Hopeful in surreal, dystopian Delhi?

As Gurudwaras, standing as a pillar of solidarity, embrace all the affected, and Dalits lend a helping hand to the co-oppressed, a young girl, still full of hope, asks me, “What kind of action should an individual take to stop the genocide?”


A national channel showed in the same frame – two events that were happening concurrently – one was a visit of two leaders to pay respects at Gandhi’s ashram and the other – a city burning – mobs destroying property, citizens brandishing guns and cops watching in cold silence. The contrast could not have been starker. Two leaders, whose actions, from time to time, may have symbolized hatred, racism, bigotry, deceit, contempt for fundamental human values – at the doorstep of the apostle of peace, dignity, compassion and brotherhood, while part of a capital city, elsewhere, was under siege. 

Let’s take a step back. Less than a year ago, many people rejoiced at the prevailing government receiving a thumping majority. Soon an entire state’s political structure was overturned, ignoring decades of history, broken promises and arguably constitutional morality. Even before the debate had died down, elected leaders along with a few million people were incarcerated and have been living, ignored, uncared for, trampled, second class citizens for over six months, with the rest of the country either giving a damn or worse enjoying their plight. A decades long dispute over a “place of worship” finally got resolved through a judgement that seemed to recognize the happening of a crime, while seemingly rewarding the perpetrator.   Soon came an announcement of a nationwide law that generously granted citizenship to some religiously persecuted people while leaving out others. Followed by the announcement of a nationwide citizenship identification exercise, that just a few months ago, left 19 lakhs in Assam stateless, who are since then, running from pillar to post, to avoid being held in “detention centers”. Even as the first protests began to be noticed, the country saw some vivid images of a university library being invaded by “law and order forces”, of gangs invading another university, engaging in violence, in full view of the security forces, of pistols being brandished by goons while the police watched stonily. 

Women, rightly realizing, that the proposed citizen exercise, put them most at risk, created their Shaheen Baghs – all over the country. Women of all backgrounds, many of whom had perhaps taken to the streets for the very first time in their lives, saw this as a moment of personal liberation – finding extraordinary courage to come out and express their solidarity with each other and their firm belief in the Indian Constitution. Day after day, often in biting cold and rain, they created an enabling environment that allowed them both to discharge their daily duties during the day and be vigilant, but peaceful dissenters at nights. It was an extraordinary exercise of compassion and resilient multi-tasking that most corporate leaders would have been proud of. 

That was the foreground in which elections happened in Delhi. On one side, a party in governance -showcasing the city’s progress in education, health and sanitation, while, on the other hand, an opposition armed with “lets solve the problem with bullets” kind of contempt for the law. Better sense seemed to prevail, and the people, led by women and youth, chose unity and knowledge over hatred and divisiveness. 

And yet, this crazy chain of events has led to over 30 deaths and a few hundred injured, in just two days, while two leaders were paying respects to the Saint of Non-Violence. On the sidelines were people from the law and order machinery that have failed the people of the city. Equally mute were the business leaders and dignitaries who came to visit the Most Powerful Leader of the Free World. Some grassroots leaders and journalists felt dismayed that the violence had lowered the prestige of the country in the eyes of visiting guests, while, several neighborhoods, have hoisted orange flags as a sign of their strength and support for the siege. Strange was the vacuous behavior of the re-elected Delhi leaders, whose past politics seemed to suggest that they cared for basic human values and those enshrined in our Constitution.

As Gurudwaras, standing like a pillar of solidarity, embrace all the affected, and compassionate, peace loving Indians of all faiths, lend a helping hand to the oppressed, a young girl, still full of hope, asks me, “What kind of action should an individual take to stop the genocide?”


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