By R. Raj Rao
TWO expressions, both containing the word ‘stone’, come to mind. The first is the Biblical phrase “casting the first stone”. In John 8:7, Jesus Christ says: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Then, there is the idiomatic phrase those who live in glass houses must not throw stones.
In Rajya Sabha last week, FDI was redefinied to mean Foreign Destructive Ideology. Presumably, it was a response to the recent pro-farmer tweets by Greta Thunberg, Rihanna and Meera Harris. In all likelihood, they also intended the phrase to be a fitting reply to the governments of the UK and Canada, which have adversely commented on India’s farmer agitation.
Now India, it seems to me, both lives in glass houses and nor is it without sin. Hence, we must beware of throwing stones at others, and not be touchy when stones are hurled at us.
One may begin with the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, and ask if that amounted to meddling, at least from Pakistan’s point of view. For, the formation of Bangladesh destroyed the erstwhile East Pakistan once and for all.
Closer to our own times, there are a number of examples when the government declares its stand on various issues of other countries which should have global relevance. Don’t we habitually comment on Pakistan’s alleged discrimination of the people of Baluchistan? Last year, didn’t we cacophonously join the rest of the world in insinuating that it was China’s wet markets in Wuhan that were responsible for the spread of the corona virus? Recently, didn’t we interfere in France’s internal affairs when Prime Minister Modi said that he stood with President Macron in upholding freedom of expression, even as a Chechnyan schoolboy shot his school teacher dead?
In the global world in which we live, nations have a right to comment on other nations if they think the civil rights of human beings are at stake. For after all, human welfare is more important than man-made boundaries. As the Hindi film song goes, sarhad insaano ke liye hai/ zara socho kya paya tumne aur maine insaan hoke. That is why a watchdog organization such as the United Nations exists. Sovereignty cannot be an excuse for letting anything pass, except in a banana republic. Certainly not in a country that calls itself the world’s largest democracy!
The other phrase that was disparagingly used in Rajya Sabha was andolan jeevi. This leaned towards a criticism of the idea of protest, whether by lawyers or students or labourers; the three categories of persons that were cited as examples.
Protest is the soul of democracy. In denouncing it, we alter the essence of a democracy. A democracy needs dissenters to survive, and not merely yes-men and henchmen and stooges. A ban on dissent is the ideal recipe for a nation of slaves. As such, the counter-tweets put out by celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Sachin Tendulkar and even Lata Mangeshkar, presently in her nineties, in response to the tweets of Greta Thunberg and Rihanna, made them out to be stooges of the establishment. One wondered whether the tweets were really theirs, or they were merely compelled to lend their names to pro-government tweets composed by others.
What is disliked and being called out about protests and protestors is that they take an ideological stand. But then so does the ruling party at the centre and even the opposition. But it can’t be ‘my ideology good, your ideology bad’, just as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the sheep with their herd mentality say, ‘four legs good, two legs bad’. Orwell purposely gives this line to the sheep that blindly follow.
My interpretation of the pejorative phrase andolan jeevi is that stigmatised protest and leaves little to no space for different views.
My education, I’m afraid, does not permit me to comply with this.
- Dr. R. Raj Rao is an internationally known Indian English novelist, poet and critic. He was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Pune in Maharashtra. He has also been a Visiting Professor at universities in Canada and Germany
Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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