We have been here before but let us do a body count, once again.Safdar Hashmi is a distant memory, so he does not count. He was murdered In 1989, while performing a street play. Rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar (65) was shot dead near Pune’s Shanivar Peth area in 2013. Not too long ago, anti-toll campaigner Govind Pansare was killed too.
Count also the whistleblowers, the inconvenient journalists who are bumped off routinely and rationalist, M M Kalburgi ofcourse. Once again establishing that what entrenched ideologies and organised thought systems fear the most in the world, is a mind that cannot be controlled.Because a free mind questions the status quo, the way right wing politics and religion come together to control the media, education and governance. A thinker will question also the imposition of a watertight perspective on multiple perspectives and ask for accountability from those who get irritable with dissent and covertly or overtly support the violent suppression of counterpoints.
Kalburgi’s murder is symptomatic of the larger sickness infecting the thought culture in India today.Even on social media, posts that do not follow mainstream, populist ideologies about gender, politics, religion are attacked with hate and threats of violence. What was driving the men who killed Kalburgi right at his doorstep? What did he represent that was so threatening that it merited a murder? In April this year, Sabeen Mahmud, a prominent social and human rights activist, was shot dead in Karachi. And recently when Brandon Stanton of The Humans Of New York, interviewed a young woman in Pakistan, she said that everytime she hears a free thinking mind on TV, she fears it will be silenced by a bullet and most of the time it is. She could have been talking about India.
Public discourse about dissent however does not occupy a lot of our mindspace. We and the media also would rather spend our energy in dissecting a more sensational murder and call the woman at the centre of it all, the Guwahati siren, diabolic, Lady Macbeth. We would rather count the men in her life, her ambition, her cold-blooded lust for power and then go and watch a movie some day soon on her life. Indrani Mukerjea and what she allegedly did is so distant from our immediate reality that we can cluck our tongues and say in self-congratulatory a tone, “How can anyone do this?”But when a Pansare or a Kalburgi are murdered, we express shock and outrage but do not dig deeper to see if perhaps, we too are responsible for the reasons that lead to such tragedies. That perhaps if all of us spoke up for the truth or atleast were not threatened by it even it was not our truth, some of us would not be singled out and killed for being vociferous.
Reema Moudgil works for The New Indian Express, is the author of Perfect Eight, the editor of Chicken Soup for the Soul-Indian Women, a translator who recently interpreted Dominican poet Josefina Baez’s book Comrade Bliss Ain’t Playing in Hindi, an artist, a former Urdu RJ and a mother. She won an award for her writing/book from the Public Relations Council of India in association with Bangalore University, has written for a host of national and international magazines since 1994 on cinema, theatre, music, art, architecture and more, has exhibited her art in India and the US…and hopes to travel more and to grow more dimensions as a person. And to be restful, and alive in equal measure.