Meenakshi Shedde: Love needs strategy


The Not in My Name protest held at Carter Road on Wednesday
The Not in My Name protest held at Carter Road on Wednesday

It was exhilarating, participating in the Not In My Name peaceful protest on Carter Road in Mumbai on Wednesday evening, against the brazen murder, lynching and harassment of minorities in India, including Muslims and Dalits. The protest was simply to say that humanity is more important than religion, that the Constitution of India rules above all else.

It was a spontaneous gathering of hundreds, following a call for protests by Delhi filmmaker Saba Dewan, who wrote a Facebook post, “Shouldn’t there be protests against the lynching, especially after the murder yesterday in Delhi NCR by a mob, of a 16-year-old Muslim boy? If not now, then when?” Junaid Khan, who was returning from Eid shopping, was stabbed to death over an argument on seats in a train to Ballabhgarh, that quickly escalated to comments on his clothes and religion, and then, the fatal stabbing. There were peaceful people’s protests in at least 10 cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Allahabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Patna, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

The exhilaration was because a number of people who had been very angry or sad about the murders had not actively expressed their opposition to the majoritarian murders and right-wing nationalism, beyond signing online petitions or writing in the media. Not that that is any less courageous, given today’s armies of trolls. But, it was good to meet offline, hug old friends and new, and acknowledge our common cause with complete strangers. Hundreds of people from all walks of life and various religions turned up. The protestors included Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Konkona Sensharma, Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, Ranvir Shorey and others. It was greatly humbling to find in our midst — I was almost sure it was — Dr Binayak Sen, the indomitable civil liberties activist. A young man in a blue shirt sang powerful poems by Dushyant Kumar and we joined in; as the rain poured harder, it only brought more josh into our voices, soaring from under a sea of umbrellas.

Obviously, one protest is not enough; the next morcha against lynching will take place on Monday July 3, at 4pm from Kotwal Garden Opposite Plaza Cinema, Dadar West, to Chaitya Bhoomi, followed by a demonstration at Chaitya Bhoomi. It has been organised by Mumbai’s Left parties, Bharatiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Students’ Federation of India, and others. The challenge is that hate is usually better organised than love, operating insidiously from various pillars of the establishment, as well as media and social media. The peaceniks will need a better organised strategy for sustaining the momentum, including extracting justice from the police and judiciary. Until justice comes, we should also informally ‘adopt’ the families whose members have been murdered, victimised or harassed, and put our money where our mouth is, through financial support, scholarships, help them get internships, jobs, or maybe simply textbooks or umbrellas. Every small step counts: humanity must win.

Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at meenakshishedde@gmail.com

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