Courage to speak

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/8/2015 12:16:18 PM

When dissent begin to be responded by brutality and state patronage, India needs more Nayantaras

Nayantara Sahgal needs more than an applause for having so courageously opposed a culture of intolerance and brutality amidst a deafening silence from the majority of intellectuals and empowered elite of the country as a hate soaked perverse ideology sanctions brutal murders and marginalization of dissenters and minorities and the government, far from cracking down on culprits, chooses to justify the wrongs on some feeble pretext of the other. Sahgal, known for her forthright views, uprightness, conviction and courage, has returned her Sahitya Akademi award "in memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty." While returning the award, she warned against the dangers of a culture of intolerance perpetuated by those distorting Hinduism and encouraged by the silence of the present government, triggering a rise in incidents of brutal killings. This 'unmaking of India' she explains is against its rich cultural diversity and ethos and also goes against the constitution which guarantees liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. She also questioned the silence of the elite and of high intellectual bodies like Sahitya Akademi which failed to take notice of brutality around despite M.M. Kalburgi, one of the victims of the hate crime, being an award winner of the prestigious body himself. Sahgal has thus not only called spade a spade but showed that where the government fails to protect the rights of citizens and instead busies itself in altering the very idea of India, and where political alternatives have been discarded with utter dismay, the onus lies on the civil society to fill the vacuum created by silences with rationality and opposition against all forms of brutality. What she has done is not only register her protest but also shake the conscience of those with thinking ability, those shocked but silenced by the squeezing space for dissent, saffronising of political and social space and the marginalization of minorities.
India today is in dire need of a Citizens movement that can provide the direction. Unfortunately, since 1947, barring the dark days of Emergency, this need for an effective civil society has not been felt so immensely. Even during the Emergency, there were few from the intelligentsia and academic circles who opposed the brutal authority of Indira Gandhi and what she sought to do to the country in the garb of imposition of an unjustified Emergency. The media, deemed the fourth pillar of democracy, remained by and large silent with few exceptions. As Lal Kishen Advani, a Hindutva ideologue, famously mentioned, "when they asked the media to bend, it began to crawl." Today, that kind of imposition of Emergency, de-legitimised by the apex court, may not be possible but new idioms of excesses, brutality and centralized authority are being imposed through brazen and designed efforts to saffronise the country through every trick in an out of the book. Worse, that the media, pretty much state-ist in nature, fully dependent on corporate financing and culture of glamour, is even more spineless than it ever was in the past. There is little to expect from a media that informs and comments not on basis of truth and rationality but is dictated by the incentives it is offered from various quarters including the State. In such a dismal scenario, silence of the media and the other thinking and sane majority would be criminal. Nefarious designs that seek to induce brutality in the society in such a way that they become acceptable parts of life and also alter the very idea of India must be opposed at all costs. The media, intelligentsia and saner elements need to rise. Nayantara Sahgal has made one small effort. That effort would be rendered futile by the silence of the rest.

 

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