Do you sometimes feel insecure about your right to disagree over things that may or may not matter to you? You & I are probably on the same boat, living through this nationalist streak of havoc that has hit us in recent times. And I’m not even an active part of this ‘agenda of dissent’, merely an irrelevant spectator who feels vulnerable sometimes, thinking about all the things that mattered when the world was younger and less charged up.

On a scale of political awareness (1-10), I’d rate myself at a solid five, or maybe a meagre six, depending on what day of the week it is. Since that massive fiasco over who-should-vote-for-whom in Delhi, I (and a few of my friends) have chosen to distance myself/ourselves from any political commentary. For the lack of a better word, let’s just say we think we’re simply too naive to make a statement that goes against a million personal sentiments and then back it up all the way through. (Sorry Arvind!)

But that in no way implies that we’re sitting ducks in an atmosphere where any opinion, expressed as thought, text or video, against the ‘order’ or the ‘establishment’ is not just looked down upon, but ‘treated’ with violence. In my recent spree of content consumption, I came across this video by Mr Varun Grover (An excellent stand-up comic and satirist) about how his comedy hasn’t changed over the last eleven years, but people have started perceiving his acts as ‘rebellious’ and ‘overtly brave’ since 2014. He makes an excellent point about the world suddenly becoming acutely aware and uncomfortable about this ‘voice of dissent’, even though there hasn’t been any legal amendments to make this implicit.

My favorite ‘Right To Disagree’ video; featuring Varun Grover


And yet, just when I had started hoping that all is not lost, that my right to disagree with things that don’t make sense to me, is still somehow secure and pristine, thanks to the minuscule-yet-powerful chamber of dissent, I found an instance where former cricketer Virender Sehwag and actor Randeep Hooda (two people whom I respect immensely for contributions in their own professional domains) openly mocked Gurmehar, about a video that she had posted. And then the entire issue erupted.

So, why is this weird to me?

  1. I have been told that I’m a genetic communist. Over tales that have carried through generations, my uncles and aunts have narrated instances of my grandfather’s communist glory, in the early days of post-partition Bengal. And although I might not agree with every principle of communism, I’m inclined to trust that the whole ‘live equally’ bit isn’t as far fetched as the gory arms of nationalism would have us believe. What, for example, is fundamentally wrong about people of all genders, races, ethnicities and religious belief systems living together in harmony, as equals? Sure, it prohibits the construction of billion-dollar homes such as this. But it fosters hope in the idea that humanity strives to co-exist, after all. And in this make-believe communist utopia that I someday aspire to live in, everybody has the right to say something.
  2. I think there’s something inherently wrong with the notion that most people are trying to establish, which is on the lines of ‘one truth’. I chanced upon this article on The Wire, which has embedded a live audio recording of an ABVP supporter clearly saying ‘Give us 5 minutes and we will teach them (Ramjas Students) to forget the word freedom.
Right To Disagree AlphaDigest Shomprakash Sinha Roy
The ABVP supporter (second from the left) stood talking to unidentified individuals for several minutes. Credit: Vikas Lather/TheWire.in

 

I think I’m a lot more enraged and saddened by the fact that this ideology is being driven by a group of socially awkward students, with little or no access to any form of liberating social interaction or literature or content that can alleviate them from their current perception of society. As far as the aforementioned ‘right to disagree’ is concerned, people like him are absolutely convinced that there can be only one correct opinion, and that anybody who speaks up against them, must be punished.

The irony is, that the way the ‘establishment’ functions, people like him aren’t subjected to scrutiny or charges of sedition. And if you think about it, people like him are the kind of guys who find it easy to stare at scantily clad women and then comment on how they’re not ‘supposed’ to wear anti-India clothes. I mean, in a nutshell it just appears to be a baboon who has been allowed to speak up on matters that affect everybody but him, with ideas that nobody else believes but him, and he has been given a stick to propagate his theories, with the authorities acting out against everybody but him.

Here’s what I’m proposing, people – When I see someone getting beaten up on the street for no fault of theirs, or a woman getting harassed because of what she said, or wore, or tweeted, I need the right to disagree with your actions! I need to know that it is okay, as a citizen of this once-great nation (no pun intended), to feel as humans should feel, and to behave as humans should behave. Otherwise, I’m just Winston from 1984 and you’re the thought police.

Author’s note: I’m okay with the risk of adding that last line as a joke, because I’m fairly certain that the only people who’ll get it, are already on my side.

Do you harbor similar feelings? Let me know in comments.

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