It was all over in a matter of seconds. The chilling moment when the farmers realise that a jeep at full speed is going to take them down is searing. Nor is the image of an old farmer flung on the bonnet of the hurtling vehicle something that can easily be wiped away.
As bodies fall on the side, the video also shows how more SUVs in the cavalcade- equally in a hurry, follow behind disdainfully ignoring the bodies that have fallen on the sides of the dusty track.
Yet, in a country with a lost soul, a man with a superstar actor father is arrested faster for a drug bust of 13 grams of cocaine than an FIR filed against Ashish Mishra, the son of a minister who eyewitnesses say was behind the wheel that killed 4 farmers.
It has been more than 24 hours since the tragic news in the Uttar Pradesh district of Lakhimpur Kheri broke, but he has still not been arrested and his father Ajay Mishra, the Minister of State for Home- who is seen in another video instigating violence against the farmers continues to keep his post. Some have always been more equal than others, but life was never cheaper in our country.
Instead in a hark back to how things unfolded in Kashmir in a not too distant past and fused with more than a hint of a universal new normal, internet was shut down and protesting opposition leaders like Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav taken into custody. Priyanka told NDTV that she was pushed and manhandled, and no papers were shown.
In Uttar Pradesh law has often taken the government’s course, whether it is cremating a gang rape victim without the family’s consent in the darkness of the night or stopping hospitals from releasing Covid-19 positive reports because image has never mattered as much as it has in the last few years.
Not just in UP, there is an aversion to news- reality that depicts India floundering. But people did die because of oxygen shortage, bodies did float in the Ganga and farmers have been ploughed down in Lakhimpur Kheri.
But you don’t need to read between the lines to know that this kind of violence has been knocking on the doors for a while, its forceful intent finally giving way.
Barely 48 hours earlier, Haryana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar asked a thousand people to pick up sticks and answer the “furious farmers.” Weeks before that another Haryana official was seen ordering the police to “break the head of the protesters.”
They say what they say with impunity because if politicians can shout “goli maro” and be rewarded with plum posts, then what stops another man from brandishing a pistol or driving an SUV through a crowd of humanity? For a moment forget politics, as citizens and people, is this our endgame?
Contrary to recent popular social media opinion, our ethos did not die because a young man was arrested in a drug bust, instead we squandered it seven years ago, only now our fall is complete. The twitter trends on Gandhi Jayanti celebrated his killer, this is how far we have allowed ourselves to be played.
The silence speaks a thousand words especially when tweets on ice-cream flooded our timelines earlier. But it isn’t surprising, there has always been a pattern, dialogue and talks is seen as something only the weak engage in. Adityanath has also been quiet over the violence in his state but eight people including a journalist have died and all culprits need to be punished.
All our collective good
For that matter, how often have you even heard Women and Child Development minister Smriti Irani speak about crimes against girls? ‘For the people’ is now buried deep in our constitution, someday for all our collective good it will find the light again.
Gandhi once said, “I understand democracy as something that gives the weak the same chance as the strong.” Yogi reminds us again and again that he listens to no one. Mowing down people, arresting leaders for protesting, refusing to let chief ministers land or leave- is this how a democracy works?
Dissent and protest- whether by the ordinary people, journalists like Siddique Kappan or opposition parties have the same reaction- jail. It is no longer our fundamental right- you are either with ‘them’ or antinational.
A majority, of the media meanwhile continues to speak and spin. In the recent years, they have done more damage to the fabric of the country than those they blindly defend and in the last couple of days their master’s voice couldn’t have been more, shrill.
How do you deflect and distract from news of people being mowed down in broad daylight? They did, replacing it with a parallel narrative that continues to have many takers, some naive some aspirational. If this was Salman Khan, their media trial would have hanged him by now. But a slip is always a truth away and a channel did disclose its political sources on air.
In the meantime, the Khalistan angle is naturally being flogged because from Rhea Chakraborty to ‘Khan Market gang’ there is always a fall guy. Attorney General for the centre K K Venugopal though has his own take. He says there should be no further protests by the farmers to prevent incidents like Lakhimpur. May as well keep the girls home so that there are no crimes against them!
Farmers have been protesting for a year against three laws that were rammed through Parliament, they maintain that the market friendly move will take them out of business and want them scrapped.
Questions are being asked on whether these events will be a turning point in UP where elections are barely four months away, but will it be a four- months too many? Will it be different this time?