There was either widespread appreciation and or consternation of the June 28 protests against growing incidents of mob lynching in the country under the banner ‘Not In My Name’.
Within two days of protests, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out strongly against mob lynching during his speech at Sabarmati Ashram saying killing in the name of cow is unacceptable. Whether his intervention was the direct result of the protest cannot be ascertained in absence of authentic information but it could well be so.
There was support or skepticism, faith or doubt, praise or condemnation but the protest in about dozen cities across the country did gain traction in popular mind and found support among in the civil society. It is currently being widely discussed, debated and dissected in social as well as in traditional media.
Participation in protest came from a wide spectrum of society. Artists, actors, professors, media persons, students, homemakers, schoolteachers and many others from different occupations marked their presence to give vent to their fear and frustration at the event in over a dozen cities across the country.
From all accounts and media reports, the movement was spontaneous and was triggered off with a Facebook post of filmmaker and activist Saba Dewan who had condemned the lynching of a 16 year old Muslim boy Junaid in a train near the union capital. While Junaid’s killing was the precipitating factor for the June 27 protests, fear, a feeling of unease and discomfort was present in ordinary minds for quite some time and was stirring the conscience. Incidents of mob lynching have been growing. There have been at least 32 mob attacks on Muslims since the BJP-led NDA government came to power in May 2014. According to a report in a national daily. Cow vigilantism has killed 23 persons since 2014, says another report.
What has added to popular fear are the attacks on Dalits. Suicide by Rohith Vemula, a research scholar at the University of Hyderabad on January 2016, killing of Dalits in Una, Gujarat and killing of Dalits and burning of their houses in Saharanpur in UP after the formation of a BJP government in the state have further amplified concerns and fears.
Civil society, which otherwise remains oblivious of such developments, came out on streets realizing that their passivity may destroy the social peace endangering their existence. It required a trigger and that came from Facebook post.
Artists, actors, filmmakers, media persons, students, homemakers, teachers, political leaders and many others from different occupations came out to participate in protests.
It is but obvious that there are doubts about the movement. There is a suspicion over the sustainability of the movement. Still others are dismissing it as a one- time phenomenon. It is being labelled ‘elitist’ and thus lacking support from the common people and women.
These are genuine and very natural questions. It is right to ask and to find answers.
Use of social media for spreading awareness for a cause, though relatively a recent phenomenon has been successful in last couple of years. Arab spring and movement ‘India against corruption’ led by social activist Anna Hazare, rise of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and rise in popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are some of the important landmarks in the use of social media for building up of a movement or a personality.
To begin with, Saba Dewan’s words offer some clue. She said that June 27 protest was “just a beginning and the movement will only grow bigger”. “I am very certain that like me, others too feel that it has to be carried forward”.
A straight answer to the charge of being an elitist movement, it is very clear that all movements in the past without exception have been elite-led. Elite have played a decisive role in shaping of the French and Russian revolutions or country’s freedom struggle.
Possibly all political thought, political movements and political parties across the world and not only in India have evolved, taken shape and implemented by elitist of their times. In case of India, not only the Congress but also all political parties including the Left and the BJP have had leaders from the elite class.
Even the ultra-left outfits and parties like the Maoist or Naxals have elite in their top leadership structures so it is very naïve and childish to call June 28 protest an elitist movement. It is ignorance or a design to run down the movement. The movement has come under yet another criticism.
A section, active on the social media, has been campaigning against the ‘Not In My Name’ movement saying that it is entirely Muslim centric accusing all those present at protest meetings of ignoring or not protesting at killings of others like the Dalits or other religious denominations.
Such a charge or accusation are baseless and without any foundations because a close scrutiny of criminal incidents of last three years reveals that indignation was loud and protests took place though possibly not on such a scale. Those who are against the movement must pause and think that it takes time for anger, indignation and revulsion to find expression in an organized form.
Notwithstanding the opposition from some quarters, there is a groundswell of support for this kind of intervention as tot of participant are keen on a longer engagement. They want to see an enduring movement that is not only self-sustaining but also has the inbuilt dynamics to meet the coming challenges. (Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation) [IFS]