I am terribly disappointed with the political slant attributed by the government to a satyagraha of the the artists, poets, writers, scientists and historians against intolerance. I thought the government would rather reinforce with full vigour that physical violence can never be an answer to a contrary opinion.
Actors, writers, poets, historians and scientists are intellectuals, therefore their protests have always been symbolic. Expression of a sense of fear or insecurity is the mildest form of protest. Return of the awards is a time honoured tradition. Even Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood. All that the artists and writers have, is an opinion. If someone tries to take away their right to express their opinion, they would be as good as dead.
Awards are a result of their lifelong yearning, sweat and tears. They are dearer to these creative, sensitive humans than their own children. Instead of understanding the pain and anguish of this intellectual class, the government chose to give it a political twist. Why do we look for a slant everywhere? Do we not know that there is always a tipping point. Why are we asking ‘why now?’ After all, every idea has a time. Why did lakhs of people join a protest for Nirbhaya even when a woman is raped every hour and no one cares. Was that not a tipping point?
Dadri proved to be a warning to everyone with an opinion. It spread a message like wild fire that you can be safe only if you do not express a contrary opinion. It created an impression that if they kept quiet, they would be contributing to the un-making of India. What can the writers do? They can only protest with a pen. All that actors can do is to speak up. They have no guns.
I am glad that the Bihar Assembly elections have cleared the clouds that had gathered on the idea of India. People resoundingly voted for freedom; for debate; for diversity; for tolerance. They voted for the idea of Mahatma Gandhi and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. They have re-asserted the constitutional pledge of the freedom of religion.
I beg of this government not to write off the intellectuals. They are pride of the nation and have done yeoman’s service to the making of India. Please talk to them, engage them, understand them and for God’s sake don’t abuse them with the judgement of manufactured protest.
The author is a Supreme Court advocate. Views expressed are personal.