“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing
About the dark times.”
We, the students from most of the educational institutions in Kolkata, Bastar Solidarity Network-Kolkata chapter, and several student organisations marched in solidarity for Umar Khalid. The purpose of the march was also to raise our voice against the ongoing campaign of organised hate propaganda by Sangh Parivar against rational and dissenting individuals. The march began at College Street and ended near the West Bengal BJP office.
It has not even been a year since the brutal murder of journalist-writer and activist Gauri Lankesh, and there has been an attempt to kill Umar Khalid. This points to the fact that the extremist Hindutva brigade is at their task of silencing another voice of dissent against the fascist Hindu fundamentalism in our country. We welcomed all individuals and flags who showed their solidarity with our march for democracy. Our fellow comrades also performed a symbolic cultural protest by adorning the sacred thread and saffron dhotis, symbols of Brahminism, while carrying the corpse of democracy, as a protest against the ongoing fascist regime where dissents are answered not with words but with bullets.
The police authorities blocked the march from advancing towards the BJP office in Central Avenue. In protest, we demonstrated against Hindutva extremists by shouting slogans of azaadi (freedom); freedom to speak, freedom to dissent, and freedom to think critically, the rights of every citizen in our country. The atmosphere of fear, suspicion and malicious propaganda of targeting individuals and branding one as ‘anti-national’, ‘Pakistani’, ‘member of Tukde Tukde gang’– a famous phrase coined by Mr. Arnab Goswami while branding Umar Khalid as a terrorist sympathiser during the debate on nationalism in the news channel Times Now. The identity of the victim, a Kshmiri Muslim, makes the task of branding him a ‘Pakistani’, and ‘terrorist’ more convenient for the ruling dispensation.
We also raised our voice against the continuous advocacy of hatred on the Prime Time debates on news channels such as Times Now and Republic TV. This campaign of vilification is entirely responsible for spewing venom on all such individuals who are against the regime. In a similar style, Gauri Lankesh had been branded as an ‘urban naxal’ and celebrations started in the right-wing camp. Umar, too was accused of victim-playing by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi and several right-wing Twitter trolls wondered why the attacker failed to shoot more accurately. “Umar hum sharminda hain, tere attacker abhi zinda hain”. It underlines the extent of hatred being manufactured, which calls for the elimination of every possible person standing up against the government. The effigy of RSS (and its supremo Mohan Bhagwat), the sole organisation responsible for spreading hatred against democratic-minded students and rationalist individuals was burned during the demonstration.
The martyrs of free speech and dissent Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MN Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh prove that ‘bullets cannot silence our ideas’. We, as students and future citizens of this democratic nation, shall continue to build a wall against this Hindutva majoritarian government without bothering the threats to our lives. In a democracy, bullet doesn’t speak the last word. We also took the pledge to carry forward the ideas and struggles of Govind Pansare and Gauri Lankesh. We shall keep singing songs of the dark times!