‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Treason, gunpowder and plot!
I know of no reason, why the gunpowder treason,
Shall ever be forgot!’
This particular stanza is perhaps the most appropriate one to start this report regarding the History Department seminar of Ambedkar University, which was held on 3rd and 4th of November. The seminar was called, “In the Dark Times”, keeping in light the recent events across the country.
Although one must remember that the aforementioned stanza is used to remind us about the treason committed by a person called Guy Fawkes, whose effigy is burnt down every year on this date, the poem itself has formed itself as an anthem of the ‘Anarchists’ thanks to recent pop culture of graphic novels and a movie.
When I say anarchy, it must give rise to certain questions. Because the term in itself poses a great threat to the sanctity of the Constitution and the Nation. Yet, if we look out of the windows or the first page of our preferred newspaper, we will see that the country will somehow fall into anarchy as a resistance against a very fascist nature of the Government.
I asked a question related to anarchy as a combat method against a supremacist state to Teesta Setalvad, who was our first speaker of the seminar held on 3rd November. Her topic was “Some Experience, Some Lessons”, where she shared her memories and experiences right from 1993.
1993 is the building point of everything that is going on right now, the epicenter of the tidal waves that we are facing every day. Right from the day when a certain political party suddenly decided that it was for the betterment of a particular religion to demolish a certain religious monument and declare it something else. What happened at Dadri isn’t directly linked to 1993, but somehow it reflects the image, maybe a foggy image.
But this kind of communalism is not new to us, is it? The animosity between two particular sets of religion has been there right from 1930’s with the conception of both RSS and the Muslim League and having a look at the recent events, keeping in mind the 150-year-old conflict, it seems to be a longer conflict. However, to our horror, what was just a political conflict using religion as a tool for different political goals and demands has now become a monster under a new ‘management’.
What makes it ironic is that we call our country a secular democratic country, yet, as Ms. Setalvad put it so clearly, is the fact that what we are seeing is a façade, a veneer of democracy. What we have now is a violent authority which courts supremacy and is driven by a concept of ethnic cleansing, something the world saw during 1939 to 1945. The said political party in power today is nothing but a political branch of a religiously fanatic group with a mission which makes it no different from some of the very fanatic antisocial outfits we see engaged in crimes. It is interesting to see how politics and religion exchange their position in the power play. With secularism out of the window, Ms. Setalvad spoke about the threat to democracy, where we are seeing what the political philosophers and intellectuals are calling ‘Saffronization’, then be it our basic education in school, University spaces or the interferences in our food habits and dress choices. Everything is being coloured in the name of ‘ancient glory of Indian civilization’. I admit, as a citizen and perhaps the future contributor to India that we indeed had a great past. But being all fanatic and supremacist about it, being what we see as fascist is not a very great idea.
To answer my question, Ms. Setalvad said, and I quote, “anarchy is not the only way to combat supremacy, but when all else fails, there must be other options, although I do not support that, but if we must, we should.”
It would be injustice just to speak of one speaker of our seminar. Eminent scholars who spoke, like Gautam Navlakha, Dilip Simeon, Ashok Bhowmick and Anirudh Deshpande, or the panelists of the discussion called “Changing educational regimes – suffocating fluorescence?” tread on the same path. We are under a government whose roots could be found in a communally rigid institution which is silent amidst all the chaos. Maybe some of them are even the brainchild of the particular institution. What we are looking at is a classic case of a fascist, authoritarian government.
At one point of time, I might have disagreed with all of them, why wouldn’t I? After all, the previous government had been the epitome of scandals right from the people who led it and the political party that the government stemmed from. But what I am seeing now, the growing intolerance and hatred for a community from both sides, the moral policing of a ‘Cultural Messiah’ and the people who are on a mission to reclaim the ancient glory, is making me wonder about the choice we made as citizens and the dangers that might be coming our way. There are people who open their mouth to make us either cringe with shame and disgust, and what more is dangerous is that our voice of protest is being choked to silence and death. And those who are still carrying on protesting are being labeled as traitors and anti-nationalist, even ‘advised’ to leave the country!
The whole point of the seminar was to make us realize a couple of things; first, that any form of protest is viable if it makes a difference. Second, that we have to keep these protests going or we must choose to submit ourselves to a perpetual, silent slavery, and perhaps thirdly, that these elements will do anything to keep us quiet.
When I was in my 2nd year of graduation, I read a novel by George Orwell, ‘1984’; I was horrified by the author’s imagination, but was able to shake it off. After all, it was just an imagination, right?
Who knew that the Orwellian times are laughing right at our faces with rabid teeth?
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