Here we come again, defying swamys of vitriol. A vitriol that seeks to sicken our democracy and the harmonious soul of our nation.
Midterm into its tenure, the current restrictive regime has given India a harrowing experience, the news of which keeps pouring in day after day, despite the attempts to suck in reality in a whirl of noise. Right to choice in marriage and love was threatened in this country previously too by the remnants of a caste and feudal code, but with a modern democratic Constitution on their side, young people had begun to slacken the age-old bondages. Suddenly they began to be hunted down in the name of purging western influence and fighting so called ‘love jihad’ by an outsourced moral police let loose by the so-called ‘cultural nationalists’. Young people are being scared out of their right to love and marry as per their choice. Similarly, under the patronage of this dispensation, gaubhakts have gone berserk, not protecting cows left to stray and die by consuming plastic, but playing with the lives of already marginalised Muslims and Dalits right from Western UP to Haryana and Gujarat. To echo WB Yeats, "The worst are full of passionate intensity."
The present atmosphere of philistinism is complete with the continued degradation, defamation or engineered disruption of institutions of creative arts and higher learning by powers that be. Patronage might have been in vogue in these fields earlier too, but the current head of the Film and Television Institute of India hasn’t commanded the respect of his creative student fraternity, and the chief of Indira Gandhi Centre for National Arts has been innocent of this domain. The happenings at Hyderabad Central University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, resulting in the suicide of Dalit Ph.D scholar Rohith Vemula, arrest and beating up of students voicing their dissent, the campaign of calumny against them and finally the disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed are too horrifying. Also horrifying is the use of pellet guns by security forces on protestors in Kashmir, which have blinded uncounted people in the Valley. The vicious vindictiveness displayed against civil society activists like Priya Pillai, Teesta Setalvad, lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, and most recently Delhi University and JNU professors Nandini Sundar and Archana Prasad, have ominous forebodings. The generous ad budget carrot of the regime’s resident yogi and sticks brandished by sundry government agencies keep most of the media singing in one voice. Discomfiting editors lose their jobs under one pretext or the other.
‘Don’t spare me Shankar,’ the famous cartoon captioned thus and carried with this editorial captures the democratic spirit of the first Prime Minister of the Republic, who was also the founder of National Herald
Though the borders remain aflame with valiant Jawans losing their lives every other day despite surgical strikes, please don’t question the chest-thumping and political posturing. Please also don’t question how eight unarmed prisoners manage to escape from a high security prison in Bhopal and remain herded together for several hours to flee only a few miles and attack heavily armed police with a blunt knife—a sure invitation to a fatal encounter, if at all it is a real encounter. Don’t question these as it questions national security, is an insult to the defence and security forces that protect it and is a blot on your patriotism. The national flag is used to gag the voice of the nation.
‘Don’t spare me Shankar,’ the famous cartoon captioned thus and carried with this editorial captures the democratic spirit—open to accountability, criticism and some humour—of the first Prime Minister of the Republic, who was also the founder of National Herald. We dearly need to see more of that spirit in these times. We have taken our first Beta baby step as a website with a free voice to uphold the values of our freedom struggle that our founder represented. A full fledged news website and the suspended old newspaper will also see a fresh rebirth. Stay with us on these next steps of a journey begun in 1938. Keep watching this space.