The poor aren’t effigies for your protest

assam nrc protest

The voices rising from all the corners of Assam against the Citizenship Amendment Act (Bill) has divided Assam into two sects- one, which is pro-bill or honors the stand of the government in implementing it, and the other, those who are with the populist voice fighting the establishment. But, is it so? I tend to disagree. For me, both the parties are the symbols of authority and power. The first, serving their right wing, capitalist Hindutva agenda, and the second, feeding to their old characteristic of pleasing the middle class, and sparking a set of ethno-nationalist sentiments.

There have been enough things written on the islamophobic nature of the government, so let’s talkabout the protestors this time.  The protestors, with their colossal number are no less than authority. A wand of power is in their hands as well.The power of the public.The power of majoritarianism, which indeed is a decisive force in a democracy. In my opinion, where there is an imbalance of power, there is a sense of authority. And, in the case of Assam, there certainly is.

So, what brings me to this conclusion?

The primary feature, to my eyes, that signifies the protest this time is fire. The roads were burning, so were the small streets and pathways. People surrounded the fire, chanting slogans- hailing mother Assam, and condemning the Bill. That’s kind of normal for a protest in India, isn’t it? Well, what was more important was from where the fuel came. The regretting part was-the fuel was extracted from the livelihood of the poor people. Carts, rickshaws, cycles, caricature of roadside stalls, all were hurled into the fire for it to ablaze, leave aside the public vehicles, and private ones.And, these people- belonging below the poverty line, or just an inch above it is the third category posing in opposition to both the authoritative categories above. These are the people who don’t possess any savings, and go out to work regularly in order to feed themselves. By burning their only possession, their basic infrastructure of earning, have the protestors not done what the authority was doing to them? Have they not made the laboring class handicapped? The government dismantled their livelihood by imposing curfew, and thus, preventing them from working, and earning their day-living. However, the protestors gave them vacation by burning their only asset, so that even if the curfew was lifted, they couldn’t work for many months to come, as to buy another of those means, they might have to save for months considering their wages. To add, now they have to find a job to save.

While the imposition of military rule by the government resulted in a deteriorating health of economy as the basic goods had high demand and less supply, which led to the upsurge in the market price, making the poor and lower middle class people incapable of affording a proper meal. Also, it brought the work cycle into stagnancy. Their perception of defense is making the people die of starvation. This is the very capitalistic mentality that people were fighting against. The government doesn’t care about the people without power, and somehow, the protestors did the same to the poor class. More than understanding the technicalities of the Act (Bill), for that man what is important is to pull his rickshaw, sit on his footpath stall, and do day-labor, as his family might be waiting for him to bring them some food. Also, he is not educated. Our democracy isn’t fair. Not all here gets an equal opportunity to study. Education is expensive. So, how can you expect him to shut off his work, and starve for something he has no clue about?Everybody can’t afford an android to internet, or pay for cable operators. Privilege should never become pride. But, sadly it has. Have you ever thought of their problems? How will they survive with no income, and high prices of basic food items? Is it wrong to choose their hunger over a bill they are alien to? Is it wrong to try to survive with the very least means they are exposed to? When has snatching the right to live with dignity become so cheap that you can burn them on streets?

While protesting, one must know, there is a difference between hooliganism, and revolutionary protest. Hooliganism tries to suppress the voices of the economically, politically and socially inferior, whereas revolution tries to uphold their voices. Which Assam are the masses trying to protect? The Assam dominated by the upper and middle class, tormenting the economically lower class. Or, do mob, with their heart, believe in an equal Assam for all? The establishment fortified their power by blocking the access of internet, and the middle class fortified theirs by destroying the living of the weak, oppressed voices. By the way, how can the protestors expect democracy when their actions are totalitarian and barbaric to a class of people?

Nevertheless, why should the people care? History will never register their problems, and hold the middle class accountable for it. They will die like they are living- unconsidered. And, like always, an invisible third party element will be blamed, who will never be held accountable for their deeds.

Sutputra Radheye is a poet and commentator who delve into the themes affecting the socio-eco-political scenario. His works have been published in prestigious platforms like ‘Frontier’, ‘Countercurrents’, ‘Janata Weekly’, ‘Culture Matters’ (UK), and many more throughout the years.


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