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When and how to protest

Updated on: 15 June,2024 06:54 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Lindsay Pereira |

The government should consider allocating resources for a department that can teach us to be more selective about outrage

When and how to protest

Smoke rises in the Al Fara’a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank following an Israeli military raid on June 10. Pic/AP

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When and how to protest

Lindsay PereiraI thought of a Department of Genocidal Affairs over the past weekend. The clarity of that thought surprised me because of how sensible it seemed, given the state of our world and the way emotions have been spilling over everywhere one turns.

The department in question doesn’t exist, of course, but the reasons for its existence continued to appear, the more I considered it. I imagined a group of qualified men and women tasked simply with documenting atrocities around the world and letting us know whom to support and when. I imagined a department we could turn to for guidance while trying to figure out what flags to add to our Facebook posts and what emoticons to include in WhatsApp status updates. It would make our lives so much simpler because millions of confused Indians trying to express their anger towards the right target would receive all the guidance they needed.

Take the Israel-Palestine conflict, for example. Yes, it has been going on for decades, but we didn’t have TikTok at the time so only recent murders presumably count. When the latest one-sided attacks began a few months ago, the government helpfully nudged us towards supporting Israel because of a long-standing relationship between our countries. But then, Israel began asking India for cheap labour in the form of human resources which, for me, muddied the waters a little. I understand that silence on our government’s part was probably inevitable because it’s not as if jobs for those poor Indians could magically be conjured overnight after a decade of failure. Still, it made me wonder if I was rooting for the right side. A Department of Genocidal Affairs could have helped.

There are always other troubling scenarios emerging or playing out around the world, all of which require attention. Darfur and Sudan, for instance, have seen renewed attacks against civilians by the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces. There has been violence reported against religious minorities in Nigeria, and conflicts in Northern Syria and Iraq. We have also heard about the genocide of ethnic minorities in Myanmar, as well as massacres of ethnic groups in Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo. This isn’t even counting warnings issued for Armenia, Iran, Yemen and Lebanon, all of which are reportedly on the brink of humanitarian crises. Luckily, when it comes to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, we already have clarity on which country to support based on where Hindi cinema is more popular. The point I make is this: there is enough going on to justify the need for a department that can track these developments full-time.

I foresee arguments against this, obviously, such as why invest in a department documenting atrocities in countries that have nothing to do with us? Or, where will we find the funds? I suppose the first is a valid point, given that no such incidents ever occur in India. If acts that could be defined as genocidal were to take place within our borders, it’s not as if we wouldn’t be outraged and know exactly whom to blame. If people were massacred in Gujarat, for example, or Manipur—two states chosen at random for no specific reason—we would be protesting on the streets and making sure those responsible were in jail because we are not a banana republic. My response, then, is that a department like this could act as a moral compass for the rest of the world. After all, we have always been looked upon as a peace-loving nation that has never flirted with fascism.

Ultimately, our Department of Genocidal Affairs could rival global peacekeeping organisations like the United Nations, which would be great for India’s image abroad. I can see it now: a building taller than the Statue of Unity, with an image of the honourable Prime Minister on its façade. Think of the good it could do by drawing attention to wrongs that need to be righted.

I intend to create a proposal outlining the benefits of such a department and mailing it to the government. I will also consider the costs involved, and list possible resources from which money can be diverted. Maybe we can consider shutting down statutory bodies that don’t do anything and utilise those funds for something like this instead. I thought about the National Commission for Women in India, for one, which hasn’t done anything in recent memory because Indian women are so safe. Why not shut it down and use those funds to create this instead?

When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira

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