As a journalist, somewhat activist, social crusader and human rights supporter, I am shaking at the brutal killing of Gauri Lankesh. Murdered in cold blood. At her doorstep. Only because she believed in right and wrong? Because she fought for justice? Because she opposed fundamentalist politics? Years ago, the journalist who exposed Ram Rahim was also killed. Is this the future of journalism in a predominantly Hindu country? This is not what Hindu scriptures meant by tolerance. Rabindranath Tagore has said, “Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hands with a grip that kills it.” This is India today. Lankesh was killed because she took a stand against intolerance.
Why? Don’t we have freedom of speech? Isn’t India azaad? “Freedom lies in being bold,” according to one my favourite poets, Robert Frost. Why shouldn’t we voice how we feel? Why shouldn’t we be bold?
In fact, freedom is being eroded everywhere. In the US, we have a man who is constantly deriding the press. He only praises Television channels such as Fox that does not criticize him or publications like Breitbart news that is openly supportive of alt-right views. The fear of losing our freedom is real. Bit by bit. Margaret Atwood wrote a book, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, almost twenty years ago. At the time, I thought it was like science fiction. Too futuristic. I read it recently and a chill went down my spine. It is totally plausible in today’s world.
The world is regressing. We talk about ‘pralay’ in Hinduism. It’s staring at us in the face. If it were up to Trump and North Korea’s maniac leader, Kim, a nuclear war is imminent. How easy it is for these leaders to make radical statements. Do they realize the impact of their words? Or their silence for that matter? Like Modi, Trump tweets regularly. But the tweets dry up if it means taking a stand against base support.
Currently in the US we have the DACA concundrum. Deferred action for childhood arrivals was meant to protect children who arrived into the US as young immigrants. They are referred to as The Dreamers. Obama tried to ensure they would not be deported. But Trump won on the premise of throwing out all illegal immigrants. Caught in the crossfire are 800,000 children who came to this country as innocent bystanders. 6000 of these dreamers include Indian Americans. The dreamers have been told they need to pack up and go back to their countries. As far as these ‘kids’ are concerned, the only country they know is America.
Every day, I decide I need to retract from this world and start living in my own ‘Monika bubble.’ But in this world of super connectivity, it’s not possible. I am a social media junkie. All through the night, the world is hard at work making sure, when I wake up in the morning, I do not miss out on the latest news, views and jokes. My Whats app messages and Facebook feed ensures I am up to date with whatever is taking place in the world. I am insatiable too and spend a long time during my immediate waking hours and then before going to bed, diligently updating my page with the latest breaking news. After all, how can I not share my views and thoughts on the world this minute? And so the cycle goes on…..
As a devourer of news, I am constantly surfing television channels. If you are in the US, you will feel the only thing that matters are hurricanes, North Korea and Daca. I switch to BBC to ensure myself there is a ‘rest of the world.’ A world where ‘Rohingyas’ are fleeing their country because of persecution. Where a Kenyan court has just passed a landmark judgement. Where McDonalds has rendered 10,000 people unemployed. Where the Cambridges are expecting a third child. Thank goodness there is some positive news though Kate may not agree, given her bouts of morning sickness.
A different kind of leader in India is trying to spread hope. Rally for rivers; a nationwide call to revive rivers is being spear headed by Sadguru Vasudev. The maverick guru is one of the few gurus who speaks the language of logic. The call for action entails making a missed call to 80009 80009. Simple, effective and admirable.
Admirable is one of America’s most revered Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who once said, “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”
I wonder how many of today’s world leaders deserve their freedom.
#The views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them