Help, My Country Is Burning

I was in 6th standard when I first came across the word ‘Democracy’. I was fascinated upon reading the articles of our nation’s Constitution even though they seemed a little hard to understand at that moment. For me, secularism, liberty, and equality were just a fancy conglomerate of alphabets that held little meaning. I remember hiding my curiosity behind my clueless eyes because I knew if I spoke, it would turn into a matter of ridicule for the whole classroom. I quietly carried the eagerness in my baggage of unanswered questions every time I read about an individual’s fundamental rights or a clause in the Indian Penal Code.

It was later when I grew up that I realized how blinded I had been by innocence. With reluctance, I discerned that everything I read in books was a big fat lie sold by the hypocrisy governing my country; that what I had learned all along only existed in a parallel, non-existent Universe. The bluntness of my reality disappointed me, but at the same time opened my eyes.

Before joining college, I hadn’t even thought of voicing my opinions fearing I wouldn’t stand a chance against the apolitical section of society, whose ignorance speaks of their unjust privilege. I have never understood the reason behind someone choosing to not care about the urgency which surrounds the social, political, and religious dynamics of their country. At last, the magnitude of hatred, violence, and inhumanity that I had witnessed at the start of this year did the bare minimum - it got me to speak up, and I haven’t stopped since then. I started writing because I couldn’t close my eyes.

India is a country of diversity. No single culture, religion or ideology can define it, let alone lead it. Or at least it was. Today, the country screams of injustice meted out to minorities and failure of the Constitution to protect their integrity. The very protectors of this Constitution have become the pillars of everything that threatens the notions of Democracy. So tell me, how do you fight a villain who is a disguised hero?

Help, my country is burning with communalism and fascism. It has almost been seven months since the communication blackout was imposed on Kashmir. Activists have been silenced with thousands of discriminatory arrests and the fear of uncertainty lives inside every resident who wonders if he will be alive to see another sunrise.

The sky mourns the loss of every JNU and Jamia student who lost his life fighting against the prejudiced laws –  The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and The National Register of Citizens (NRC). The blazing blood running in their veins chanting slogans of dissent - “Bol ke lab azaad hen tere” echoed inside the premises of the University which couldn’t save them from the clutches of state violence against minorities. Yet, their tired hands stood rigid holding posters that read ‘Save Democracy’ to show that someone cares. That they care. That the youth will not sit quietly while fascist power structures impose their biased, monarchist propaganda in the name of democracy.

WhatsApp groups were flooded with reports of police brutality against students, colleges stood in unison for the abolishment of the laws, and social media brought out the ugliness of the truth which the press was too afraid to publish. Sadly, it was not enough to stop the demolition of masjids across the city and savagery against the dissenters by the state which succeeded in misusing its power in every way possible.

Safoora Zargar is a 21-week pregnant woman suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Disorder. She was arrested under the Unlawful Acts Prevention Law during the Delhi Riots of 2020. Despite continuous pleadings, the state refused to grant her bail even after knowing that the atmosphere of a prison amidst a global pandemic was not healthy for the mother and child. Why is it that the leaders of the country respect the motherland in the name of ‘Bharat Mata’ but fail to acknowledge the basic human rights of a mother because of her religion? Has the stubbornness and hatred of political structures stooped to this level of inhumanity?

Perhaps, the judiciary is no longer as independent as it claims to be. It was not even about her pregnancy as we discuss further into the matter. It is about the fact that she should not have been arrested, to begin with. As a citizen of this country, she had the fundamental right to express her resistance. Her unlawful arrest was a result of her questioning the Nazi facets and ideologies of the state. She was being punished because she challenged the emergence of dictatorship in a democratic nation. It is not just her, but hundreds of other students who will never be able to have the life they dreamt of just because they voiced their opinion. Article 19 of the Constitution gives every individual the right to freedom of speech and expression without fear. The unjust seizing of silent protestors who were well within their rights explicitly shows how the Constitution has failed to protect their promised fundamental rights.

As the sun sets in the national capital, a Muslim man takes his last breath while returning home to his family. Faizan was proof of how the dominance of Hinduism has swallowed the essence of secularism which our Preamble speaks of in capital letters. Faizan was forced to sing the National Anthem a few seconds before the police took the life out of him. It wasn’t the violence that killed him, it was the failure of the federal system that couldn’t save him.

A 17-year-old Dalit boy was shot dead by four men in UP because he tried to enter a temple. A temple is said to be a home for the homeless, hope for those who are hopeless. A young boy lost his life because of the cast he belonged to.

While we raise our voices against global racism, let’s also speak about local casteism. Fight for your community’s locals because no other country will. Let’s not post about these deaths just today. Let’s remember them every time someone says that privilege does not exist. This outrage must not rest until every Muslim, migrant, and Dalit life becomes as significant as a Hindu life.

Help, my country is burning.