A Promise In Cage

“You’ll understand when you grow up. These talks are for elders”

Around twenty years ago, I had attended a dinner at the house of my civil servant uncle. He sat on his couch and told us about his views on the public policies of the country. His eyes sparkled with sadistic glow, as he cherished telling us the stories of custodial brutalities towards those who defy State. Everyone in the room listened to him with a sense of servitude. My uncle was very influential. Therefore, when I tried to debate him, the entire gathering disliked my resistance. I was conditioned to believe that questioning the powerful was a sin. And children are not supposed to ask questions. The answers appear magically on growing up.

On March 7, 2017, Dr Saibaba, former Professor, of the Delhi University was convicted by the Gadchiroli Trial and Sessions court, under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1927, read with, Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code. Dr Saibaba is 90% disabled. Yet, the Court found no ground to show any kind of compassion towards him. The elaborate judgment went on to discuss the gravity of the situation. To the Court’s opinion, Saibaba deserved harsher punishment and a life term was in fact, a lesser sentence.

Sometimes, there are certain minds that do not wait for societal gratification to express their ideas. They follow their conscience. However, in a world that is constantly shrinking itself to create a space only for conformity, such audacity can be dangerous. Dr. G.N Saibaba and his intellect therefore, needed to be muzzled soon. Yet, the questions lie on what really is the meaning of being faithful to a country. And what does a country stand for? Does the sentiment of a country overlook the well being of its countrymen? What is the value of a country without its citizens?
Millions of years ago, before mankind evolved, we lived under the ‘Rule of jungle’. It was the reign of the fittest. Each moment was a fight to exist. There was no time to think. There was no protection for any one.  There was no space for creativity. Human Beings lived as beasts. Yet, we painted our stories on the cave walls and created culture instinctively. We built our world and progressed with civilsation. We built a society with ‘Rule of Law’. Unlike the jungle, ‘Rule of Law’, promised the protection of individuality. Even the weaker, could rightfully survive under this rule. We agreed upon a social contract, under which, we could nurture our inherent inclinations. In return, we would accept the perceptual authority of the State and its institutions. These institutions derived power from us. Now, we needed a foundation to observe the performance of the terms of the contract between the State and its people.  And hence, we founded the institution of judiciary and laid down a legal system to nourish the most important term of the social contract- Justice.
The case of Dr Saibaba is perhaps, not just another unfair judgment. Instead, it contains an impression of our present struggles with dissent in India. Sadly, the society that was founded upon a promise of freedom has been vitiated with prejudice. The Court, while hearing the case, chose to deny the retraction of the confessional statement by the Accused 1 and Accused 2, even after they alleged that the statement was extracted from them under torture and intimidation. Even though, the evidence act, in section 24, clearly makes any confession under fear of torture, inadmissible, the statement was found to be valid in the court. Repeated allegations of custodial torture by the police went ignored. The prosecution, instead, received the indulgence of the court, when the crucial witness testifying the illegal search of Saibaba’s house was rejected. Mr Jagat Bhole, testified that, when the search took place, both, himself and Saibaba were made to stand out. Mr Bhole, was a witness taken by the police during the search and seizure. The Court believed that the witness was an illiterate man and may have been too troubled by the court atmosphere to speak nonfiction.  The primary evidence that lead the judgment were certain articles that may have been accessed by Dr Saibaba from his computer and the copy of a newspaper that may be use used to establish contacts with the Maoists. It is rather hilarious even to a student with basic knowledge in civics that a mere slogan about political prisoners, was found to easily serve as evidence to prove his Maoist affiliations.  Dr Saibaba, being a disabled man with a body paralysis is under tremendous pain for speaking his mind. The court denied him medical care and the Prison authorities; too, continue to deny him proper treatment. The court and the authorities have acted in a way; most of us, in the society are behaving today.
While trying to discuss about Dr Saibaba, with some students around me, I had found a similar disconnect. I faced comments like “Oh! That Naxal guy? Why are you supporting him?” and “How can we demand medical help for a Maoist?”  Few others simply chose to stay away from the issue because “We must not talk about certain things. Why should I get in trouble for a jailed dude?”  Amidst our fears of the unknown, and disinterest to know our people, the voice of justice remained diminished. Now, the question remained, what do people like Saibaba really do to enrage our society so much? Why is he so formidable for us?
The National Human Rights Commission Report of 2017 declares that the police had raped over sixteen girls amongst many other abuses of human rights in Chattisgarh in 2015 alone. One of such incidents that scarred our history was the torture and rape of Soni Sori by Police Superintendent Ankit Garg. Soni Sori was brutalized and stones were inserted into her genitals which were later presented as evidence. Mr Ankit Garg was never punished. He was honored with the President’s medal on the Republic Day Parade of 2012.
Soni Sori never made it to the headlines, of our media.  Neither did Madkam Hidme, who died under ‘suspicious circumstances’ in Sukma Village of Bastar.  She too, was allegedly, kidnapped, killed by the security forces and as the grounds of a Public Interest Litigation observed, her ‘Naxal cadre’ uniform, post encounter, was perfectly ironed without any trace of a possible gunfight. She too, awaits justice. The police usually does not allow lawyers, writers or activists to visit these areas of conflict. We seldom find out the happenings here. Journalists and Lawyers, trying to make an effort, often end up in jail under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Securities Act. None of these acts comply with the International standards of Human Rights.

As Ms Arundhati Roy writes, in these jungles of central India, near the Indrāvati River, the area is controlled by Maoists and the police call it ‘Pakistan’. Women in lock ups are raped and the villagers, common civilians, live in constant fear.  The ‘Operation Green Hunt’, believed to have begun in the year 2009 has emptied villages. The Adivasis, nearly starve in torture and meager earnings, as the multinationals like Vedanta grab their lands and resources. With indigenous rights ignored and promises of the constitution violated, Chhattisgarh like areas, remain as conflict zones. With such repeated attacks on the indigenous people of the Adivasi lands, the situation is often referred to as ‘genocide’, as described under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide, 1951. As the helpless Adivasis continue to battle against the States on one side and armed non state actors on the other, their rights and sustenance stay crushed. These are areas with least improvement in terms of Human Development Index. Education, healthcare, Sanitation and other basic amenities stay shattered amidst the tears of oppression. Yet, this unspoken emergency situation of India remains unheard amidst the noise of glamorous malls, soaring GDP growth and majoritarian impositions.

Speaking of majoritarian impositions, one really wonders, who is this majority in India? As Professor Amartya Sen, writes, in his book, The Argumentative Indian, it is very hard to speak about any one majority group of Indians. In fact in a society as plural as ours, there is possibly no majority social group at all. Yet, our minds are bombarded each day with cacophony of majoritarian slogans and a miniaturized representation of history, culture and society.
The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes Population of India, is over 25% of the Indian population. Yet, the Supreme Court of India has not appointed a single Dalit judge this year. Amongst the 20 High Court judges of Delhi, not one belonged to the Schedule Castes. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes report that only around 8.4% of the A grade officers belong to the Scheduled Castes, when the figure should be 15%. The Media is largely controlled by family owned private bodies, who are either Brahmins or Baniyas who also own electricity, mining, education and other businesses. Yet, any kind of positive discrimination or affirmative action in the form of reservation is found to be unfair for the Upper Caste elites of India, who control most public offices and believe that they are racially higher in descent. Even after sixty four years of abolition of untouchabilty by the constitution, a survey by the National Council of Applied Economic Research and University of Maryland, U.S.A, reported that one in every four Indians practice untouchabilty.

The realism of our primitive mentality came out of its veil, recently, when the protests of Dalits took place in the Una Azaadi Kooch, under the leadership of Jignesh Mewani. When the Dalits, refused to clean the carcass of dead animals, the country, in this era, was left with no alternative to clean its dirt! Manual Scavenging, particularly by Dalits and women, is the reality of ‘Swatcch Bharat’.  Of course, no media had covered the anti caste march and Mr Mewani, too was intimidated and vindicated.

But then, the questions persist, who is the real Indian?
Unfortunately, our text books, never answered the question for us. But Dr Saibaba did. India is defined by her legacy of public debates and cultural discourse. Dr Saibaba had given us certain views. We could have disagreed too and delivered some better lectures. All he wanted from us was a consideration of ideas. Yet, our minds were shackled with taboos. As Dr Ambedkar had warned us, chained minds are the worst kind of slavery. We are slaves even without chains. Our slave mentality is afraid to utter words of freedom.  We failed Saibaba. As Tagore called it, the ‘Nightmarish’ description of our history has distorted our minds with hatred. We have erased the struggle for liberty that created this country.

Dr Saibaba is a man of learning. He feels the pain of those who cry. He spoke about the agony of not being allowed to dream. Is that so criminal? Does the constitution, not promise the protection of individuality? Was he violating the Social Contract? Or is he the only one performing it?
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act allows the arbitrary arrest and detention of people without a trial.  Ironically, we are the same nation which fought against the Rowlatt Act by British. And Saibaba has been found guilty under sections of UAPA. He is also accused of Criminal Conspiracy against the nation, under, sections of the IPC, which were created by the British to silence words of the freedom movement. He languishes in the jail, today, with a grave risk to his health. International Organizations, like the Amnesty International, continue to demand medical attention for him.  Also, India, being a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and UN convention against torture has an International obligation alongside, her constitutional impositions and prison guidelines, to provide immediate medical attention to Dr Saibaba.

I am twenty three years old today. I have still have not found the answers that were supposed to appear magically to me. I do not have the courage of Dr Saibaba. Speaking the truth comes at a premium price in our times. Saibaba is paying that price. Saibaba had not realized that by appealing to the conscience of the country and its legal system, his mere words, could disintegrate the nation. He did not know that the nation and its solidarity were so brittle. He was perhaps, the only one to understand the terms of the social contract as stated through our Constitution, which only wanted to empower human intellect and conscience. Perhaps, Saibaba grew up to be able to gather courage to ask his questions. Perhaps, by growing up, they meant, the maturity of the strength of one’s character. Saibaba had found that courage and our society has none of it. Maybe, that is why, we cannot look into this man’s eyes.

Long Live Revolution!!

                      

“Can I thank my father for my daily bread instead of God?”

The question had shocked my Catholic school. All my classmates had stared at me in dismay. I was instantly labeled formidable by most of my friends. I was made to attend a special class on ‘morality’ to instill my faith. My first opinion was crushed to defeat to satisfy a social fantasy about the divine. When they could not convince me, they warned me of God’s brutal punishments. I grew up with little conviction yet a lot of fear.

“Attend my classes, else you shall fail!” Our teachers said this to drag us to their classes. Well, it did not matter if we listened to them or not. We passed anyway. All that mattered was that we ‘passed’. One could get away with everything as long as he was scoring success. The world never had a space for the losers. Even if I killed a million to win a war, I would be a hero and even a humanitarian. But in spite of my entire bravery, if I lost my battle of life, I was a demon. That is how my society turned out. It had no country, no state, and no identity for a failure.  They were dispersed from everywhere. History hated them and society denied them! Anyone who dared to ever question the society was never accepted easily. They were hunted down and executed. One has to fight beyond death to triumph over society.  Change is easy to dream of but very tough to bring.

The winners developed their self perceived ethics and imposed them upon me. Then, they gifted me liberty and democracy with utmost magnanimity. Yet, these too turned out to be terms of mere social narcissism.   The text books printed some colorful snapshots of the winners and told me to follow them. Besides, were the clear images of the historical villains the losers! I was instructed to hate them. They were ‘terrorists’ because they did not succeed. And the others were heroes, leaders and motivators because they had won their battles!

India rejoices the death of Afzal Guru. I mourn him. India celebrated the death of Ajmal Kasab, I miss him! I had seen revolution in them. I saw dignity in their deaths. I saw a war hero in all of them. If Hafeez Saed is a terrorist, so was Aurobindo Ghosh ! I shall either hate or worship them both.

As soon as I walked into this world, a few sketches on a piece of paper defined my boundary. Later, I saw, that the world had drawn several different editions of that same boundary with different scopes. The absurdity of my Indian map perplexed me. Where is my territory? Where do I stand? Where is my country? Who am I?

When the state coerces Kasmir to be its part and the army tortures every human right, who calls them a terrorist? In Manipur, who hangs the army who rapes every woman? Convicting a juvenile with a disturbed past is an easy target. But, who shall answer his question? “Where was the society when I was denied innocence, when I cleaned your plates, when I served your drinks? I was not born with sadism and perversion. You created me. I too, was a baby someday. I had also cried as an infant when I was born! I was a burden amidst your population of one billion. You gave me no right; you killed me at the moment of my birth!

Kill me if that suits your conscience! But promise me that no other child would ever be deprived of a basic childhood in your nation! No other juvenile would ever turn to be a beast. Kill me! If that suits you. ”

Today, we hang him because the death of a child would not matter much. Neither will it resonate an uproar at the United Nations. Rather a blood thirsty Indian mob is going to again erupt in hysteric joy! UPA would be credited with swift move and Naredra Modi would recite Hindutva verses.

So, India has finalized on their next Prime Minister. Interestingly, we also took another major decision last year. We hanged Kasab to death. Was it any good?

If a man responsible for a three-month long communal riot, can be given a second chance, why can Kasab not get an opportunity to live when he has killed a much lesser number. He did not murder in cold blood. He had jumped into war with revolutionary passion. His background was dark with not a trace of any education. He grew up to see a starving family. The world bargained him for their interests. His death saved his family. He was a nobody’s child. He did not seek any political momentum. He embraced death as an honour  He was hailed as a hero by those who sent him.  Perhaps through a second chance, he too would develop the entire country with ultimate leadership.  Unlike Gujarat, there would probably be some growth in the human development index in our country too. Alas! We did not give the little boy a chance.

United States of America, at least had the chivalry to infringe to another nation and bring down the very root of its enemies. They had fought a war with the vengeance of that war! Yet, in India, we could never bring to justice a single key perpetrator. Advani , in the year 2oo2, had brought Abu Salem to India. The assurance given by him to Portugal was that he would not be hanged and neither will he get a punishment term longer than 25 years! And today, like invertebrates we celebrate the death of Kasab with endless fervour  What is the point killing one Kasab, when he is going to inspire a million more!

So, one day, I shall sit in my class and read about another Hero. Someone, who dared to leave his family for the cause of freedom. He had passion in his patriotism. He had attacked the very centre of that the despotic governance. He embraced death with dignity.

In his last letter to the family, he had asked them to not mourn him. He had asked them not to cry. He had a son whom he could never give his affection. He was denied one last meeting with his family.  The cruel despots, who hanged him mercilessly, refused him his basic human rights! His death was celebrated as a symbol of martyrdom and freedom. They had not followed even the basic procedures of Law in his execution.  He was denied even a proper grave ritual. His family was denied the possession of his body! His son was hounded by a mean media questioning his father’s hanging! His father had named him Ghalib after his favourite poet. Ghalib meant rebel. Our hero, Afazl  Guru,stood for his ideal !  Long live his struggle. Our next assignment shall be a comparative study of Afzal Guru and Bhagat Singh.

The next day, would be a holiday in honour of Kasab Jayanti.  The new state would be Azad lushmir! Even then, there would be marginalized sections of the society who would again be ‘terrorists’! Hence, shall continue a vicious cycle of social oppression and retaliation.

Test of a democracy happens, only when there is unrest. Democracy is the state of an evolved and tolerant mind. It is a philosophy that entails a relationship with the self. Yet we remain a crowd of instant and superficial reactions. Kasab was not a result of a cynic self obsessed teenage pessimism. He was the outcome of a deep-rooted social stigma spelled as p-o-v-e-r-t-y which echoes injustice.

When you give me sermons of free speech and democracy, binayak Sen laughs at you! When you proclaim yourself as a champion of liberty, Irom Sharmila mimics you!

If we try to change society, they shall kill us! Abominations by politicians or rapes by the influential can be tolerated. They have won their battles in life. But no one shall ever listen to the sorrows of a distressed child nor will anybody tolerate rebel.  .  Ask your driver “what is democracy!” Ask your maid “what is democracy!” Ask your millions of child labours “what is democracy!”

The day you get an answer, there shall be a revolution. The day, you listen to the  ‘losers’ opinion and respect them, there shall be democracy. The day I write this article without a fear of sedition, there shall be liberty. Until then, there shall be terrorism!

“Oh! She died finally? Gosh! Delhi is so unsafe now. Going to India Gate or not?” “No!no! I am organizing my own vigil.I will lead the march.I am so disturbed!” The murmurs are all around. Discussions and debates have  spiced up.Delhi is suddenly aroused to protest against ‘rapes’. Off course the weather is just perfect for a demonstration at the India Gate. I too began writing another article. This is a topic that sells well…what better way to get some easy acclaim? Along with the mob,let me flex my intellectual muscles too! Maybe there is something behind that mob hysteria. But rapes are not just some isolated incidents. They are the implication of a larger and deep rooted social dilemma… A revolution is not an end in itself. It is only a beginning of a larger outcome. In our tryst with destiny,when the state woke up to freedom,did the nation slip into a slumber? Was India ready for freedom.? When the social value system crumbles,no one social group falls vulnerable. Modern Indian society continues to struggle in its discovery of an identity. On one hand, India glitters in the glamour of luxury brands,sports cars,malls and Bollywood. On the other hand, persists the harsh reality of caste oppression,child labor and slow social mobility. Frustration breeds on us,right from birth. Sadism is in our thinking today. The internet and the newspapers gave me a detailed story of the girl’s trauma. The descriptions were good enough to re live almost every moment of it. We all read that particular news with utmost inclination. Then began suggesting even more gruesome methods of tortures on the accused. What are these emotions? An outburst of social disgust and sympathy or an outcome of complete social frustration? Freedom is not a rhetoric. Freedom comes with independence. Freedom is the result of evolution. When a child is turned into a labor and is denied basic human rights,how can he evolve? His innocence is crushed under cruel social demands. Independence to him,is only a fantasy! He is forced to exist in a life amidst immense oppression and abuse. He can never grow up to live a life of dignity. He cleans your new car every morning. He washes my laundry at night. He can never own a car or wear a brand. He forms more than 60% of our population. His only mode of exposure is Chulbul Pandey. Salman khan and bollywood bring out the hidden frustrated sadism in him. Through Salman,he tortures the villains of the society and takes his revenge. Item songs tickle his basic instincts. At night,cheap liquor intoxicates his numb feelings. Yes, he too grows up one day, but he never attains maturity. Can India grow up to realize this cultural parity? The nation stands at the crossroads of its destiny. Human beings are gradually turning to commodities. Our minds are on a state of utter confusion. Even a great democracy as the United States of America must control the freedom to posses guns to ensure safety. They are far more evolved than us. Even great universities like Harvard,have BDSM clubs today. But that does not make their society any uncomfortable. Americans no longer fancy their sex shows. They are a model democracy. We are still a budding democracy. I hear even educated Indians who still feel that women must dress ‘right’ to avoid rapes. Our ministers too often pass rather funny remarks. They only highlight the variation in the social thought process .The very visualization of a woman in India is still blur. She is still either a goddess or a prostitute.And a prostitute is not a woman!   No one lives without a label in India. Indian girls grow up with harassments. Every six minutes, an atrocity is committed against women. In fact,only 10% rape cases get reported in India. I have personally never met a girl who has never been harassed. Even the ever sympathetic society did not reach out to the lady when she lay helpless on the streets. Probably even I would not help her. We are all too engrossed in our narrow myopic interests. Can punishing only rapists solve the issue?Why must not a simple ogling or a petty molestation be treated with extreme rigidity ? These little acts after all lead to the final disasters! Why wait till the instincts overpower a person’s reasoning? Can even a man walk alone or travel alone in the empty streets of Delhi? He too is vulnerable. Everyday, the newspapers unfold to me atleast six faces of men,children and women who are either missing,kidnapped or dead! Isn’t our entire society vulnerable today? Can we save the childhood of millions of our children? Are we matured enough to sustain a free and liberal society? The question continue to intrigue me. I still do not have an answer but I have a belief. Social change comes with time. We evolve with experience and experience comes from freedom. Every society has certain challenges. It is left to us to deal  with them. In spite of it’s challenges,democracy and freedom carve out their own paths. Suppression of the feelings within can only worsen development. I know, it is a long way… But the world shall be free some day…

Beyond that sensational headline…