I understand that this post will infuriate many of my friends and people in my family. I might face a severe backlash from trolls on social media, my house might be pelted with stones by goons, people giving me death threats might become a routine affair. All of this has become commonplace for anybody who tries to engage in a debate in a suffocating democracy. However, most importantly, it will be the State which will probably vilify me the most. For my friends and family might be ignorant, but the State is not. The State knows that I know. It knows of the horrors it has committed. Therefore, my voice has to be drowned, if the State wishes to preserve the status quo.
I will become one of the many to occupy and populate our prisons if I voice my opinion. My opinion against the transgressions of the State; the Indian State. Yet, it is better to be walled by bricks, than to be suppressed by the high and unscalable walls of conscience. Better to spend a life in a shithole of a place, than to live in a world which deludes us into believing it is free and democratic; where those who eat away others’ bread are deemed ‘brave’, while those who fight for their bread are portrayed as ‘villains’.
I write this as I read about the imprisonment of GN Saibaba. A man in a wheelchair whom the State saw as a serious threat to its security. A man whose moral weight was enough to dent the establishment’s hubris. A man who could have damaged the interests of the few whom the State protects.
A threat to our security? The State which has deployed its army against some of its people, right from the moment it became free; why does it see this wheel-chair bound man as a threat? Haven’t we already erased all forms of dissent, by mowing down those who come in the way of the State and its powerful friends? Haven’t we yet slaughtered those whom our society sees as the scourge of our vibrant cultural democracy? Haven’t we already alienated the aliens?
GN Saibaba, a professor of Delhi University(DU), was incarcerated, after being arrested through ‘illegal‘ means by the Maharashtra Police on May 09, 2014. He spent 14 months in Nagpur Jail before he was granted a three-month bail. On March 07, 2017, he was sentenced to life by a sessions court in Maharashtra for ‘aiding and abetting naxal activities’.
His real crime? He spoke the truth. He wrote the truth. He debated for the truth. This was enough to provoke the State. How could a person with a disability have the audacity to call out the State’s atrocities in central India? He spoke against Operation Green hunt. He exposed Salwa Judum. He travelled across the tribal belt, listening to the adivasis and OBCs of the country. While the Prime Minister himself won the election on his OBC identity plank, he seems to have forgotten his brethren who still live in the jungles of Chhatisgarh, Odisha and elsewhere, waiting for the basic amenities to reach them. Yet, it’s barely his fault. It’s nobody’s fault. We have been told its normal. Houses of tribals have been burnt, their crops have been destroyed and women have been raped. He dared to raise his voice against it. Well, that is not normal.
For somebody who brought to light the true motives of the State and its capitalist patrons, he tried to defy two authorities at once. Though they may seem two different entities, it’s hardly so. A soon-to-be Prime Minister travelling in aircraft belonging to one of the biggest business conglomerates in the country is not an anomaly but seen as giving an impetus to ‘public-private’ partnerships. The State had no option but to quell his voice.
However, none of this will ever wound our conscience. As we live in a media-mediated world, where opinions submerge facts, we fail to make sense out of the whole scene. And when we do make some sense out of it, we choose to ignore it, as it countervails our own elitism. In India, the post-truth era started the day we became independent. What we are now seeing, is just an act of truth, not an act of violence. A wise individual once said, “the most violent element in society is ignorance.” We, too, are fighting ignorance here. Ignorance of the existence of people different from our own-selves, who have opinions that might displease those in power.
Incarcerating Saibaba will not clamp down on the ideas of an entire group of people who are fearless to opine. It will not defeat those who have sacrificed everything they had, for a cause. But Saibaba is a comrade who we must fight for. Let us not be a mere spectator to this spectacular miscarriage justice. Let us not allow Dr GN Saibaba to die before our eyes. Stand up for Saibaba, and for the countless others, who chose to stand for you. Stand up for your own rights before they’re abrogated by the very people you elect. And most importantly, stand up to save your own soul, for losing that would be the loss no movement could seize back.
Jai Bhim! Lal Salaam!