Silent spectators and hostile mobs are murderers everywhere, read one of the many banners held high with pride on the promenade at Carter Road, Mumbai on June 28, 2017. Neither the sheets of rain nor the threat of Big Brother scared away the voice of Mumbai as it drowned itself in an occasionally silent, but mostly boisterous stand of protest.
With less than a day of prior notice, the city carried a socially and politically active crowd of arguably 500 at its peak, and immersed itself in the trending hashtag #NotInMyName hovered by the media gaze. I stood at a distance and absorbed the eccentricity of passions culminating into chains, songs, and posters as a mark of spontaneous resistance.
Mumbai’s young and old gathered from 5-7 pm to distance themselves from incidents of mob lynching and communal hatred disproportionately perpetrated by Hindu extremist factions and against Muslim citizens. As a spontaneous reaction to Junaid’s lynching on a train from Delhi to Ballabhgarh, the Mumbai protest was one among 13 others organized across the country today. The protests, in the limited capacity and time that they could, successfully questioned State complicity, and the condonation of communal hatred and lynching of a religious minority by the ruling government.
The crowd refreshingly comprised of many new faces, and their engagement with political and social activity was reflective of a growing consciousness amongst a youth that has often been dismissed as complacent and apathetic. The protest was arguably a display of elite resistance, witnessed by sheer composition of the protesters. But notwithstanding the problematic of representation, the movement was important even to showcase the discard of apathy by the socio-economically privileged section of the society.
As everyone put their networking skills to test, I smiled at the rare acknowledgment by some of why they had come; the hashtag that attempts to distance Hindus from countless murders of Muslims in the name of conceited Hinduism and what it ostensibly stands for some is a silent avoidance of savarna Hindu-perpetrated attacks on low-caste Hindus. But the debate of semantics where everyone is complicit in acts of violence, physical or otherwise, cannot and should not hinder resistance against a government that is placing its bets on exactly that.
Divisive politics and divisive politicization should not stand in the way of symbols of unity and social harmony. This protest, hopefully the first of many, served the purpose of a symbol, of calling out silence as an act of violence that is as active in mob lynching as the overt act of stabbing Junaid on the passenger train.
(The writer is a student with the Jindal Global Law School)