Shruti Pushkarna: Are there hints of hypocrisy underneath the dissenting voices?

20 Dec,2019

Shruti PushkarnaBy Shruti Pushkarna


Yesterday I had a unique experience. Almost 37 years old, I have grown up listening to stories of the India-Pakistan Partition from my paternal grandfather, stories of my maternal grandfather about protesting against the authorities to protect the rights of labourers, and more recently, stories from my father and aunt from their time in prison when they upped their voices against the Emergency imposed by the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.


However graphic the pictures were in my head as these stories were narrated to me, but never had I experienced anything first-hand. Now before I build up your hopes as a reader for some thrilling piece here, I must confess I was not part of any action. I was just a first-hand witness. Not a listener, a spectator, watching the action live on the ground.


The entire country is up in arms against the Citizen Amendment Act, recently cleared by the two houses of the Indian Parliament. Protests and slogan shouting everywhere. We have witnessed reports of services being disrupted, internet being withdrawn etc on several occasions from other parts of the country, but yesterday it was the capital of India. Parts of the Delhi city had internet, voice and SMS services withdrawn by network providers, on a directive issued by the government. This was a first for us. Access to media thwarted. How can the political capital of the country, the news hub of India, witness such a media blackout at the behest of politicians’ will? Are we assuming that if I’m unable to share my views using social media or develop an opinion based on others’ experiences being posted on media platforms, my voice can be drowned? We all assumed we were living in a fortress, untouched by common man’s woes. But yesterday these assumptions came crumbling down in the face of dissenting voices dissing the arrogant ruling class.


When I left home yesterday morning, it was a regular working day for me. Taking a one-hour cab ride to my office in South Delhi, getting through meetings, meeting deadlines and so on. And then the news alerts started to pour in. One after the other. Roads blocked, police barricades, long winding traffic jams, metro stations being closed down, Section 144 imposed in pockets of Central Delhi. News bits went from bad to worse. I stepped out for a cup of coffee in my lunch break and saw CISF troops being rushed into the metro station nearby (same one I access to travel home daily). And it all came alive. Offices started to close down, parking lots started to clear up, people started to rush back homewards.


As I took the Delhi metro back home (taking the roads was a bad option because of the violence on the streets), I looked around at my fellow commuters. Some were responding to phone calls from worried loved ones. Some were watching the news on their mobiles struggling with the sketchy mobile data. Some were watching right wing videos loudly on their phones, telling others around them that India is a Hindu sovereign. This last set of people actually broke out into shrieks of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” on the train. Some scared travellers looked away. Confused ones simple stared. A third category of people like me, not confused or scared, simple outraged, looked at them in disgust.


A train journey is not the place to voice your opinion in an unruly manner. A train journey at that, where most stations were shut and people couldn’t wilfully deboard at their desired destinations. Also I doubt how much of the so-called ‘Bharatvarsha’ sentiment do these people embrace when it comes to other issues crippling the country.


I for one work towards getting persons with disabilities an equal status as citizens of India. Will the same people stand by me, and fight for rights of this minority section tomorrow? I don’t think so.


Will the same people offer food to the cook, driver or maid working tirelessly for their families? I don’t think so.


When I go to a restaurant in Delhi, I see the same ‘protesting’ lot of people enjoying their dinner and drinks as their children’s nannies look from a distance. The nannies who are feeding their babies are not allowed on the same table, not offered the same food.


I respect equality for everyone. I standby each religious group and their rights. But I also respect other vulnerable groups in their fight for rights. And I practise that respect in my day-to-day actions as much as I would do if I were at Jantar Mantar tomorrow.


Let’s not be hypocrites ourselves when we accuse our leaders of the same. Would the same people hurl stones at the authorities if tomorrow a person with disability seeks equal employment or education rights? Will their children be told not to isolate disabled students in their classroom?


If we talk of an equal India, then I must confess we are so far away from it. So who are we kidding.


Shruti Pushkarna is a former journalist (part of the founding team of MxMIndia). who has now moved full-time to the social sector. She heads operations of New Delhi-based Score Foundation where she works as Director. Her views here are personal. She can be reached via Twitter at @shrutipushkarna


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