Common Men

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Activism, Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life)

All ‘politically excited’ people were silent!!! No one spoke. No earth shattering discussion was held for days together…

A “physically challenged” Dalit girl, Suman, 18, and her 70-year-old father, Tara Chand, were killed as a mob set afire over 15 houses belonging to members of the Dalit community in Mirchpur village of Haryana’s Hisar district on Wednesday.

Couple of weeks ago on facebook a mega discussion/ debate took place on the killing of CRPF members by the Maoists. All kind of questions- ethical, moral, ideological, political, social, economical were raised, answered, challenged, defended. But when two lives were burnt to death there was silence. Was it because the lives lost were just two in relation to the lives lost in the Maoist attack being 76? Or was it because the two were Dalits? Or even the more tragically was it because the two burnt alive had no aura as they were just common men? The last guess seem more convincing to me…

I have reason to believe so. The people who were condemning and demanding condemnation of the maoist killing of 76 CRPF members were also silent when countless tribal population was killed and when numerous Maoists were hunted and killed. Were they not lives like that of the CRPF members? But why did these people condemn only the killing of CRPF jawans?

Before proceeding let me accept that the killing of CRPF jawans has to be condemned because it was violent. Let us condemn it and also condemn the Government, which in the words of Arundhati Roy, has pushed the poor to battle against the poor. The CRPF jawans were also innocent lives. What did they have to do with the operation green hunt? They were in the army for their daily bread and went to hunt not because they wanted to hunt but were made to hunt by the ones from whom they earn their daily bread. Their lives were also important lives. When the bell tolled on April 6, it also tolled for us. Yes, it did. So we all condemned the killing but extended the condemnation to debates asking who in reality killed them? The Maoists or the Government?

But allegations were made on many like me saying we condemn only the atrocities of the state and not the Maoist violence. Some of us also faced questions like “Are you and Indian?” for criticizing the state while trying to understand the root cause for the raise in Maoism, while condemning it.

For the sake of argument let me say i am biased and had no sympathy for the CRPF jawans who were killed. The people who were raising several questions valued human life more, is it? If yes, why did we not get to hear any condemnation on the killing of two Dalits in Hissar?

Moving away from these people who, in their bashing of Maoists also attacked us and our stand, let us speak in general. It is seen often that we never shed tears for the killings of common men. But when a solider is killed in the border or an army fellow is killed in the forest while hunting a Maoist, the hearts of millions melt and they shed tears of blood. Why so? Is it because the lives of soldiers and army people is attached to the grand idea of Nation? Does that make their lives more valuable?

When a Suman is burnt to death along with her father Tara Chand, nobody speaks about it leave apart condemning it. Just because they have no designation attached to their name which will make us feel proud of them? A designation which will make them appear like martyrs and selfless fighters?

Should Azmal Kasab be hanged or not, we discuss and debate. Should Afzal Guru be hanged or not we discuss and debate. But no discussion takes place whether the accused of Khairlanji issue and similar issues is not discussed or debated. Is this our respect for common men like us? Does it require one to be more common than a common man to make his death/ killing of some importance and be condemned? Common lives have no value, is it?

When the infamous Amnesia pub attack takes place in Mangalore it catches the attention of national media. Similarly when the daughter of an MLA is kidnapped in moral policing it becomes a news. But when very common men like Haajabba and Hasanabba are stripped off completely and chased in front of a crowd of 300 in broad day light, no media speaks of it. Most of the moral policing incidents in and around Mangalore are not spoken by the media. Why did the Amnesia pub and the MLA daughter get coverage unlike the several incidents including common men with no fame, class and designation attached?

To take this very discussion to another level, do we condemn the killing of Suman and Tara Chand so strongly because they are Dalits? Or should we be condemning it also when we leave apart their Dalit identity? Life is life and the cutting short of any life needs to be condemned. But why is that the loss of common lives do not move us? Why dont we condemn that? Why dont we write about them?

Even when my senior friend Harsh Mander speaks about common lives in his book Unheard Voices he choses those lives which are attached to tragedies or incidences which have some social, political significance. Their lives become important and noticed because of the issue that passes through their lives. Cant we just write about common men who have lived lives in the most common way with no designation attached with no class, no fame and no issue of social political significance cutting through their lives?

23 April 2010

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