The silence of the damned

Published: Aug 16, 2019, 05:22 IST | Rosalyn Dmello

Now is the time to speak up, to speak out or the oppressor will eventually perceive your silence as consent for your annihilation

The silence of the damned
By not dissenting, we commit ourselves to the accelerated destruction of our habitat, our land

Rosalyn D'MelloAs someone who was raised Catholic and who did immerse herself in the principle premise of the New Testament; loving your neighbour as yourself, which also entails doing good to those who hurt you, hate doesn't come naturally. It's easy to casually say I hate something or someone, but because I have been so deeply conditioned to look for the humanity in those who seem to exemplify evil, it's hard not to over-empathise, not to make excuses that justify their acts of oppression. I keep arguing for a subversive brand of political consciousness that has love as its foundation; love for self, love for those who are othered, love for those responsible for their othering; and frequently, I find myself feeling challenged by the conundrum of self assertion and empowerment and its relationship with humility and affliction. I think it's why I find myself drawn to the political activism of moral intellectuals like Cornel West and Bell Hooks, who preach the indivisible link between love and justice, bringing spirituality firmly into the realm of activist thought. Justice is what love looks like in public, according to West. "To be an intellectual really means to speak a truth that allows suffering to speak," he said.

How then to celebrate in any meaningful way 73 years of Indian independence, when a whole territory is being explicitly colonised under the guise of nation? Last week, the post-colonised Indian republic officially embraced the mantle of coloniser, complete with the propaganda rhetoric to justify its claim to a land without considering the consent of its people. Until now, it had been more covert. Until now, the Indian state's "settler colonisation project" in the Northeast, in lands it occupied under the loophole of a "liberating" mission, like Goa, had been cloaked; until now its preoccupation with militarising vulnerable regions and getting away with severe atrocities through the veil of the violent AFSPA had been permitted through public inaction.

What changed last week is that the present ruling party declared war on the very Constitution upon which the existence of this nation had been validated. The cruel, contentious, savage manner in which human rights violations were facilitated by the Indian Government (and continue to be) to subjugate a whole population by the alleged rationale of 'it's own good' must be condemned, irrespective of whether or not you support the abrogation of Article 370. The fact that the murderers of Pehlu Khan have been acquitted by the court despite plausible evidence to convict them must also be condemned. If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword; a Catholic belief that shares an ethos with the Hindu notion of karma. If you genuinely believe that you will continue to share the privilege of being in the mobilising majority without ever becoming the victim of the mob mentality it will inevitably perpetuate, you are deluding yourself. For power doesn't discriminate between degrees of vulnerability for too long. Power feeds on the constant discovery of classes to oppress.

I read a powerful tweet today from someone under the handle @anthoknees, "Just to be clear: if someone supports a political candidate who seeks your extermination, they also support your extermination. It doesn't matter how they treat you interpersonally. They want you dead structurally."

It really brought home the already intensifying feeling nestling within me that a government whose political, religious, and personal rhetoric is unabashedly infused with undertones of rape culture cannot be entrusted with the welfare of anyone, not even its fiercest supporters, for their claim to power will always rest on the forced suppression of any form of dissent, and on lines being crossed so forthrightly, that everyone will end up with blood on their hands, and every supporter will be complicit in the shedding of that blood.

This is why it is important to embrace this challenge through the lens of feminism and not through the tired idiom of party politics. This is not about which political party is more genuinely invested in a viable future for the least common denominator within this collective entity that we describe as nation. None of the current contenders have the moral heft to effect any real change. This is about the larger picture. It's what Ser Davos says in an episode in the seventh season of Game of Thrones. "If we don't put aside our enmities and band together, we will die. And then it doesn't matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne." By not dissenting, we commit ourselves to the accelerated destruction of our habitat, our land.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed for his supporters on the Discovery Channel's show, "Man vs Wild" to allegedly raise environmental consciousness. Well, here, then, are the facts, presented to us not by him but by Rajyasree Sen. "In Maharashtra, 53,000 mangrove trees will be cut for the bullet train project. In Uttarakhand, the Centre has launched a R12,000-crore project to improve road connectivity to four Hindu pilgrimage sites which will have significant ecological costs. Modi had launched the construction of the Char Dham Mahamarg in 2016 as a tribute to those who died in the 2013 Kedarnath disaster. In Chattisgarh, more than 841.5 hectares of forest land will be destroyed for Adani to create coal mines. The list is long and far from illustrious."

Those so intent on fulfilling the dream of Hindu rashtra need to ask themselves how it will be achieved if when all threats have been exterminated—minorities, feminists, tribals, non-vegetarians, intellectuals—you are simply washed away in a devastating flood because you didn't care to consider or nurture the land you were so intent on conquering?

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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