Like all other days, I open my eyes and try to find out my phone which caters least wisdom and intellect but ample of informational catastrophe. Suddenly I scroll down and see a post about an assistant professor Sanjay Kumar been clobbered and abused by some miscreants in Motihari, Bihar. Unfortunately, right next to this story, I find a self-claimed success story of a man who happens to be the prime minister of this country.
This ironical situation is nothing but the recurrence of an old canny method which reminds us of a political minion called Joseph Gobbles and period of imperial kingdoms; a period which was dominated by henchmen for manufacturing truths and writing about the glory of their masters. It commoved my soul that myriad of narratives emerging from small places like Motihari with the audacity of expressing their views, are suffering the fate of abject fear and torture.
A man, battered, lynched in the utmost ruthless manner was later left to feel like he had commited a criminal act. A BJP leader filed an FIR under the IPC 153 (hate speech) against prof. Kumar who had written a post calling an ex-prime minister a fascist. It is a shame that we have a government which should ideally work to protect our philosophy of articulation, which also encompasses the liberty of expression without the fear of retaliation or threat, but instead it strongly flouts the basic principle of social contract and constitution.
The more substantial fear today is that if you have to survive then you must do so as a docile individual obeying the conditions of the crowd and majoritarianism. I firmly believe that nothing could be more horrendous than a society which is bereft of expression and dissent, because such a society turns into a crowd of machine- minds. Probably, professor Kumar can be a reference point for us, but the larger concern stays with the severe repression of democracy and freedom of expression.
I remember a statement made by Thrasymachus that “justice is the advantage of powerful”; today, this line compliments the undeclared emergency so well that if you don’t comply with what the ruling party believes or preaches then, either you are a Naxal, urban Naxal or an anti-nationalist. Recent episode of professor Kumar criticising an ex-prime minister was probably a classic case for understanding the fear of a critical mind in this era of neo-fascism.
Today any individual, who is critical of homogenization and imposition of single-mindedness under the camouflage of Hindutva, feels the fear of being lynched. Travesty remains intact, as despite all the giant claims that this world or India as a nation-state does to protect our right to dissent, have proved futile. It is clearly enshrined and enunciated in the united declaration of human rights under article 19 and Indian constitution under 19(A), that regardless of frontiers, our right to expression would be protected. But it never worked for the last person due to a caveat of “reasonable restriction” which has been used by the ruling class to suit its own political goals. It has been frequently used to satiate the dominant narrative and as a tool to preserve the old barriers of dialogue and interactions by curtailing the potential of a protest.
The caveat of reasonable restriction as the prerogative of the ruling party gives an unbridled authority to the influential people to decide what a reasonable protest should look like. It acts like a veto power working in favour of privileged class so that any protest which questions the power dynamics or the ugly reality of society could be regulated very well. Today, if we say anything that we think is rational but it offends the view of the majority, it can be seen as a criminal act of disturbing the social peace and harmony. And this is surely a fanciful justification of institutionally curbing any of those protests which rattle the preserved narratives of this society or majoritarianism. We should remember that a society with no egalitarian base will continue favouring the elite even though fundamentals rights are documented, as implementation remains the prerogative of the ruling class.
All the disturbing narratives, be it Gauri Lankesh or professor Kumar- is an admonition for sane voices and conscious minds to collectivise their protest against this tyranny otherwise this will be an end of intellectual evolution. Thus, when violence becomes the new normal then protest is the duty of sane minds. We must understand that unless the right to offend is not a part of the right to expression, it is just a dead letter and a tool of the majority to maintain the status quo. Dialogues are crucial in democracy and any criticism has to meet the fate of embracing a counter-criticism and not a power-driven crowd.