Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Those words are from Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. And they are as relevant for our today as they were when King wrote it, in context of the civil rights movement, in April 1963.
India, today, is caught up in that “inescapable network of mutuality”; we are all in it together, no matter how hard various sections — politicians, pliable media personalities, trolls — try to make this about Muslims, or about a few troublesome students, whatever. And it looks like the message, that this concerns all, has gotten across, as witness the massive turnouts for anti-CAA protests not merely in the metros, but also in the small towns and cities, and even villages, across the country.
I spent a large part of December traveling in Kerala, in Tamil Nadu, in Delhi, and in Bangalore where I now live; I attended protests, hung out with people, engaged in conversations aimed at trying to discover what the common thread was that was bringing people together in numbers that far exceed in size anything I have ever seen before — including at the time of the Emergency, when I was a young student activist.
I wrote two pieces based on my experience. The first, for Rediff, was an impressionistic account of 72 hours spent at various protest sites around New Delhi. The second one, for The Wire, was an attempt to look at how one act of the government triggered a chain reaction that has exposed the multiple fault-lines that till then had lurked just beneath the seemingly placid surface of the country.
I then asked Twitter what I should be writing about next — and the replies serve to illuminate nothing so much as the wide range of questions that people are grappling with.
To write with any clarity, though, you need to start with a clear image in your mind of what is happening, what the implications are, and where all of this is heading to. In these fraught times, that is like being in the midst of a sandstorm and trying to focus on one individual grain of sand.
So I figure on doing it another way. Each day starting tomorrow (I really should have started at least a month ago), I’ll collect and collate the individual dots, the happenings around the country, into a post. And as the dots build up, and begin forming pictures, I’ll write longer pieces about what those pictures are telling us.
I could use some help — it is humanly impossible, given the speed with which events are unfolding, to keep track of everything. So if you see something, read something, hear something you think is worth commenting on, or including in this composite picture, please ping via the comments section.
I’ll leave you with this thought — which in a sense mirrors conclusions I had come to in both my pieces linked above. These are words spoken by Robert F Kennedy, in June 1996, at the University of Cape Town, South Africa; a speech (full text) that has resonated through the ages:
“Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they stand for a tiny ripple of hope and, crossing, each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build the current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and injustice.”
What I hope to chronicle — and occasionally reflect on — in the coming days is the daily manifestations of the “tiny ripple of hope” that, in these fraught times, all of us cling to as to a desperately needed lifeline.
See you here tomorrow.