I went to a protest the other day. It was a dreary thing.
A few hundred people stood at a designated protest place with movie posters in the background singing songs of hopelessness. “We shall overcome, some day,” they sang almost not believing the words themselves. Sure, it is a classic but we haven’t got the time.
The people doing the killing and maiming aren’t coming for you some time in the future. They are here now. Getting stronger every day. As much as you would like to believe standing silently on a street corner holding signs will teach them a lesson, pacifism isn’t really going to do much. As a loud mouth news anchor said, these protests that happened across twelve cities are merely ‘a blip’.
Despite this being a silent protest a part of me wanted to drive a big truck up with speakers and blast some `Rage against the Machine’ and `Dead Kennedys’, because frankly, we need new songs, an updated vocabulary of action. Hell, we need a whole new soundtrack filled with rage and anger.
Has India become ‘Lynchistan’? Image credit: James North
My major problem with protests in the country is that permission needs to be sought for them, and it is mostly limited to designated protest places where the majority of the public passing by can conveniently ignore you. Kind of defeats the purpose of protesting, doesn’t it? The protest was supposed to last from 6-8 pm according to the Facebook page for the event, but when at 7 pm the police cleared out the protestors from the stairs of the town hall to make way for a movie promotion event, the protestors moved with no resistance whatsoever. No disruption of peace. This might give you the moral high ground but the only advantage of this high ground is that you get a better view from the top as things fall apart below you.
Bhagat Singh once said, “To make the deaf listen, you need an explosion.” A lesson protestors of today can take from his notebook. You have mobilized awareness, what you do with it now is important before the energy dissipates and people descend back into apathy in their comfortable armchairs.
The only way to fight your fears is laughter. Image credit: James North
The way ahead:
1. Better propaganda
2. Learn from other successful campaigns
One of the keys to a successful movement is getting your message across and showing the other side that our way is better. Be that through fiction, presenting a look into the Hindu Rashtra future they seek, or the alternative liberal utopia you hope to create. Or even through non-fiction by calling them out on their bullshit.
One of my memories from the protest was when I made a joke to a bystander, “What if someone here has come to protest against David Lynch.” My friend said “Don’t laugh, this is a serious issue. What if a photographer snaps you laughing?” To which I replied, “A sense of humour is what we have over them. The moment we stop laughing, it is all over.”
This kind of reminds me of the Bogart in Harry Potter which shows you your worst fears, and the only way to defeat them is by laughing at them. Laughing at them induces shame, and shame is a very powerful tool, which we have forgotten to use. It can be a powerful weapon against these heartless beasts.
Let’s make movies, write books and sing songs that shine a mirror to today’s times, instead of repeating hundred year old songs which were just as ineffective then.
The ‘Not In My Name’ protests began as a Twitter hashtag. Image source: catchnews.com
Learn from other successful campaigns
A few weeks ago, there was a conclave of the right wing in Goa to set out a plan for achieving Hindu Rastra by 2023 which advocated taking up arms. Some of the most vocal proponents of this were young people. That’s where the right wing has got it right. They get them young and then they discipline them. Discipline is something the left lacks.
Hours after the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his statements condemning cow vigilantism, two more people were killed the same day. The reason is that the people perpetrating these crimes have no fear of punishment or retribution and are emboldened by the current government's lenient stance. Because ideology is empty and hollow without action.
One of the things that emerged when this protest was being organised was people from the Left - writing articles criticizing the movement for being misguided and Brahmanicial. Instead of trying to pick faults and look at the differences, the opposition should focus on what we all have in common – a strong desire to survive these hard times and come out alive.
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By Falah Faisal
Cover photo credit: newscrunch.com