Mourning our freedoms

Thought fragments

There was a time when our people fought ferociously for their rights. And there is now when a hunger strike against censorship can’t rustle up a dozen people.

When the Arab Spring showed signs of Islamic parties coming to power, many thought it was a failure of the Arab Spring. To me, it was democracy. The people chose the leaders they wanted and the direction they wanted their country to take. It was not something I liked, but I supported the idea as the people’s will.

Today, I am confronted with a new degradation chosen by people in my own country. The signs have been there. And increasing. I have held on to hope for a long time.

On returning to the internet after almost a week’s break, I had a fresh view of the world around, and the state it is in has started terrifying me.

When the Gurgaon police attempted to place an arbitrary Cinderella time for working women at 8pm, many were indignant. Protests were organized. However, the people participating in the protests shared disappointment over the support they got. The turnout was not as much as expected.

When Tehelka did the expose of the policemen speaking on hidden camera about rape victims, it was outrageous beyond belief. In the real world, not much happened.

We have been fighting a long while trying to spread awareness about the direction our government is taking with regard to individual freedoms. Few beyond those who already cared took interest.

Human rights are being violated all over the country with ridiculous ease.

Chauvinism and misogyny are on the rise and disturbing patterns are emerging. More gang rapes, more incidences of people coming to the aid of victims of sexual harassment being attacked, often fatally. People are getting tired of “outraging” as it is cynically called. The belief is that nothing will change.

I believe that we can’t afford to give up. That cynicism is not helpful to our well being. It is like being cynical that a noose around your neck will kill you. It definitely will if you don’t fight it. If you do, who knows?

Nothing can be done, says the way of cowards. The ones who would rather admit defeat than risk being defeated.

In my view, defeat is not an option when it comes to fundamental freedoms.

It is an educated class that has come to idolize its comforts so well, that nothing will make them court discomfort. Not even threats to those comforts. If needed, they will concede inches of their space and make do with the remaining rather than fight for their right to not be violated and risk all the comforts.

A Marathi saying: “Shivaji janmala yava, pan shearyacha ghari”

A hero should be born, but in the neighbours home.

Because one who fights pays the price, while their victories help all.

Today, I cannot escape the fact that the peddlers of democracy have won. There are too few – easily dismissed as exceptions to the rule – who care about fundamental freedom. Our “educated” masses are desperately consolidating the fruits of said educations before the elusive things drop out of their grasp. They are overwhelmed making a living for themselves and have no wish to take on something that would help others or even their own world, if others can do it.

And they all look around waiting for others.

A country should have fundamental freedoms, rights should not be violated, but losing them is better than waking up from the Maya of modernity and discovering just how much of themselves they have abdicated.

Today, I am forced to realize that just like I did not like the idea of a religious party ruling a democracy, but I had to accept the bitter fact as a fact of respecting democracy, I must accept that we have collectively chosen to let go of our fundamental rights in favor of not rocking the security and normalcy we desperately cling to.

In my view, a country spending so much energy on simply existing has something fundamentally wrong with how it is run.

But, I must accept for now that if our meagre numbers are not sufficient to force the leaders of the country to remain true to its constitution, then I face a possible future – in the reality we are allowing to unfold uncontested – as an outlaw for the crime of refusing to shut up.

Scary thought.