Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Have we learned to protest again?

The past few days have seen the most widespread and energised mass protests since the fascists came to power in 2014. And it hasn't been a great few years. People died in bank queues and trillions were wiped off the economy by the great masterstroke of demonetisation, but there were no large scale protests. There was anger and sympathy when Kashmiris were suddenly demoted to fourth class citizens, but that too didn't translate into large demonstrations across the country. The Citizenship Amendment Act, however, seemed to break a spell.

Students have been particularly courageous in protesting this Act, facing violence and demonisation, and demolishing the notion that India's youth have all been numbed to idiocy by years of relentless and repetitive propaganda. The scale of the protests have clearly taken the government by surprise. In Orwellian style, hate-monger-in-chief appealed to people not to let "vested interests" divide society. "Vested interests" presumably refers to young people some of whom wear vests. (Some also took off their vests.) And "society" presumably refers to the NDA, some of whose junior members are starting to feel a little awkward.

The appeal for unity came hard on the heels of one of those wry, clever little claims he likes to make now and again: "those lighting the fire can be identified by their clothes". Gone are the days of "Hum Paanch, Hamare pachchees". Being the dignified statesman he is now, he only whistles to his dogs these days when he is feeling a bit nervy and needs a bit of Bhakt-love. So this particular whistle adds to the sense that the protests took him and Chanakya a.k.a. Motabhai by surprise. For any dogs hard of hearing, others translated the whistle into images, sharing doctored or decontextualised videos of Muslims and violence. (Yes, he was talking about Muslims of course - didn't you get it?) European neo-nazis who despise Asians but apparently adore Modi jumped on the bandwagon, retweeting and amplifying the message.

In the midst of this mayhem, India's one incorruptible institution, the Supreme Court, came to the rescue of democracy, addressing the demonstrating students who had been subjected to unprovoked police violence. If you take to the streets, don't come running to me, the Chief Justice of India wagged his finger. The law is for good girls and boys.

So what do we learn from all of this? That you have to be brave and resourceful and rely on each other. All the institutions in the land are not going to save you right now. But if you are together you might just save the institutions. And us all.

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