A summer of discontent

Whither achche din

Even as an exuberant Bharatiya Janata Party launches celebrations to mark one year of ‘achche din’ under Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, many organisations and civil society groups in the city have come together to strike a dissenting note.

The National Capital is witnessing some comic takes and serious discussions on the so-called successes and failures of the present government and the fallout of some of its important decisions. These protests largely have been organised by NGOs, left-wing activists, citizens collectives and also individuals from the artists’ community.

Ironically, contrary to imagined perceptions of popularity, these closed door protests at Urdu Ghar, Gandhi Peace Foundation and Constitution Club, highlight one thing for sure – they lack momentum. The reason being that they cater to an English-speaking audience which is robustly active on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter et al!

Shabnam Hashmi, sister of the slain activist Safdar Hashmi and founder of SAHMAT, spoke about the signboards with Muslim names which were tarred in Delhi a few weeks back. “Nothing happened to those who did this. They feel free to do something like this and this is the most worrying  thing,” adding, “these protests are taking place in a small room today, but it gives hope that we can come out soon.”

Documentary filmmaker Nakul Singh Sawhney, who produced the stinging Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai, a documentary that brings out the saffron party’s alleged contribution in the riots, also organised an ‘Evening of Protest’ (EoP). Sawhney tells Metrolife, “There are many such protests that we plan to organise in the city.” He lists the next few closed door protests like “Hum Dekhenge”, a protest by “All India Peoples Forum’s (AIPF) Convention: One Year of Modi Govt and Challenges Ahead” and “Remembering Sabeen” etc.

BJP spokesperson, Praveen Shankar Kapoor counters, “BJP is also organising many rallies to spread awareness about its achievements.”

Shrikant Sharma, BJP national secretary tells Metrolife, “BJP has organised around 4,000 rallies around the country to spread the message of ‘Modiji’s achievements’.”

Harish Khurana, BJP spokesperson, handed with a flourish a huge pamphlet to Metrolife listing ‘achievements of Modi government’. The same is being distributed in rallies and speaks in glowing terms about ‘good roads construction’, ‘nuclear power project development’, ‘Land Acquisition Plan for farmers benefit’, etc.

Both the players, the ruling party and the opposition are well aware of their select audience. Where BJP rallies garner thousands at Begumpur and Kanjhawala, the opposers are content with an attendance of 500 people or more.

An EoP on May 23, gave the movement a more satiric and comic turn, by introducing some lesser known faces

from the performing arts, filmmakers, artists, singers and thinkers.
A recent conclave held by The Idea of India Collective and Shrinking Democratic Space (by NGO activists) saw an impressive turnout of eminent thinkers, students, activists and concerned citizens, with Ashok Vajpeyi, Shabnam Hashmi, Ashish Nandy, Anil Choudhury, Priya Pillai and others, speaking on issues such as ‘idea of majoritarian domination’, ‘curbing of democracy’, ‘manipulating art and history’, etc.

An EoP on the other hand brought to the public a more relaxed resistance, talking of serious problems in a more homely way. The event saw acts by Sanjay Rajoura, a stand-up comedian, whose forte is political satire; Malika Taneja, a theatre artiste who came on stage in her undergarments protesting against the politicians who target women for their clothes;

Saiam Hasan who sang Bikhari Thakur and Gorakh Pande’s remix version and similar others.

“I dig the way you sign those MoUs, There’s a gleam in your eye, streaks on your shoes, Of the blood of every adivasi you blew, To bits, like the way you blow, The hills and mountains where they live, I want that gleam too,” a poem read out by well known LGBT activist, Ashley Tellis, to protest against the ruling dispensation’.

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