In moments of crisis, people are willing to hand over a great deal of power to anyone who claims to have a magic cure." The above is a quote from Naomi Klein's 'The shock doctrine'.
Our India - the India of the pandemic would fare well making it into the pages of her book. We, the people, have suffered in the last couple of weeks. Yes, we are all ailing and hurting from numerous causes; the dismal state of our affairs, the affectation of our people, the inability to embrace our loved ones, and for many, the theft of their basic human dignity. Indeed, we are ailing. But the collective of us has been hurt in a manner more insidious - through the usurpation of the voices of our intellectuals and journalists. We are the people of a vessel that wades through waters shadowed by the dark clouds of phantoms such as nationalism and communalism. And those lanterns that light our path are being painted over in these very moments.
On the 14th of April, the grandson-in-law of Mr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the chairman of the drafting committee of that most brilliant of manifestos, The Indian Constitution, was taken into custody on an ill-conceived case. That man was Anil Teltumbde. With the protection from arrest provided to them by the Supreme Court in the Bhima Koregaon case for nearly two years having finally ended, civil rights activist and academic Anand Teltumbde and journalist-activist Gautam Navlakha surrendered before the National Investigation Agency on Tuesday, April 14. In a letter that he penned prior to his arrest, which is freely available on The Wire, he stated in detail how the allegations involved as well as the evidence under consideration was farcical and baseless. This man was no doubt dangerous to the government. But why?
Anil Teltumbde is one of the followers of Babasaheb who has continuously highlighted the need to fight Hindutva on both the social and economic front. One the one hand, he has laid bare the Brahminical anti-social casteist nature of the Sangh Parivar, while on the other he has relentlessly attacked the anti-people economic policies of Neoliberal Hindutva. One of his recent publications is titled Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva. He upholds Ambedkar’s radical vision of ushering social and economic democracy in India through the annihilation of caste and state socialism.
In all honesty, speaking out in such a manner about matters of such concern shouldn’t get anyone persecuted in a democracy. But is it even a democracy anymore?
The arrest of him is a stark sign of the times. The people are disoriented. They are unable to perceive in the long term or of anything except their individual safety. They’re backed up against a wall, cornered. All this makes for prime conditions to facilitate the exploitation of intellectuals and journalists so that the work of a regime may prosper. Anil Teltumbde isn’t the only one up against this machinery that is anti-thought. Recently, in times like these that have proved to be so trying, another voice of the people, a Kashmiri photojournalist named Masrat Zahra has also come under the persecution of UAPA for unspecified social media posts.
It’s events like these that slowly compound. It’s events like these that go to show that none of us are safe. Not one of us. It’s events like these that strike fear into the hearts of the youth before they post something online. It’s things like these that force us to dumb down. It’s why the writers stop writing, why the intellectuals stop thinking. It is this, that is the unending bloodletting of the Indian.