The Indian Express on March 6, 2023, carries a challenging headline,
JUSTICE AND A BLIND EYE
authored by Syeda Hameed, a member of the former Planning Commission.
The torn pages of copies of the Bible, littering the ground at the Delhi Book Fair, call for introspection, she notes.
Earlier, a news item, also in the Indian Express, reported an attack on a book stall distributing free copies of The Bible at the ongoing World Book Fair in Delhi (‘At Book Fair, stall distributing free Bibles targeted by protesters’, IE, March 2). The attack was captured on video, a mob of 30 hooligans chanting slogans, stole copies and then tore them to pieces.
The video went viral. The Delhi police said that they had received no complaint “from the officials of the book fair”, enough of an excuse to do nothing.
Ms Hameed notes, on reading this news, that she, traveling to Pakistan and Canada because of recent losses in her own family, sees members of different religions walking about freely in both countries.
What then of her own country, India, she wants to know?
And she wonders, what follows in the next two weeks?
(edited from her translation)
In this videographed short talk at a public event, way back in 2020, journalist Faye D’Souza thanked the ‘uncles’ for their silence, for letting the government go scot free while it ignores or distorts the Constitution, and the young, who have nothing, and everything, to lose, continue to resist.
Years later, the ‘uncles’ are still silent, the media spaces they might have used are growing increasingly more unsafe, and ‘the young’ are growing silent, as one by one, more are picked off and held under laws meant to safeguard them, on paper. The rich and comfortable, who would not risk their possessions by speaking up, are (according to public statistics) moving abroad in larger numbers than ever before, since independence.
And the Constitution is whittled down to a tissue thin excuse for the blueprint of a place where free people would be proud to live.
93 former civil servants under the Constitutional Conduct Group wrote, expressing anguish, a public letter on 4 March 2023 to the Prime Minister, reminding him, among other things, that “it is the duty of the State to safeguard the secular character of our country, to protect every citizen, and ensure enjoyment of his or her fundamental rights, regardless of religion.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to speaking up for the Constitution, ‘maun vrat’ is more the order of the day. It is a bitter reality that it was the previous Prime Minister who was frequently abused, as often as not by those in power today, both in office and on the streets, for holding his peace.