“I Carry Within Me The Spirit Of Hindustan”

Aadaab.

“एक हमारी और एक उनकी

मुल्क में हैं आवाजें दो
अब तुम पर है कौन सी तुम
आवाज सुनों तुम क्या मानो
हम कहते हैं जात धर्म से
इन्सा की पहचान गलत
वो कहते है सारे इंसा
एक है यह एलान गलत
हम कहते है नफरत का
जो हुक्म दे वो फरमान गलत
वो कहते है ये मानो तो
सारा हिन्दुस्तान गलत.”
कविः जावेद अख़्तर
(Two voices echo in the country
One ours and the other theirs,
It is now up to you, which you choose
To listen to and accept.
We say caste and religion are
not markers of identity;
They say all of us are exactly like each other
but this is wrong.
We refuse the nationwide command
to hate
They say that refusal must mean
the entire country is mistaken)
Poet: Javed Akhtar
It’s unfortunate. Unfortunate, how I wrote for YKA last fortnight, telling all of you to go out and protest and I had this ‘junoon‘, this ‘courage’, this angst within me while saying that. It’s unfortunate, how days have passed and I’m going to tell you to do just that, go protest, again. But not as freely, and not as courageously.

I was out protesting on the 19th of December representing my city, Lucknow, as one of the strong voices of dissent, amidst whatever is happening. But not for too long. I was laathi-charged. I was detained. I was kept away from the protest point for quite some time. I got back to the main area, after a few hours though, and managed to sit through for a few minutes, but then, to my utter shock, the protest that was non-violent, had by now, become a ruckus. Dear God, was it scary!

Anti-CAA protests rocked the nation in December 2019. Representational image.

There was this moment during the protest, where I zoned out for a bit, looking at two sides of a coin, right in front of my eyes. To my right was a group of students and their families and friends sitting with posters, singing, almost humming in unison ‘Nafas Nafas‘, while to my left was another bunch of people, who looked rather rowdy, who kept shouting ‘zindaabaad, murdaabaad‘.

A few of them had sticks, our Indian flag and saffron clothes around their necks, and the police almost ignored them and went straight to the ones sitting on the right, laathi charged them and stuffed them into buses.

Haters will think I’m exaggerating. “Unka yaqeen, unka zehen unhe mubaarak” (“I congratulate you on your belief and your brain/psyche”). I know what I saw.

The rest is all over the news. My own people, friends, many citizens of the city, of a particular community, were picked up from the protest point, from their own houses, and arrested, brutally beaten up, almost kidnapped. Since they weren’t allowed to make calls, their families didn’t know of their whereabouts for 2-3 days. A few of them were released only yesterday and there are still ones who have some social capital. Think about the ones who come from simple families and backgrounds?

No matter how wrong this is, they managed to shun us, scare us, shut us up for a while. Because everyone, and hell yes, I count myself in, was/has been scared to raise voices freely, ever since then. Mental health matters right? “Kitni ladaaiyaan kar lenge aap jab sab kuch unke qabze mein hai? Chindi-chindi bik gaya humaara kaanoon!” (How long will you fight when everything is under their control? Our laws have been sold at an atrociously cheap rate!) 

For days and days, and I didn’t step out of my house, except for going to work. Of course, our families were worried. I don’t blame them one bit. I know how anxious it all made me.

Finding other ways to protest, we did storytelling sessions with children around our places, to get them to question what’s happening and why; and to understand the power of compassion.

My insides were just starting to heal and BAM! JNU was attacked! And the news has it all. ALL OF IT!

I want to choose this platform of YKA, to speak to my fellow people, who still are complicit with what’s happening. Yes, you know who you are.

“Kab tak chuppi saadhe baithe rahenge, janaab? Kab tak ghalat-salat logon ke haathon mein desh thamaate rahenge? Aankhein moond ke baithne ka ya chehra pher lene ka waqt gaya..” (How long will you stay quiet, sir? How many more times will you serve the country on a platter, to those most undeserving to run it? It is too late to not see what is in front of you, or just turn away conveniently…)

It isn’t really only about CAA-NRC anymore. Even criminals have human rights and a voice, and here in our country, at the moment, students and normal citizens are being robbed off so much, for merely protesting peacefully, against national decisions or a decision that concerns their university fee, their family, their history, their future! Be it in Kashmir, or at Jamia, 

Remember. It’s not only about what the government is doing, but very much about what the government is allowing!

I’d like to believe I’m badass, but here I am, scared, sad, angry.. all at the same time. I’m scared because I’m still under scrutiny, I’m scared how nothing I say or do is bigger than my surname. Is that not wrong? Does that not bother you?

Their violence is alarming and your silence is deafening. And you still choose to stay unaffected, quiet, calm.

“Haath-paer bohot hadh tak bandhe hue hain phir bhi farz samajhti hoon apna apni baat aage rakhna, aapko samajh paana, aapko kuch samjha paana” (My hands and feet are tied tightly, still I feel it is my duty to put forward my point of view, to understand yours and to make you understand mine.)

Open your eyes to both sides of the picture, please.

All that you’ve given time to, taken lightly has built up to this.

#wethepeople

*Feature image is representational.

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