An evening star in a prison

Amit Sengupta

Let's not forget he is still in jail, in solitary confinement, outside the 'national debate' on ethics and absence of ethics post Wikileaks, forgotten by the Indian Parliament, and the 'secular' ruling regime with its heart beating inside the sacred NAC. He is left to rot, suffocate and die in silence in a Chhattisgarh jail, given life imprisonment on charges of sedition with completely fabricated evidence, hounded, harassed, humiliated and 'handled' by the cold-blooded, heartless, inhuman BJP-led Chhattisgarh government and its notorious police. This is the state where they burnt villages, raped, killed, tortured and put innocents in jail - the Salwa Judum epic which continues till this day. The good doctor protested, documented, classified this narrative, hence, he was condemned and put in jail. They refused to accept his three decades of legendary health work in the most deprived zones of central India, something recognised by the entire world, including the medical fraternity and 50 Noble laureates. 

In leadership summits or manufactured media conclaves of sundry celebrities and politicos, mouthing utter inanities, celebrating the clichéd cacophony of compulsive illiteracy, he is not even mentioned. Unlike they do with legendary Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi in international film festivals, jailed for six years and perhaps eternity, and unlike they did in the Lancet annual programme for the good doctor, no one keeps a chair empty as a mark of his absence and presence. He is beyond the demands of constitutional justice, the morality of morality, nowhere in the great debates, historic speeches and poetry read out in Parliament and political power centres, by top leaders of the ruling establishment, the honourable opposition, the scholarly, enlightened prime minister himself. 

Ah, what a great democracy! Everybody in the establishment and in the power corridors have a high moral ground. Always high on rhetoric, always on the high side of truth and justice, with a high ethical paradigm shift, their body and soul rooted in the higher causes of democracy, their prophetic rhetoric so beautifully, highly, politically correct! Even when they are angry it seems that the entire world of truth and purity has descended on this fragmented landscape. Oh, the political class, how lovely their seductions, their value-systems, their knowledge systems, their love for their people, their sense and sensibility, their angst for the poorest, for justice versus injustice, bread versus malnourishment. How deeply they have ingrained and internalised the Indian Constitution, how sweet is their song of republicanism, how sacred and sanctified their sense of decorum, discretion, democratic conscience.

That is why, perhaps, most Indian people are not involved in the gigantic democratic machine run by fat corporates and flourishing politicians. They, like that man in prison, remain invisible in the margins, like a man or woman with qualities no one can see or discover in one life time, or in many generations of unfreedom, in their Dalit tolas and slums, in their emaciated, twilight zones of armed struggle in the tribal interiors, in their green landscapes of pristine, untouched beauty, with their unarmed struggles, in the slow, epical reconstruction of crushed memories, wings of desires, flickering fires, hanging horizons. 

Don't ask them the meaning of being a superpower democracy. Or liberation at Tahrir Square. Don't even ask them if they can read and write their names in future imperfect, under a 40-watt electricity bulb, their eyes shining with a dream?

Instead, ask them, if they can read the PM's speech. His Urdu poetry. And the BJP (or Left) leaders' amazing high moral ground rhetoric amidst the inherited nightmares of carnages, massacres, injustices - as in Gujarat 2002, or Ayodhya and Bombay 1992, or Delhi 1984, or even Marichjhapi and Nandigram. 

Or that, as the good doctor said, thousands slowly dying of malnutrition, with abnormally low body mass index and a failed immune system, especially in the tribal heartland: if this is not genocide, what is? 
What about a poem on bloodless genocide? 

The evening star shines on top of a Chhattisgarh prison everyday. Like a lighthouse on a dead sea of a fossilised democracy. Can we see it flicker?

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2011