The voices that go unheard

Hashmi made news briefly due to the violent nature of his death but do we ever get to hear of a Harvinder Singh Phoolka, a senior advocate of Delhi High Court, human rights activist, and author who has been for over two decades, trying to get some justice for the victims of the 1984 anti Sikh riots?

 Do we hear of Ratan Thiyam, a world renowned playwright, theatre director and the founder-director of ‘Chorus Repertory Theatre’, in Imphal, Manipur? A man who despite living in the heart of virulent and violent darkness and the virtual breakdown of a civil society, has created some of the most powerful anti-war, pro-humanity works ever? Or Neelam Mansingh whose Chandigarh-based theatre company is creating subtle works about empowerment since 1984 in a region where female foeticide is rampant?

TV reportage in the wake of every matter of national importance, be it a child lost in an open drain, Mumbai’s rain-clogged roads or urban terrorists setting fire to the dome of the Taj Mahal hotel, consists of fluffy soundbytes emanating from the likes of Shobha De and assorted celebs who sit among panelists, trying to look serious or angry or sad depending on the occasion.

It was almost comical to see Shobha De repeat her, “I am so angry” verbiage on Times Now in a talkathon which became an authentic tribute to the heroes and victims of 26/11 only when a real victim or a real hero spoke. Mostly however, it was an inanity fest where De had the audacity to ask the NSG chief why during the Mumbai terror attacks, the commandos could not have been airlifted and brought to the sites of terror in helicopters (Because, he explained  patiently, the equipment was too heavy to be loaded on helicopters which in any case cannot take too many men at one time) and why tear gas was not used during the terror operations (Because, he continued to explain patiently, tear gas should not be used in enclosed spaces where it can affect pregnant women, children or civilians with ailments).

Since when did De become an expert in matters of national security? And why is she such an integral voice on news shows? And then there was Anupam Kher who insisted that it was his right to feel angry when it was implied by the brother of the late Sabina Sehgal Saikia that anger is a rather futile emotion. It is a sad comment on our media’s character that more playtime and bandwidth is accorded to people who raise questions and create pointless controversy than to those who provide answers.

What is point of asking people one year post 26/11 if they are angry? Why not ask the survivors and the families of those who died, how they are coping? Why not turn the clock all the way back and find a way to end the ceaseless nights of agony still being endured by the Bhopal gas victims? Why don’t we give some amount of closure and healing to the victims of the 1984 riots in Delhi where the body count touched 4000 and yet justice remains elusive 25 years later? Why not rehabilitate the forgotten Kashmiri pandits and all the victims of assorted riots and train blasts and State apathy and antipathy? We can’t do that, can we?

So much easier to wear make-up and pontificate on national television. We hear you De and we get it that you are angry. So are millions of Indians for a million different reasons. The difference is, they just go about their lives, without making a fuss. Maybe it’s time they spoke out aloud too. Maybe it’s time, they too were heard.  

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