During the protests against holding ULB elections earlier this year, leaving aside the rationale of the protest, participation from the masses, whether forced or willing, was intense, and precious lives were lost. Conversely, the current situation of corruption, crumbling infrastructure and rolling blackout have hijacked normal life and reduced it to a bare minimum, yet, it seems not to have irked the public. If not for the patience, complacence and silence of the masses, the streets would have erupted in violence and those responsible at the top would be running helter-skelter for life, which would have been the case anywhere. Remarkably, the present situation has not generated any protest.
The silence of the masses in the current situation may be because the crumbling infrastructure and now the severe electricity crisis has got nothing to do ‘traditional cultural rights,’ or the level of life denied is still very much within tolerable limits. With the onset of the festive season, the masses are swallowed by the hornbill festival fever and various other ‘entertainment’ programmes, but this should have been the golden time to protest and show resentment to the government for making peoples life miserable.
As the year comes to a close, a reflection of the series of events warrants it as a ‘year of discontentment’ testified by the number of protests. But looking at the response of the people and the ‘reasons’ and the nature of protests, it is yet to touch the level of real activism. On the other side of protests, quite a number of RTIs have also been filed in the pursuit of fighting corruption, but because the level of ‘protest’ does not reach the level of activism, it is not bearing the desired results. Else, RTI is a very disturbing tool especially for those who have misused power. As someone aptly put it, “RTI is a tool for the little people to disturb big people.” More RTIs should be filed starting from the petty issues in order to irritate those responsible for creating such a mess and disturb them restlessly through RTI’s that go to the extent of “FILE INSPECTION” to unshackle the skeletons in the closet.
The response to the current situation has been silence rather than activism. And so long as the public remains silent, the government will happily take advantage of the callous attitude of the people. Often helplessness is taken as an excuse and thereby meekly surrenders to the disturbing realities that take away normal life. Moralising does not help push resistance and activism. Rather than moralising our helplessness, we need to assert our rights. The present conditions call for creating narratives that can translate discontentment and protests into a new language of resistance and activism.
In this strain, an urgent need is a unified voice of the people that expresses the language of pain and suffering and of denial of a normal life. This will in turn provide the desired impetus to translate into resistance and activism.
The role of the public as change agents and as resisting forces must come alive to the disturbing realities. The present situation calls the masses to come out of this dead trap of silence and complacency.