ByÂ Ankur Sohanpal:
It has taken us centuries to achieve a satisfactory level of human development, but it has not been devoid of its evils. We are more immune to things that would have moved our simpler ancestors from a few generations ago, and news doesn’t grab our attention until something outrageously dismal to human lives has happened. The governments of the world have evolved parallel to this, and defy all their ideal roles and responsibilities in line with the myriad of laws and regulations that have been successfully devised and enacted time and again to protect the autonomies that governments so often become, when ruling a trusting people.
How do we bring about change in a society so strongly resistant to any measures of proactive change? Does it not make more sense to see the world progressively mirror the ruthless actions of hypocritical leaders given their numbers and alarming increase in social presence? It does, given normal human tendencies of watching, learning and replicating, but then there must be something that is the core of a strong counter current inspiring people, and especially youth.
It is the show of courage by the handful of people in this world, which inspires the world. Revolutionaries and rebels all over the world, outrageously outnumbered by collective contemporary opponents have been the most powerful medium of moving the youth to fight for what is right, regardless of the consequences. Today’s such figures make up a small body — and to me, include people like Aung San Suu Kyi, Dr Binayak Sen and a few more.
I had the pleasure of meeting the enigmatic doctor in the summer of 2009, by chance, when I did not even know who he was. I was given a brief history of his work of fighting the state-sponsored Salwa Judum which also acted as the medium by which the state vacated potential mines and sites for precious metals and minerals excavation. I was told of the abject state of human life through hunger, poverty and disease that a CMC qualified doctor tried to rectify through his individual efforts. His recognition of the Salwa Judum as being more detrimental than the Naxals they were fighting quickly found a reaction with the state which decided to make an example of him. He was framed so convincingly of aiding the Naxals that his jailing terms did not even allow for a bail for the longest time. What would a simple man in his position do? Consult lawyers and look for ways to extricate himself from this mess he should never have gotten into. But not this man.
Armed with this newfound knowledge (every bit of which was corroborated with readings from reliable sources); I stepped into his house in Kalyani, West Bengal. There were press reporters, and more spectators like me. In the midst of that, I was given a precious five minutes to greet this inspirational man. Several thoughts almost became words on my lips, but didn’t go beyond that. I introduced myself, struggled with my breathing while taking in his humble yet powerfully magnetic persona radiating patience, resilience and knowledge. This man had knowledge that he has been wronged by the government of the people he tried to protect, and was willing to go through more humiliation and suffering to have his point proven. That, to me, was courage beyond words. He looked at me a few seconds longer, nodded his head in silent intention of moving on to entertain other people and energetically moved on to the backyard of his house, otherwise used by his mother who has used it as a playschool for children for many years.
Arguably, this sparked self-awareness in a sleeping conscience within me which urged me to look beyond my own ends and needs. I have attended speeches by the Prime Minister of India and the Union Minister of Home Affairs, and their calculated and measured speech, or their persona (coupled with the knowledge I had of their backgrounds, actions and policies) did not inspire the same emotion. Not even close. The meeting with Dr Binayak, and the bone-chilling abuse of human rights he tried to bring to light, made me ashamed of the number of people without adequate power of voice and basic human rights throughout this world that I knew nothing about. Suddenly, the tiny world that constituted my being was too small, and I felt like I had been blind before. As I unearthed acts of courage by rebels like Aug San Suu Kyi and more, my perception of life changed. While I am not actively involved in a direct-consequential movement, I am a part of the youth that is sensitize, aware, and most importantly, concerned about her fellow human beings. All this, because of the one man I met.