That Silent March
Silent Marches are mushrooming everywhere. Quiet, apologetic, they don’t want to inconvenience you, they will not cause anyone any trouble, they only want to quietly say their thing and dissolve away. Maybe something will happen, maybe not. Then when another tragedy strikes, they will march again. This epidemic of silent marches in a way denotes everything that is wrong with the country.
For some reason, people have taken the idea of peaceful protest and turned it into something tame and obedient and considerate of problems. They imagine they are channeling the Mahatma. Hello? The movement in which Gandhi did these protests was NON-COOPERATION movement. Ring a bell? They were non-violent, but they weren’t convenient!!! They shook up people. They courted arrest, they got beaten, they ran into hazaar problems and created problems for the culture of impunity too. They most certainly didn’t cooperate with police and avoid inconvenience to anyone!
Silent Marches are convenient. They are not messy. They don’t create waves. They don’t scare people. They have little risk of facing some inconvenient problem like a police lathi charge or arrest. Silent marchers come, silent marchers go. The tradition marches on. A few candles for decoration, maybe white or black clothes – as per dress code. Some placards that people can idly walk back and read.
Silent marches suit media. They can cover them like any other event. There is no risk of violence, no need to protect cameras, no investigative risks to be taken. A protest news story already written out on the placards, ready for the press. Best of all, they don’t risk police lathi charges, and they need not miss their dinner date or even miss being late from clothes getting too messy.
None of this compares with the convenience to the government. Nothing beats civil society being civilized when it comes to government impunity. Your application has reached an appropriate desk and it will be filed away. Thank you for your concern. We appreciate citizens like you making efforts for the country. Jai Hind (for good measure). It required, they may visit the location briefly (not for your garden variety march) or issue understanding words to the media.
It is a win win for everyone. People have protested with minimal inconvenience. Media has covered with minimum inconvenience, government has responded with minimum inconvenience. Change hasn’t happened, but that wasn’t the point anyway. The point was to ask the government to make a change, and the application has been received.
Lather Rinse Repeat.
Silent Marches are the manifestation of our pretentiousness. Our flaunting of our model citizenship, our consideration for people who may be inconvenienced, our need to be seen as change agents in the society… without getting inconvenienced. It is a pretend peacefulness, because peace does not give rise to protest. Turmoil does. But that will be messy. Hide all that under a big white drape, claim to be more Buddha than Gautam himself and get your show on the road.
The fact that the government does nothing suits Silent Marchers, because if the government actually did something and they were required to contribute to it, most of them wouldn’t be certain if they had the time. Also, the government not doing anything is an important counterpoint that keeps them innocent and thus irresponsible. When a peaceful protest for keeping women safe happens in a country where every third woman is estimated to have suffered Domestic Violence, what does that protest mean at all? That ministers came and beat up your wife? Oh wait, this is about rapes in public places. Then it is fine.
The extreme effort a Silent March goes to, to make sure that they are forgotten as fast as possible itself is an unconscious inclination to disempower the cause. The focus is less on drawing attention to the problem, and more on directing conduct, considering “others”, polishing a halo and managing the event.
You want a protest that will work? Do what has a proven record of getting governments and police immediately removing all barriers – DOMINATE. If people can burn buses to protest religious insult, and instead of condeming bus burners, your country goes to great effort to censor the entire world, here’s your clue. Don’t burn buses and kill people, but there is much that can be done to pressure the government into obeying now.
Be unpredictable. Be something they need to keep an eye on, even if you break no laws. Let your protesters wander into side alleys to write graffiti on the street. Raise noisy slogans. Let people complain to the cops about the noise. Let there be pressure to pay attention to this chaos in paradise. Chant slogans naming people who are responsible for peace and are failing. Be everywhere except the “permitted” place. Get drums. Refuse to leave. Live tweet, run a live video stream. Give people numbers to fax reactions (government numbers, not yours). Get arrested and get more people to protest your arrest. Create a fucking racket if your problem is urgent and keep raising volume till you get help. It is an age old signal of urgent action needed. Don’t use a language no one knows, or worse, reassures them that something is being done, and all will be well – before anything at all is done.
What in the world is a protest if it does all it can to cushion the rest of the world from its cause and prevents anyone being inconvenienced enough to need to attend immediately?