I am not antinational. Would you care to listen?

Shobha R

Human rights activist, theatre artist and student lawyer based in Bangalore.

As news of human rights activists, filmmakers, students, ordinary citizens, journalists and artists being picked up and intimidated by the state flood me, I am struggling to keep my faith in the law of our land alive. I maybe saying this upfront so that I can clarify to suspecting readers that I am not those ‘anti national’ types who need to be silenced. Well, it’s come to that.

Who exactly is antinational? Lets not jump up and give our own interpretations. Instead, let us look at our constitution for some answers. Our constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to its citizens. If you fight to ensure that the rights guaranteed to you is upheld, there invariably can be people, especially those in powerful positions, who are not going to like it. Does this make you antinational? Well, its seems so, looking at the recent developments we see all around in Chattisgarh, Hyderabad, Delhi, Jharkhand, Odisha. You don’t know what’s happening there? I am not surprised, given that there’s more news we read about international trips of our politicians, which ofcourse we interpret as being patriotic, given that they during those trips, sign multibillion dollar deals which we think is going to ensure us all better lives.

We must understand that whenever there has been a struggle for rights to be upheld, the power balance gets rocky. Dissent however peaceful, has a ripple effect and curbing this is a tactic used by those who want to retain the status quo, which is beneficial to the richest segments of our society- corporates, industries, profit making entities who are looking at the huge expanse of our natural resources and would like to plunder them for their own vested ends. This is ofcourse painted in illegally mined glitter and presented as the progressive development model to us, which unfortunately is ofcourse lapped up by people who dont care to read, understand, analyse what’s presented to them, as they are busy with their corporate lives and consumerism. Well, they cannot be blamed either. Its well established that when citizens show apathy to things happening around them and are absorbed in their own micro lives, distracted by consumerism, gadgets, cars and loans for luxury lifestyles, it’s a perfect setting for controlling our real riches- namely our water, hills, land, forests and the treasures that lies underneath them.

With one segment of the urban educated lot looked after, its now time to tackle the other segment of people who see through this power game. Students, activists, journalists (without vested interests) and affected people who are interested in propagating a healthier, equitable, balanced lifestyle that upholds peoples rights, as guaranteed by law, irrespective of whether they live in urban slums, posh localities in cities or forest dwelling tribal communities. It is this segment of people who pose a grave threat to vested interests.

So what do power houses do in this situation? They play with your mind. Use terms like antinational, naxals, law and order and a majority of us shut up. For others not easily silenced theres always the trump card of religion and caste or sheer power that is sure to work. Our honour, status, our high chairs of dominance and control is too dear to part with. How else can we justify when hate speeches propogated by political parties are not proclaimed anti national? Or when the state itself kidnaps people without producing them before the magistrate within 24 hours as is mandated by law and tortures them for forced confessions? Or when innocent lives are taken to make a show of upholding law and order and controlling naxal terror? Who is anti national here and what kind of a nation do we want to build? A question for all of us to ponder about.

So the next time you hear about protests and activism, do find out about the reasons why people are dissenting. It is infact, so that you get to breathe some fresh air, get to eat good food produced in your country and drink clean water from the rivers that flow in your land. If this is not important to you, I wonder what else is.

Maybe we will only wake up when they come widen industrial corridors into our comfortable localities. I would like to see some patriotism then, when people happily give up their houses for larger interests. Well if you wait till then, I doubt if you will find any supporters.