There is a continuous, vicious and vile synchronization, jarring as a crass orchestra, which seems to be the perennial background score of the C-Grade horror movie unleashed in India since the summer of 2014. It seems breathless, relentless, and endless. Almost like a bad dream in bad faith. And, unlike the most terrible nightmares in half-sleep, this ‘phenomena’ simply refuses to die.
And, yet, hope floats, like both counter-culture and parallel cinema, with its own uplifting, classically pulsating and melodious music as backdrop. Like a mountain stream across the zigzag of the moist and lovely sun-soaked Himalayan foothills, with its butterflies and grasshoppers floating like freedom’s own, special species. Like two Indias.
For instance, the hate mongers are afraid that Vir Das has created an upsurge of hope and rationality. There might be two Indias and there might be a million Indias, though without a million mutinies, as VS Naipaul said once upon a time. However, if he has struck a chord with millions across the globe, it is again evidence that come what may, despite the daily onslaught, a huge population has refused to succumb to fanaticism and ugliness. They still are celebrating unity in diversity, the deep beauty of secular humanity and the inner greatness of stoic resistance. As Vir Das says, “Please do not be fooled by edited snippets. People cheer for India with hope, not hate. People clap for India with respect, not malice.”
The detention in Tripura and Assam of two young women journalists is not the first instance which reflects that Indian democracy and its freedom of Press has been under severe strain in contemporary India, even while the loyalist media runs amok, and both objectivity and media ethics can be damned. In the everyday history of this vast geography, the vicious synchronization of injustice and hate politics has become so ritualistic and commonplace that, sometimes, all seems lost.
And, yet, surely, all is not lost. There is almost always a great current which flows simultaneously, across the polluted landscape, and brings with it a breath of fresh air. It restores our faith in the secular pluralism of a shared existential reality, as much as in the abiding faith that India might be an unequal, unjust and fragmented democracy, but, nevertheless, it is still a democracy, with a noble Indian Constitution derived from the great values of the freedom movement and revolutionary struggle against colonial slavery, and its martyrdoms, prisons, sacrifices, ideals, visions and dreams. Clearly, those who did not participate in the freedom struggle, and those who were glorifying Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust during that historic epoch, remain clueless.
The arrest and harassment of the women journalists was widely covered in the Indian media, and so was the bail. The reports told their own truth with non-partisan objectivity. Significantly, the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), while demanding their immediate release, issued a categorical statement. “The Indian Women’s Press Corps stands in solidarity with Samriddhi K. Sakunia and Swarna Jha, the two women journalists who have been harassed, intimidated and detained for doing their job. The IWPC demands that the police immediately releases them and allows them to do their job without fear.”
The small border state of Tripura, which showed reasonable progress, peace and harmony under a long spell under the Left led by former chief minister Manik Sarkar of the CPM, with his reputation of impeccable integrity, seems to be torn asunder under the current BJP regime. Not only has economic distress and failed promises stalked this beautiful state in recent times, delicately poised as it is at the border with multiple conflict zones, but communal violence and divisive politics has now ravaged its social fabric. Hence, the significant response from The Editors Guild of India, is, yet again, a sign of dogged hope.
“The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked by the Tripura Police’s action of booking 102 people, including journalists, under the coercive Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for reporting and writing on the recent communal violence in the state…The Guild is of the opinion that this is an attempt by the state government to deflect attention away from its own failure to control majoritarian violence, as well as to take action against the perpetrators. Governments cannot use stringent laws like UAPA to suppress reporting on such incidents.”
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Ace fast bowler Mohammad Shami was trolled because he was a Muslim. Only those who are fanatically bereft of rationality or sporting spirit can equate a cricket match with hate politics and war. Virat Kohli proved them wrong, both as a captain and as a thinking, secular human being. First, he was hanging out with the Pakistani openers who played so well to defeat India by 10 wickets, apparently congratulating them. And, second, he was forthright during a press conference soon after in Dubai.
He said: “To me attacking someone over their religion is the most, I would say, pathetic thing that a human being can do. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion and what they feel about certain situations, but I personally have never ever even thought of discriminating against anyone over their religion. That is a very sacred and personal thing to every human being and that should be left there…We stand by him fully. We are backing him 200%, and all those who have attacked him can come with more force if they want to: our brotherhood, our friendship within the team, nothing can be shaken. I can guarantee you that as the captain of the team, we have built a culture where these things will not even infiltrate into this environment 0.0001%. That is an absolute guarantee from my side…There’s a good reason why we are playing on the field and not some bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to actually speak to any individual in person. They hide behind their identities and go after people through social media, making fun of people and that has become a source of entertainment in today’s world, which is so unfortunate and sad to see because this is literally the lowest level of human potential that one can operate at, and that’s how I look at these people.”
Even Sachin Tendulkar spoke out: “When we support #TeamIndia, we support every person who represents Team India. @MdShami11 is a committed, world-class bowler. He had an off day like any other sportsperson can have. I stand behind Shami & Team India.”
However, Rahul Gandhi, told the bitter truth: “Mohammad #Shami we are all with you. These people are filled with hate because nobody gives them any love. Forgive them.”
And what happened after Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra made a remark on Pakistani javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem? Predictably, huge hate outrage against the Pakistani. And how did Neeraj Chopra react to that?
In a video posted on Twitter, he said: “I would request everyone to please not use me and my comments as a medium to further your vested interests and propaganda. Sports teaches us to be together and united. I’m extremely disappointed to see some of the reactions from the public on my recent comments.”
So they went after Aryan Khan and his father. The fake news and propaganda media, possessed and obsessed, yet again ran amok. So please check out the unprecedented outpouring of an ocean of support for Shahrukh Khan, and not only on social media. Even most of Bollywood biggies came out strongly for him, and publicly, in what is surely a secular film industry, with its great progressive and brilliant inheritance.
That is why, I say, let us not get suffocated by the jarring orchestra of a bad dream in bad faith. Let us follow the pristine mountain spring, and the sublime originality of the beautiful music, which purifies our sad souls, and heals our simmering wounds. This is because, humanism, love and good sense will win, in the final instance; because, butterflies are free. That is why, hope floats, eternally, inside our hearts, and in our chilly, wounded, winter landscape.