When British PM Theresa May expresses regret over Jallianwala Bagh massacre on the eve of 100th anniversary of the bloodbath, the leader used the occasion to describe the incident as a “shameful scar on British Indian history”.
But for a common man living in India, the mass murder committed by the Britishers during the twentieth century at the Amritsar garden on April 13, 1919, is not just a day to mourn.
As the nation gears up to observe centenary commemoration of the “shameful scar on British Indian history”, we should use this occasion to rethink about how a government should treat citizens, especially those who disagree with its policies and decisions.
The protest, on which Colonel Reginald Dyer had ordered his troops to fire at, is still on. A common man who disagrees with the government is still facing a daunting challenge as to where he could register his protests and be safe. Such people are often mistaken as those who have waged war against the state and its machineries.
Today, we have myriads of platforms where we can raise our voice from—from social media to mainstream one—but our protest and disagreements often put us at risks exactly the way people standing against the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. The situation today is little better than that it was 100 years ago. Because people who don’t like dissenting voices are not just in elected governments, but everywhere.
We have sent spacecrafts to moon, but the problems in Indian society remain primitive. We still are home to one of the largest number of starving children, students who drop out of school and distinction on the basis of caste. If these problems have political solutions, so should be room of those who can criticize and suggest how governments go about it.
We all have a Jallianwala Bagh inside within us that is not allowing us to put up with the wrong policies of the state. And yes, we are at risk of being branded as traitor if we speak otherwise.
But why a ‘dissent voice’ is at risk today? One possible explanation is that we live in a world where disparities exist at every level—from economic to social. The poor have no means to fund their dissent and the ‘socially backward’ class is considered too backward to think or speak about it. This results in a large number of people being left out of the mainstream and they have very little understanding of what is happening around.
Let’s not forget the art of protest even if puts us in danger. The martyrs of Jallinawala Bagh massacre will continue to haunt us if we agree to put up with a despotic government. The true tribute to those people will be out unfailing commitment towards common good and welfare. And to ensure that, lets have the courage to speak the truth—even if it is required against an elected government.
(The author is Editor, Morning India, Ranchi. He can be reached at email@example.com)