Garbage is Divine!

Amit Sengupta

Reports say more than 11,000 tonnes of garbage was found at Ramlila Ground after the fast-unto-death cum indefinite fast cum free-for-all carnival reached a cathartic climax. An ode to Bharat Mata ki Jai, no doubt. The entire place looked like a simulated, shallow and enclosed replica of a microscopic nuclear catastrophe on an architect’s drawing board: vast empty space flooded with discarded objects left to their melting fate in the slush and quagmire of dirty rain water, sticky mud and rotting puddles, wasted food, fruits, paper plates, wrappers, plastic, polythene, discarded Gandhi caps with the ink fading, banners and flags, pictures and posters of Hindu gods and the holy cow, and food, fruits, banana peels, biscuit wrappers and mineral water bottles and plastic pouches all over. Even empty booze and beer bottles — I don’t mind that really, because, at least cow piss bottles were not found. 

In a tangential and real sense, this great, gung ho, grandiose, garbage-filled Ramlila Ground, gift-wrapped to the nation as the “second freedom struggle”, unravels the underbelly of a narrative which is far removed from the basic Gandhian principles of simple, ecological, stoic and sustainable living. The story often is not what we see, or what we are shown, as on the screaming television channels with not an iota of critical objectivity. 

No one knows how much the ‘Gandhian’ sitting on fast had a clue about the character of this mass consumption, much of it, as is now being revealed, organised by front organisations of the RSS and VHP. They fed the stomachs, and they fed the minds of the movement, and yet, they were always hidden, as VHP supremo Ashok Singhal so proudly proclaimed. 

Now, the garbage has been cleared, but the wasted paradise clutters and haunts the mind. Day after day, the tens of thousands of tonnes of utter garbage crafted by the television channels will remain etched in history. This had not happened even during the obscenely cash-rich IPL matches. The mouth incessantly open, words pouring out in torrents, reporters, editors and anchors repeating what they have said again and again, the same cacophonic prime-time suspects repeating the same cacophony to the same people; sometimes they would all scream together in such jarring symphony and so would the anchor (a daily ritual onTimes Now), and it would seem that it’s an editing table ravaged footage, fast forward, pause and rewind at the same time. The garbled gas bags were so full of themselves that no one would listen to each other. Glorified garbage as prime-time discourse. Ah, like art of living. 

Thereby, a deathly sense of déjà vu has descended into the abysses of our minds. It’s like a post-dengue body, limbs emaciated with its own saturation points. You are deadened by the assault, numbed by the tyranny of it all, turned into a passive paranoid postbox of unsolicited spam. Okay, you can switch it all off. But you can’t switch off the world. The camera is all over the place, the words are continuous and dysenteric, the hyper-hysteria is a national past-time. Oh, what a deathly, unliberating, shallow, suffocating anti-catharsis!

Compare this 24x7 hyperbole to one small note of political dissent. Compare this to the about 6,000-7,000 protestors at India Gate, led by Udit Raj, stating the Dalit anti point of view. Children wearing T-shirts that said ‘I am not Anna’. Indian citizens from the lowest rungs of our collective condemnations, actually saying that they don’t agree with this Anna agitation, led by anti-reservationists like Kejriwal, and backed by sinister forces who never really believed in the secular, pluralist Indian Constitution. That the vast number of our Dalits, minorities and other backward castes and classes do not trust this NGOs-Babas-RSS-led movement. 

They asked categorically: “Why has Anna Hazare been totally silent all these years on theGujaratcarnage and Narendra Modi? Was there a single slogan against Narendra Modi in this movement? Why? Will they abolish reservation and savage the Constitution? Where are the Dalits, minorities and backward castes in this movement? Is Lokpal bigger than Ambedkar?” 

No OB vans. No reportage. No fancy anchors shouting and screaming. No coverage. Not even a breaking news on the ticker. No extended prime-time debates. 

When Dalits protest at India Gate, they too are treated like garbage by the Indian media. Chucked in the upper class censorship of the garbage can.

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