By Shraddha Sankhe:
A contemporary belief is that effigy burning is matter of politics and hatred. A few believe that public anger towards popular figures catapults into a powerful protest by way of effigy burning. A lost cricket match or an irresponsible statement, just about any thing that could make some else (read: opposition parties, religious groups, radical groups) angry leads to effigy burning.
Raavan’s effigy is burnt on the tenth day of the Navratri festival in India. An arrow carrying fire is struck on of Raavan’s firecracker filled effigy as a mark of “Good wins over Evil”. Same is practiced during the festival of Holi where ‘evil’ of Holika is burnt to reinstate the goodness in the world. Similarly, on the night of November 5th, throughout Britain, people commemorate the capture of Guy Fawkes with bonfires and fireworks, and by burning an effigy of Guy.who tried to overthrow the king. This is an important historical even in Britain popularly known as The Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
An effigy is a man-made figure, like a statue or sculpture. If you make one out of flammable materials such as wood or straw and make sure that people know who it stands for (by a sign or symbol or caricature, for instance) and then you burn it, it is a message of wishful destruction toward that person.Â Â In the background of other destructive protests, effigy burning seems rather harmless. Riots, self-immolation, suicide are more destructive. There are other harmless ways of effective protests too. So why burn effigies?
The answer is publicity-cheap, almost free. Understanding of the psyche of the protesters reveals that most feel instant gratification after burning an effigy. Public anger rises, burns the straw and wood and dies down soon. What remains is the memorable archive of the file photos and videos of public outrage. Democracy could make take a huge leap if only such dedication was shown by people in demanding true and fair elections and rapid corruption grievance-redressal instead of mindless upheaval.
Effigy burning in the world where Free Speech is a fundamental right is a matter of extreme and shameful hypocrisy. As Indians or largely as global citizens, it is a matter of contempt that some body’s statements make some minds work towards a proverbial and almost a real destruction of another human. Why? Do we really have that much time or the determination to kill a bag of straw as a mark of protest? Mahatma Gandhi’s peace protests are forgotten or simply ignored. Perhaps a crash course in Satyagraha could save many a political party workers and extreme groups the cost of wood, straw and a match-stick. But, really, is anybody listening?