One Sorrow Too Many

Editorial: January 2013

Hardnews Bureau Delhi 

For many of us brought up to respond in a certain way to the shifting paradigms of Indian politics and our fragmented reality, it is not difficult to comprehend the outpouring of grief and nationwide protests against the barbarism inflicted on a medical student inside a bus and her subsequent death in Singapore. It is a gruesome and tragic incident which has unnerved the nation. The massive congregation of people, especially of the young, and the demand for political authority to show accountability, has been rather unusual. Are these non-violent and sensitive people spontaneously responding to increased and deeper understanding of moral issues and social injustice? Or, are some of them, at least, collecting in public spaces at the behest of TV and social media, including some identified Rightwingers and lumpens? 

While the role of media in increasing awareness on political and social issues remains undiminished, what is important is the influence of a new class of norm and morality builders that are distinct from religion and family. These are not just edit page writers of yore; they are more specialised breed of loud and breathless propagandists backed by corporates and lobbies who are crunching consumer data, twitter feeds, TRP ratings and other marketing strategies. Their attempt is to garner eyeballs at any cost, control choices and thus shape behaviour and minds -- political and otherwise. Indeed, when it comes to the populism of TV channels, today it is a righteous cause like the mass protests and national sorrow on the rape and death of the young woman, yesterday it was Bal Thackeray’s funeral and the Narendra Modi hyperbole, and earlier, the faction ridden Team Anna/Ramdev show. They were all telecast non-stop, 24x7, and sometimes for days on end, without an iota of critical understanding or restraint. In this one-dimensional infinity of an incessant public spectacle, blabbered endlessly (and often mindlessly) on TV, all other multiple realities and news stories (including of brazen injustices, custodial violence, hunger deaths, fake encounters, rapes and mass murders) in this huge nation is compulsively buried.

 Indeed, when it comes to the populism of TV channels, today it is a righteous cause like the mass protests and national sorrow on the rape and death of the young woman, yesterday it was Bal Thackeray’s funeral and the Narendra Modi hyperbole, and earlier, the faction ridden Team Anna/Ramdev show

This norm building is premised in upwardly mobile desires, expectations, phobias and insecurities. The narrative that it puts together is simplistic, shallow and in some ways Rightwing and status-quoist. It is due to this reason that the rape of the medical student was seen in the context of creating ‘safe cities with heavy policing, death penalty and castration’ rather than addressing the larger issue of relentless sexual violence in word, gesture, thought and deed as an entrenched ritual. What is also not discussed is the manner in which rapes were used as an instrument of brutalisation and subjugation against those who did not submit to the might of the state, as in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh and Gujarat. State sponsored rapes and mass murders during communal pogroms led by Hindutva mobs in Gujarat, or by VHP-led rapists as in Kandhamal, or by the security forces in Manipur and Kashmir, were ignored.

 How does this new stirring square with a reality mired in vast economic disparity, feudalism, poverty, gender violence and criminal inequality?

How does this new stirring square with a reality mired in vast economic disparity, feudalism, poverty, gender violence and criminal inequality? Worse, the plethora of corruption scandals has discredited this UPA regime which is seen to be unilaterally patronising crony capitalism. Indeed, the rise of a neo Nazi like Narendra Modi -- also backed by corporates and xenophobes -- posits the challenge that India is still far away from becoming a truly modern, liberal and secular society.

In 2013, on this new year, let us start anew and collectively build a humane, egalitarian and progressive society, where there is no violence against women, and where there this is equality and justice. On that note, Hardnews wishes its readers, a Happy New Year.  

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JANUARY 2013