“Silence becomes cowardice when the occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
The most common, and therefore most odious, comment on anything remotely critical of the current state of India is that it is ‘anti-national’ and therefore unpatriotic. While this refrain is heard anytime anyone dares to state simple facts on any medium on any issue, from demonetisation to movies which dare to portray women as actual people, if it paints India in a negative tinge in whatever capacity, it is “anti-national”, facts and reality be damned.
This has been particularly grotesque recently when so-called patriots started the same after Nobel Peace Laureate and child right’s activist Kailash Satyarthi’s recent appearance on Kaun Banega Crorepati and his discussion of his work with victims of child sexual abuse and child trafficking.
Satyarthi has been called all manner of things by these so-called patriots since the episode aired and there have been comments questioning the facts that he presented that seek to cast doubt about whether an issue as inherently disgusting as child sexual could even exist in India. Along with the usual ‘anti-national’ label, he has been called less of a patriot for speaking about the reality of child sexual abuse in the country when it is clearly ‘not that bad’.
The reality still remains that with every six minutes a child goes missing in India. With every hour two children are sexually abused. In 2015 alone there were 3,490 cases of child trafficking registered in the country. Even if we were to assume these figures to be an accurate reflection of the scale of the problem, are we to ignore thousands of children in need in favour of a rosy image of a nation?
To maintain the status quo at the cost of abused children is not only implicit support for those who perpetrate such crimes but also the cost of the nation which remains ignorant about this most grave of issues affecting tens of thousands of children all across the country. Silence in the face of such cultural monsters does nothing but strengthen them.
It is their heedless dedication to an idea of the nation that is ‘not that bad’ that decidedly destroys the last dregs of their patriotic credentials. It is a direct implication that while they agree that India’s children are abused and raped, it is a number which is acceptable.
In their very proclamation, they agree that nation is to some degree on the wrong track, but not so much that patriots such as themselves should invest their time in it, they agree that some degree of malfeasance is fine for the country. So their disagreement with Satyarthi’s statements is not in the vein of patriotism or out of concern for India’s image or even the sanctity of Indian culture, it is merely a selfish smokescreen to protect themselves and their idea of India.
Lastly, it is offensive to every victim of abuse in the country to have to hear that even though the pain of abuse has upended their lives, the nation and its culture are still ‘not that bad’. To insist that the suffering of children is not a stain on society in favour of a wilful distortion of facts is, to put it mildly, horrifying.