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Four rules of safe dissent

Personally, I believe there are no valid grounds to criticise the government, but hey, that’s just me

The most important thing in life is safety. You have to be safe no matter what you do. Which is why we’ve seen so many campaigns about safe sex. Though Indians are world famous for population, sex isn’t the only thing we do. We also indulge in other activities, such as breathing, for instance. How do you breathe safely in front of a man who is coughing, feverish, and has lost his sense of smell as well as ventilator? By wearing a mask, obviously.

But there is one risky activity where a mask won’t save you, and for which there are no safety guidelines: dissent. In today’s India, one of the most dangerous things anyone can do is criticise the government. It can get you trolled, jailed, or even summarily atmanirbhar-ed. Every day brings fresh reports of people getting slapped with sedition, UAPA, and all kinds of FIRs just because they criticised the government.

I’m not interested in victim-blaming. But these people — the so-called dissenters — should have known that if they criticise the government, the government is bound to come after them. Why? Because the government, like the coronavirus, is neither good nor bad — it’s just something for which there is no vaccine. If you go and hug a COVID-19 patient and tell her bad things about coronavirus, obviously the coronavirus will get angry and come at you. No point complaining then.

Suit yourself

Look, it’s true that, according to the Constitution, India is a democracy. On the one hand, according to the Constitution, everyone has a right to criticise the government. But on the other hand, if the Constitution asks you to jump into the well, will you jump into the well? That’s my point. I am not saying don’t criticise the government. Personally, I believe there are no valid grounds to criticise the government, but hey, that’s just me. If you want to criticise the government, suit yourself! All I’m saying is: if you want to stay out of jail, practise safe dissent (like safe sex).

For the benefit of India’s intrepid dissenters, I am sharing below the Four Rules of Safe Dissent.

Rule 1: Avoid. In a true democracy like India, the first rule of criticising the government is: don’t criticise the government. Think about it: do you like it when the underling who reports to you criticises you? No. So, avoid dissent.

Rule 2: But some people can’t control themselves. If you are one such, here’s a tip: divide your criticism into two parts. Shift all the criticism to the second part. In the first part, say good things about the government. Like, for example, how well it has handled COVID-19, or how it has taught China a lesson. Once you’ve finished praising the government, sit in the lotus position and do Vipassana for half an hour. You will find your mind automatically purging the second, critical part of your criticism. Your heart, simultaneously, will forgive the government all its atrocities, leaving you in a mental state of peace, tranquillity and harmony.

Rule 3: Some people find it impossible to do even Vipassana. If you are one such, here’s a tip: offer concrete help privately to the government instead of insulting it publicly. For example, don’t go on social media and say, “What a moron government we’ve elected! It can’t get a single thing right!” Instead, compose a covering letter explaining that you are donating six months of your brutally reduced salary to PM-CARES. Then put the letter and the cheque in a sealed envelope and mail it to the government. Your criticism is done, and you are safe, too!

Rule 4: This is the most important rule: Timing is everything. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say this again: this is not the time to criticise the government. In fact, it’s never the right time to criticise the government. But right now, a deadly virus is stalking the streets. Locusts are stalking our crops. The Chinese are stalking our borders. And recession is stalking our economy. The last thing your elected masters want is their 130 crore slaves to start acting like they know everything and their masters are idiots.

Flush out

But if you absolutely must do it, then the safest time to criticise the government is between one and two in the morning, when everyone is asleep. Walk quietly to your desk, open your secret diary, and write down your criticisms. Once you’ve written everything down, read it carefully to make sure it doesn’t contain any defamatory allegations. Now tear these pages from your secret diary and burn them one by one in a deep blue flame. Then take the ashes and flush them down the toilet.

If you follow these Four Rules of Safe Dissent, rest assured, not even a surveillance-obsessed, majoritarian-psychotic government will dare to throw you in jail. On the contrary, it may actually reward you for your honesty with a lucrative post in the IT Cell.

G. Sampath is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 2:10:02 PM |

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