Assam is in flames. Kashmir is still largely under a communication lockdown, even though we’ve heard of it being lifted in parts. Between Article 370, the Ayodhya verdict, the passing of the Trans Bill and the amendments to the Personal Data Privacy Bill, and the devastating Citizenship Amendment Bill, we’re fast, fast, fast sinking to new lows as a country thats normalizing politics of fear and hate with shrinking space for dissent and alternative opinions.
And yet, I had the privilege of going to a talk yesterday, between Ram Guha and Rajdeep Sardesai, about the latters new book chillingly titled How Modi Won India. It was an astute and frank conversation that plain and simply and matter of factly painted a picture of things as they stand and what has brought us here, covering a surprisingly wide ground to include everything from the political strategy of hate that we see today which is actually over 50 years in the making, the complicity of media and other institutions that are slowly being hyponitised and put to sleep, and what we as citizens can do to organise ourselves and push back.
The mood was grim and bleak, no doubt. But I came out oddly uplifted and feeling a an unexpected air of optimism, simply from being in a room full of people with shared opinions. In a time where I am a minority even in my own family in this regard, I have physically felt the shrinking of space to voice my opinions. I am mostly mum, and the little I share is met by stony silence. It’s easy to slip into glass-is-half-empty mode, and yesterday made me feel like it might be half-full.
Last week, someone shared with me a post about a “silent protest” complete with candles, wreaths, black bands and over 2000 (!!!) people who congregated to “mourn” the shutting down of Monkey Bar — a hip Bangalore eatery and pub. Food bloggers and general whos-who of Bangalore have been up in arms tweeting from the rooftops about what a tragic loss this is to the restaurant landscape of the city. BOOHOO, that’s one less restaurant on a street that has some 500 restaurants anyway, creating a noise and trash debacle night after night that nobody seems to want to address.
The climate strike in Bangalore in September on the other hand only saw about 1000 participants. Lately I’ve been feeling quite fed up with my own sense of despair and helplessness, and asking of myself what I can do to get past it. In the new year, I’m going to try in my own limited way, to get out and do a tiny little bit.
I’m going to begin by trying to show up as often as I can. If you’re in Bangalore, join us at Town Hall to table actionable demands for ways in which the police and judiciary can stop failing women.
I’m going to be there.
And if you’re in Bhubaneshwar, Chennai or Delhi, here are details for simultaneous protests in your city.
This tunnel is grim and dark most days, these days, but there is a light at the end of it, I think.