By Heena Khan
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
These words of Martin Luther King Jr. decades old now, continue to mirror our times, as this generation readies itself to quietly accept, the next societal verdict in queue. Indeed what marks twenty first century away from the previous one is the indifference of society towards its members and to some extent towards itself. We are reduced to passive bystanders and spectators of the plight of the voiceless as they are exploited not only by the State but also by their own conditions. How many of us react to seeing a child working on the construction site? For that reason how many of us react to a child working in our own college canteen? How many of us make noise when slum dwellers and hawkers of our streets get evicted to ‘cleanse the society’. And how many of us squirm in our own skin when we see eunuchs begging, they being shunned by the society. Mostly people are not bothered and those who are, they find themselves too helpless to even try. Social activism is a far cry in a country which treat ‘voting’ as a chore and waste of a holiday.
It is about time we wake up from our long slumber. A generation did not fight for independence so that we come under imperial domination of our own inertness. It is about time that a farmer’s suicide in the district of Vidharbha makes us uncomfortable on our cozy couches. It is about time that poverty all around us makes us guilty of indulging in a consumerist culture. And it is also about time that we take to streets for the cause of those distant displaced tribes whose only relation to us is that of a fellow being. Martin Luther King rightly said- ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
Protest need not be violent. It could be constructively routed through the channels of art and culture. So a simple act of wearing a black arm band on a cricket field is a sign of protest against racial discrimination in sport. You don’t need a pen to protest. Blank newsprints have the force to speak out against state censorship; as was done by Indian Express during emergency. You don’t need a microphone to hurl anti-establishment abuses. A peaceful hunger strike or a public march across Rajpath conveys the message. You don’t need to lace your protest with strikes, road blockades and riots. Protest can also be carried out by way of intellectual discourse. While Opposition can disrupt the houses of the Parliament to highlight the issue of price rise, one can also drive a tractor to the parliament to highlight the conditions of the farmers; as was done by former Union Minister Renuka Chowdhary. What needs to be kept in mind is what a philosopher once said- “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” So stop adapting to status quo. Instead be the change.
So protest. Raise your voices. You may not be heard but try anyways. As long as there are struggles, there would be a chance for justice to prevail. Don’t let this struggle die. It took one Martin Luther King to raise the conscience of a generation. One Mahatma Gandhi to lead a nation towards its independence and one Dalai Lama to speak against a State.
Rabindranath Tagore rightly said ‘don’t be scared of being alone in the crowd. Just light a candle and many more will join in to keep the flame burning.”
The author in her own words:
As an aspiring journalist and a reluctant economist of no consequence, I am here to randomly observe life as I trot its learning curve with mixed fascination and recklessness’.