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Resist, Fight Back, The Darkness Will Lift

‘Today, tomorrow and every day, look around you, begin small, resist the hate and propaganda in every way you can.’
Resist, Fight Back, The Darkness Will Lift

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

This is a message of hope which a journalist and media teacher based in Bombay, Smruti Koppikar, wrote to her students as they turned despondent and apprehensive with the election results. The post has travelled widely on social media networks. We publish a lightly edited version with the permission of the writer.

On this bright May day, night has fallen for many of us. The night seems the darkest and longest in a long time.

But every night has a dawn like every tunnel has a light at the end of it. This one does too.

It must have been just as dark when Jallianwala Bagh massacre happened, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms and Rowlatt Act followed. Then, back in 1921-22, lakhs of Indians found the motivation to be part of the Non-Cooperation Movement.

They fought back.

It must have been just as dark in 1928-30 when Babasaheb Ambedkar forged new paths and fought with his back to the wall. He fought not just the British but India's entrenched caste and class elite too. And took on Gandhi.

He fought back.

It must have been just as dark in 1947-48 when lakhs of families were torn asunder, women raped and men murdered,when a man who had never set foot here was tasked to divide up this land. The Partition refugees rebuilt their lives. 

They fought back.

It must have been as dark on June 26, 1975 and for months after. The Constitution of India -- which should be the only book we should ever swear by -- was suspended, thrown away by a Prime Minister. Many sided with the democratic-turned-authoritarian regime.

But others fought back, students courted jail, activists turned political, the Emergency was beaten back. The Constitution of India was restored.

It looked just as dark through that horrible Rath Yatra with its despicable language, anti-Muslim rhetoric and trail of blood.

It was among my first major news assignments. It was terrible to see a "tall" leader shred ‘secularism’ enshrined in the Constitution thus.

People resisted in village after village, hiding away Muslims, holding on till the Rath was stopped by another leader.

It was very dark indeed on December 6, 1992 and for nearly six weeks after that in Bombay. Hate and bigotry tore the city apart like never before.

In that mayhem too, many resisted and other fought back on the streets, in courts, in the media.

That fight is not yet done

If all those Indians, average people like you and me, could resist and fight back darkness and hate in their own ways, in multitude of ways, against forces that were equally or more vicious than the ones that loom on our horizon, there's no reason we cannot.

The middle ground has shifted but those millions of Indians did not cave in to majoritarianism, to hate, to bigotry overnight or in this election only.

It was by design, it happened over years, even decades. It was part of an unfinished project, itisthe unfinished project.

It happened person by person, family by family, classroom after classroom, WhatsApp group by WhatsApp group, housing society after another, so on.

These are where we need to resist and fight back the hate, the majoritarianism, the othering, the propaganda.

First up, let's arm ourselves with information and fight back the propaganda in our families, in our kids’ schools, in gated communities, in buses and trains and cabs.

I’ll speak up even if I’m the only one. One voice is better than none. Will you?Where?How often? Will you do it for a year at least? For two, five?

Second, the resistance and fight back is happening. After every lynching, many stood up to condemn, they may not have stopped the next horrific incident, but they did not let it go uncontested. Find out who is fighting hate and autocracy around you. Who are these bravehearts, who resist, which groups?

Then, think of how you can strengthen them, add to their muscle and voice. Do it.

Third, hopefully you are sick in the stomach with the hate language and lynching videos but cannot sign a protest note or stand with a banner, hopefully you haven't forwarded them to others. Maybe you have some money to spare.

Speak with it. send some to people and organisations that have taken on the hate brigade, fund their activities. Funds cannot replace people but can help others resist and fight back. 

Four, since so many of us here are in the media, let’s remind ourselves that independent journalism is hugely important to beat back the propaganda. Are you still subscribing to news media which is sold out to the hate brigade, parrots its propaganda, and refuses to hold power to account? Why?

Instead, look for independent journalism organisations to support. Subscribe to them, donate to them…. The need is even greater in non-English languages.

Five, and this can be fun too, if you are willing to spare the time and mind space, become part of WhatsApp groups that specifically promote the hate ideology and the bigotry every single morning, the ones that push BJP and Modi into people's consciousness all the time. Why?

Because you can counter the anti-minority hate and propaganda there. Because it's not enough to speak in your own echo chambers. Because those other echo chambers have to be breached too.

Six, read Savarkar and Golwalkar if you haven't yet. Re-read them now, for what we see unfolding is their idea of Bharatvarsh. Read them so you know first-hand, read so you know where the ideology was borrowed from, read so you can make sense of the design around you.

Read or re-read Nazi history, the history of Germany through the 1930s, how Hitler came to be and how propaganda worked.

Then, also read Elie Wiesel, Oskar Schindler and others. Take heart, learn how they found their way in the darkness, how they resisted.

Seven, write back to so-called free and fair media to protest the cheer-leading of one party and one man (or two men). Demand that they give fair space and time across the board. Write to media regulators like NBSA (National Broadcasting Standards Authority) if you believe that a channel had been biased and doing propaganda work. Write to the Press Council for what it’s worth and send it clippings from newspapers. Their emails are available.

Eight, those of us who have the privilege of name and religion of birth, must now go out on a limb to provide some shelter -- figuratively or literally -- to all minorities under attack, Muslims and Christians and dalits around us

Call someone you know who’s apprehensive today as the juggernaut rolls on, reassure them that this too shall pass and you will stand by them, with them. If they are threatened, you go to the police station with or without them.

Tell people who deride liberals and progressives to take their bile elsewhere.

When they came for another word --secularism, many of us stayed silent thinking we can recapture it and it’s meaning at some point. We haven’t been able to.

Don’t let that happen to liberals. Make T-shirts. Write poems. Do graffiti about it. Be proud to be secular and liberal. These are values and words worth spreading and passing on to children.

Draw a distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva which is a political project.

Don’t be ashamed of your Hindu-ness because a few malevolent men have twisted it to suit their agenda. Reclaim it.

Remember, Mahatma Gandhi was a devout Hindu. Assassinated by a Hindutvawadi.

If you prefer Ambedkar who turned his back on Hinduism, remember his writings stand in the way of Hindu Rashtra too.

Take back the saffron. It was meant for the pious, not for terror-accused.

It’s our flag colour. The saffron band there stands for strength and courage, not the RSS!

The lowest of the low today is that the hate-propaganda got more votes than it did five years ago and that a terror-accused will now sit in Parliament….This can’t happen in India, it can't be true but it is. I have to resist this.

The Constitution is still with me. It’s as much yours Lubaina, Afreen and others who feel down as it’s mine. It's as sacred as it was. So long as it stands as the abiding document of this nation, so long as we are willing to come on the streets if need be to protect it, India will live and not turn into a Hindu Rashtra.

Are you willing to do what it takes to protect it beyond hoisting the flag once or twice a year and standing up for the national anthem? Will you join a solidarity march if there is one in your city? Will you read the Constitution once?

The Congress cannot protect it alone or speak for minorities or take on the Hindu Rashtrawadis even if it wanted to. It’s not the organisation it used to be or needs to be. This fight is mine and yours too.

Don’t look for electoral solutions today, right now. That moment should come five years from now.

Would you have done your bit between now and then?  Would you have resisted and fought back the forces that play on our fault-lines, cleaving India and setting up Indians against Indians? Would you have fought for the idea of inclusive and liberal India till then?

Today, tomorrow and every day, look around you, begin small, resist the hate and propaganda in every way you can.

Darkness has to lift. Keep the faith that it will -- if we make it happen.

In solidarity.

Smruti Koppikar, Mumbai-based senior journalist and media teacher, has written on politics, gender, development and cities for leading national publications. The views are personal.

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