These days, we often come across words and phrases such as ‘nationalism’, ‘ageing Indian’, ‘Indianness’, etc. From Twitter rants, Facebook posts and comments; to the mainstream media, we see it everywhere. This constant form of surveillance that questions the kind of attachment to a piece of land has come into existence. The state today has started to repress the ideas of those who dissent through various means, in full force. However, the most frustrating aspect is that people associated with the ruling party have resorted to violence against unarmed people with a voice.
If I analyse what has been the scenario in India in the past one year, there are many examples of how the voices of the people have been repressed and continue to be so, in this country. A voice that seems to be the quietest during this process of repression is that of our dearest Prime Minister. I wonder where Mr Modi was when students were being violated by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for protesting against the hooliganism of the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Perhaps, his lifelong association with the RSS compels him to ignore what is happening in the country.
When women are given rape threats during protests, it is derogatory and it completely sexualizes the female in every sense. It shows how much these men want control over the bodies of women, to make sure nobody ever speaks up. By threatening to rape them, they are threatening their ‘honour’, and apparently, ‘honour’, seems to stay in a woman’s vagina and not in the things she stands for.
We’re becoming a country that does not want to hear alternative opinions, a country where students of a university need to just quietly go, learn what is taught, never question and then go back home. If one ever dares to go against the hegemonic rule, one will be beaten, labelled as a ‘terrorist’, an ‘anti-national’ or threatened with rape.
Whether it is Nivedita Menon’s invitation to Jai Narain Vyas University, the events in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the recent Delhi University protests, the one thing I see common is the unnecessary involvement of the ABVP. Many members of the organisation behave like goons and believe that with the Prime Minister’s lips zipped because of his lifelong association with the RSS, they can do whatever they want to.
Who are they, with their Hindutva ideology, to decide that we, the ones that want to accommodate all communities are ‘anti-nationalists’?
If universities can’t be a public sphere for conversation, then how are the students supposed to learn?
This constant bullying isn’t just by the RSS and the ABVP. With the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) refusing to certify the feminist drama “Lipstick Under my Burkha” for being ‘lady oriented’, we can see the route of misogyny that we’re headed towards. Also, what does ‘lady oriented’ even mean? What is wrong with it? The fact that our censor board (it is disturbing that we even have a censor board) is not giving certification to the kind of cinema that really needs to be made, shows that we’re headed 500 years back. If Bollywood films that objectify men and women, make perverted jokes and endorse the sexism that this country seems to love and help make 100 crores, then I’m not surprised that a film which aims to change that sort of an outlook is not being given a certificate.
I used to think that my relatives and others around me would understand the need to have a conversation about issues and the right to dissent. However, I felt so ashamed when I saw WhatsApp forwards by my relatives ridiculing the idea of dissent. The way they and many others have been integrated into this whole system of forced nationalism is absolutely disgusting. The hegemonic forces have gathered cultural consent even without the knowledge of the civil society. The way the idea of not questioning the nation has found a place is scary on so many levels. The reality today is that we are in a space where there is no respect for alternative opinions.