Not In My Name: There's no shame in refusing to remain silent

Until the protest, it felt as though people were convinced they could do nothing to stop 'fringe elements' from being murderers.

 |  4-minute read |   30-06-2017
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For days, we scrolled down our Facebook feed only to fleetingly encounter daily reports on killings and, at some point, even trained ourselves to skim through if not altogether skip the stories which have rather dangerously become the norm.

They were normalised to such an extent that the stories had left us comfortably numb. To the point that the names of the forgotten were being replaced by "newer" victims of lynch mobs in our memory (or became referential) .

The only view that resonated with a majority of people, whose political views are largely informed by Whatsapp propaganda and TV news, was: "What about Hindus of Kerela?"

Here, we can observe how apathy works as a political tactic of the State, by further alienating those it wishes to always keep excluded - by rendering the loss of their lives not worth grief, with shameless whataboutery!

They call it "mob lynching" because "murder" fails to grasp the deep-seated anger, hatred, against the "enemy" and even exonerates all individuals carrying out the murder as it was no one's will but everyone's - thus not attributing intentionality to the crime.

The "enemy", who is at once dehumanised and humanised as a physical form of evil. The person being attacked and the person(s) attacking look alike, they identify with one another at the level of humanness but at once hate this very similarity with the "other".

citizens-ap_063017060313.jpgWe saw that despite our utterances, neither the presence of a language nor its absence could erase our culpability as a people. Photo: AP

"We are nothing like them" is the underlying impulse that forces us into a continuous psychic debate with the other in order to mark our own identity vis a vis that of "anti-nationals", "Muslim", "traitors", "Dalit", "Black", et al.

Those bodies that are erased by marked brutality are also the bodies on which the lynch mobs attempt to (re-)write their own history - with vengeance.

In moments of mass-violence, where notions of civility and humanity are ruptured and overpowered by a sense of satisfaction in the physical extermination of the other.

Here, we can see that the project of civilisation is never complete, and we remain bodily remainders of this failed project, exceeding the process of normalisation of the discursive structures.

Anyone of us - especially those belonging to marginalised communities - is a potential subject of the lynching. Even so, every one of us has the potential of becoming a part part of the lynch mob. For the impulse behind killing someone publicly, and taking turns in the act, is hardly an attack directed only against the individual.

The violence is directed against a body that is dissolved by ideas - our own projections and representations of the "enemy" - and a human face which is effaced of everything "human".

If all of us are entrusted with the "moral responsibility" of delivering "justice" to our communities - by invoking notions of patriotism, religiosity, race, caste - even when the very "act" of killing exceeds the limits of law, perpetrators of the crime believe it is well within the "Right" of the law.

Until #NotInMyName happened, there was a tragic silence which was all-pervasive, as though people were convinced that they could simply do nothing to stop "fringe elements of society" from being murderers.

At the risk of sounding "political" or seeming "communal", people abstained from "undue" emphasis on "isolated/sporadic" outbursts of violence. Fascism was dislocated as a pathological condition with no cure.

We suffered in silence twice. Once, under wilful blindness, that urged us to force a false equivalence between those bodies wiped off by murders induced by fear and anxiety of the "enemies-within" with those fighting "the enemy-outside" at the borders.

And then they ask, "Does your heart bleed as much for the Army, Peacenik?" deliberately diluting the precariousness of lives, which are necessarily differentially allocated to Indians along caste, class, gender and racial lines.

We suffered in silence, again, in our lack of finding the appropriate words to capture our amorphous suffering, knowing well deep within us that we, by accident of birth, may be able to escape a similar violent fate.

We have carefully tried to evade entering a discourse where one's actions may be seen merely as a fugitive activity carried out by a cohort of like-minded people.

Precisely in that moment we saw that despite our utterances, neither the presence of a language nor its absence could erase our culpability as a people. We saw Not In My Name.

Even as we carried the grim reminders of history on our faces. Even as some of us weren't sure if the name and form of registering resistance captured the systemic injustices without self-abdication.

We understood that there was an urgent need to shake out of defeatism to gather and appear in a concerted effort, while and through mourning.

The limits of the word and the unspeakable constituted this space for collective action. Our own complicity in (su)staining a systemic violence beckoned a mass demonstration, to stage our collective anguish and public expression of anger.

As some of us continued with the semantic wrestling and linguistic atheleticism, dodging the banal apprehensions of "cocktail-activism" at the visibly carnivalesque (not any less political) assembly, the splashing rain observed bodies in alliance, tucked together under a leaky-tarpaulin - in all our names.

Also read - Not In My Name: Notes from a protest

Writer

Avantika Tewari Avantika Tewari @avantikatewari

I like movies, books, people (in that order).

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