United in dissent

With Not In My Name, the city is set to join hands this weekend to come together to protest hate crimes

On June 29, activists, students and general members of society gathered at public spaces in over a dozen cities across the country, and quite a few abroad, all chanting the same words. “Not in my name”, as a slogan, as a philosophy, and as a reaction to the series of crimes against Muslims and Dalits in recent times, has been lauded, critiqued and analysed by numerous media houses for at least a week.

Despite the argument and rhetoric, the bare sentiment behind the protests remains clear. Nityanand Jayaraman, one of the organisers of ‘Break The Silence’ protest planned in the same spirit, explains, “Fringe elements have entered the democratic space, and mobs are being given a free rein today. When people are killed, heads of State issue statements. They reach out. This is not just a ritual; it is a reaffirmation of their dedication to constitutional goals. But even amid this recent spate of lynchings, there has been a resounding silence from the Government.”

Jayaraman stresses on the fact that the Government’s silence is only part of the problem. “The people are also going silent,” he says, “They may be going silent out of apathy, out of fear, or out of cynicism, but they are silent.”

While most of the demonstrations took place on June 29, Chennai will be taking to the streets on July 1. “It takes five days to get permission for a public protest, hence the delay,” says Yogesh Parmar, an organiser.

Parmar observes that it has been quite a few years since the country has seen a spontaneous, protest spanning states with no central organisation driving it. “Not since the anti-corruption protests that took place years ago,” says Parmar. Despite this observation, Parmar is not very optimisitc about the state of affairs.

“Around 1,000 people showed up at the Delhi protest,” he says, adding, “In Mumbai and Bengaluru, the numbers were closer to 500. In such large cities, this is hardly a huge turnout. Who are we kidding?”

Parmar says he has been an activist and social observer long enough to not be unduly positive. With hate crimes having become as common as they have, he says he is yet to see evidence of the larger public being in favour of peace. There are undertones everywhere, he asserts, “A lot of wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Everywhere.”

“When I put up a piece of writing saying we are all responsible for the murders that have been taking place, I was surprised at the angry responses I received, even from friends and family, asking me to take it down,” he says.

While he wishes that the public will show up in large numbers on Saturday, he still wouldn’t describe himself as hopeful. “I had read a poem once, that said, ‘Hope is a deficiency you fill’,” he concludes wryly.

The protest in Chennai will be held at Valluvar Kottam, Nungambakkam, on July 1 from 10.30 am onwards.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 1:20:32 PM |

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