify a Hindu way of life.

We look up to leaders for voice of sanity. The lack of it only empowers the wrongdoer. But even beyond that, we look up to this nation’s judiciary that somehow ought to cease power from vigilantes. We can’t have laws slipping into the hands of a retributive mob, or self-styled ‘gau rakshaks’, simply because our criminal-justice system is long and unwieldy.

For a second, just imagine that beef is found on a person. Forget that there are rumours that he may be carrying some. He has it. So what? We will kill him? No sane person will think so. Most regular humans understand that a plural, multi-cultural, diverse society is beneficial for everyone. But there are some who are brainwashed to think differently from the rest — from a very early age. They may never understand rational arguments. It’s hard to reason with them.

How does the society respond to them? What happens to a boy who’s killed as a result? Who’s answerable for the death of the innocent? What action does the state take against that killer? These are equally if not more important questions.

For long, everyone kept quiet assuming beef to be such a sensitive issue. But people are dying –being killed. There is systematic targeting that’s tearing up the basic fabric of this country. The prospects are frightening. As a commentator I recently pointed out, it takes just one twisted mind from the other end of the spectrum to take advantage of a ripe situation like this, and retaliate. It would be labeled as terrorism. Who wants that? Where do we go from there?

It’s a shame that things have come to this. But heartening still that people from all walks of life chose to step out of their homes on June 28, stand up together in public, raise their voice, and say that this is not what my nation, or my religion, teaches me. Silence, at a time like this, only benefits those who perpetrate crimes under a community’s name. Nope, #NotInMyName. Not anymore.

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