A few days before the shocking Lakhimpur Kheri incident that saw 9 dead and many injured when a vehicle driven by hate filled son of the minister of state for home affairs murderously overran a farm protest, the father had ominously threatened the farmers with dire consequences because he did not like the black flags in a peaceful protest.
For days he is not arrested despite the national outrage and Supreme Court’s intervention. Seems he has crossed over to Nepal or hidden by his formidable pedigree. And who are arrested and detained? Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, two Congress chief ministers, Akhilesh Yadav, among others. The PM visits Lucknow but refuses to pay his condolences to the families of the dead at Lakhimpur Kheri. He condoles the death of people who died in a road accident, but that has nothing to do with Lakhimpur Kheri.
TV channels populated by the faithful seem to move in a typically jarring symphony of shared sensibilities. This crude orchestra is mostly too loud, lacking both grace and subtlety. Their attempt is to control the narrative at all costs even if it means that it is going further away from facts and truth.
This is like a violent, ruthless and unceasing crusade of the post-truth Hindutva India. Violence and retribution is in the air, as they say. No one can escape these sinister signals repeated ad nauseam. Film actors, media, journalists, activists, scholars and academics, students, farmers, minorities – anyone can become the next target and victim anytime. This is the a priori doctrine prevailing in contemporary India.
Truth thereby is often driven, subverted and camouflaged by the adrenaline of the image industry, planted stories, pseudo patriotic propaganda, crass cacophony, expensive brand management and ad campaigns, and, of course, doctored and fake news. Facebook whistleblower inn her Congressional testimony reveals how much of hate against minorities has been injected by the social media giant in India. What is not quantified is what it has done to our democracy and to us.
It has brought absolute and unconditional loyalty to the regime is a daily mantra. Only lip service is for democracy- nothing else. Certainly no critical dissent, intellectual disagreements, contrary arguments, not even it seems sharply written opinion or op-ed pieces. The only narrative therefore should be the dominant narrative – endorsed by the loyal media. Dominant, polarizing, motivated, sectarian – with daily truth being dumped in the daily garbage can of history on a daily basis.
Nor are non-violent democratic protests acceptable under this dispensation. As in the year-long tenacious, stoic and resilient farmers’ movement now, or, the equally peaceful, stoic and courageous mass movement in the pre-Covid era, led by the mothers, sisters and daughters of Shaheen Bagh and students, in Delhi and across India, against the communal and polarizing NRC/CAA. The farmers were branded Khalistanis, Maoists, terrorists, anti-nationals, etc. While the Union home minister, obsessed with ‘termites’ as a metaphor to demonise an entire community of legitimate Indian citizens, said publicly before the Delhi assembly polls that the voters should press the EVM button in such a manner that the current should flow into Shaheen Bagh!
A satanic stream of vicious bile, seem to be relentlessly running like revenge in the mainstream discourse, on the streets, in public spaces, in market squares, on in village bylanes – as in Lakhimpur Kheri. The cold-blooded killings of farmers and a journalist are just another tragic sequel of this morbid serial opera of barbarism unleashed without a pause and witnessed non-stop as a public spectacle since May 2014 across the country. It is like being shot by a firing squad, or, being trampled by tanks.
This macabre serial of ‘achche din’ goes on and on and acquires more macabre projections with each new event. Remember that ‘sarkari’ photographer in Assam ‘dancing on the corpse’ of a poor Muslim, allegedly already shot dead by the cops who watched it all as if in approval? Remember the dead body of the brutalized girl burning in the darkness in the rural landscape of Hathras and the parents forcibly isolated and barricaded from even her final funeral rights?
These macabre stories play out in different geographies, but with similar conclusions- the poor, the dispossessed, minorities, dalits and the dissenters have no space in new India conceived by this majoritarian government, which uses tactics that can safely fall in the category of criminal acts.
Significantly, the Editors Guild of India has called the Lakhimpur Kheri killings as a ‘terror attack’!
“In what is clearly a terror attack meant to spread fear amongst the farmers, the killing of (journalist) Raman Kashyap raises many questions. There are competing versions about Kashyap’s death including a version that claims he died of bullet wounds,” EGI says in its statement.
Certainly, a terror attack it is. An intentional and deliberate terror attack. To terrorise and brutalise the farmers. And all those who dare to peacefully protest, demand their constitutional right to democratic and free spaces, and exercise their option to dissent in a democracy. That is why, mere compensation or the lodging of an FIR won’t do. Justice has to be done – come what may!