The recent set of highlighted events blew away the Delhi-based media propagated myth that there’s something called the “national media”, representing concerns and realities beyond NCR. Delhi media spent most of its time and resources informing us about student unrest in Delhi and more recently, water shortage in Delhi. That’s what the billion-plus needed to know. Even an empire that is divorced from people’s realities and imposes its narrative on its far-flung subjects ought to have some sense of proportion and shame.
While guns, boots and steel represent hard dominance, the control of what is purportedly the “national narrative” or “national priority” or “national concern” is a well-oiled tool of soft dominance. Which is why the chemical attack on activist Soni Sori of Chhattisgarh, who has earlier been raped and sexually tortured in khaki custody, makes a feeble blip, that too largely because of the oddity value of her chemical-charred face. The crucial difference between hard and soft dominance is that the latter is sophisticated enough to create poles within their narrative, so as to suck in all kinds of energies along pre-determined lines. It’s a crowd-management technique that gives more options to the victim than what a khaki bullet or a khaki phallus does. This narrative of soft dominance pays tribute to the idea of dissent but also determines the nature and content of dissent and hence its limits. Everything except the content becomes the message. Mini-cottage industries of dissent aesthetics spring up overnight. Social media plays the role of social-ideological billboards where likes and shares are akin to membership renewals and card flashing. This has become a global pattern. In the WikiLeaks expose, the actual contents of the cables got drowned in a sea of representations and misrepresentations of WikiLeaks as an organisation and adulation or hate of Julian Assange. It’s suppression by crowding.
A system that fears human words is aware of its own lies and the falsity of its God. The Indian Union fears words. It has created a system where dissent is only meaningful when it has the Midas touch of Delhi and has gained the attention of Delhi-based gatekeepers of dissent and “radicalism”.
During the fiasco of the last two weeks, the 25th anniversary of the gang-rapes of Kunan-Poshpora went by silently. The gang-rapists of Kunan-Poshpora are doing just fine, living “normal” lives, bringing greater laurels for Bharatmata, some trying “public service”, some of their protectors venturing into “art and culture” of whom some will go on to write books on Kashmiriyat. Kunan-Poshpora is still alive. Not because Delhi cares but in spite of Delhi’s silence and because Kunan-Poshpora didn’t outsource its conscience and struggle to Delhi. When Delhi solidarity gains the upper hand over the actual struggle, cameras seek out artsy sweat, likes replace mikes and most slogans and debates about a brown people’s issue happen in English. This is old-school carrion-feeding.
The recent agitations in Delhi are as always agitations by Delhi. No expansion in the rights of people beyond the pale of Hindi-Hindustan and its capital Delhi has ever come through struggles by Delhi. We know it. Delhi knows it. I still wish Delhi well. But we have to look elsewhere and nearby and around us for inspiration and perspiration. Delhi, for all its self-righteousness over us “regionals” and with its moody earnestness, won’t fight our battles. The fact that solidarity in and from Delhi matters in the “national narrative” is part of the problem and not part of the solution.