ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Silencing Voices

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Last week, the voices of civil society in Indian democracy hit rock-bottom. A scientist and sage, G D Agrawal, also known as Swami Sanand, died on the 112th day of his fast-unto-death, on 11 October 2018. He was demanding a special law for the protection of River Ganga, which is a lifeline for about 400 million residents of India. 

I am writing this letter to express my concern for the ignorance of a democratic government and its people that Agrawal had to face. He was on a hunger strike for more than four months, yet nobody from either the bureaucracy or polity bothered about him. Is it because he had taken up a demonstration on the principles of non-violence as taught by Mahatma Gandhi, or because he was unable to dent political vote banks? Was it because his demands were unworthy, or that the media’s pen obliged the government with its over-obedience? Agrawal’s death is not a coincidence, but a result of a strategic move by the state to silence another voice. If a voice like his is eliminated, no other activist will raise their voice in the future.

Let us consider the civil society, whose concerns Agrawal voiced. Have “we the people” become so desensitised that nothing less than sensationalised news on death raises our brows, and that too for a limited time? There is a numbness that is confining the whole of society and forcing many true voices to die out, every day. This is exactly what any (past, present, or future) government would desire: a monopoly of ideas and systematic promotion of its dystopic views on progress, development, culture, idealism, and patriotism. Behind closed doors, these governments, along with some perverted corporates, define their own dreams, sketch realities, and encroach and exploit natural resources and the rights of local communities. 

Thus, as a society, we need to be more vigilant and vocal. We do not need to be over-obedient and over-submissive to the government. Its visions and thinking are only limited to the upcoming elections; as a society our thoughts reach out to the next generation, and the many yet to come. The youth have to choose their battles wisely; otherwise, they will find themselves brawling with each other on issues of caste and religion, with no future for the self and the country. It is now considered anti-national to raise questions on government decrees. Barely a century ago, a non-violent and non-cooperative movement was the means of protest for gaining our independence against mighty imperialism. 

Agrawal was fighting for the cause of a river in a society where human beings are unable to think beyond their own self-interests. We, as a society, have failed him, deserting him at the doors of the state. We need to support activists who think and speak critically. They take upon themselves the responsibility to speak out; someone has to. Those standing up and speaking out pay a heavy price for doing so, and, as a society, we ought to stand with them when they are alive, rather than mourn their silenced voices.

Maulik Sisodia

Rajasthan

Updated On : 29th Oct, 2018

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