Last month, a friend of mine and I had to go out. It was super hot that day, and we decided to stop for a drink. As we were relaxing with the drink in the shade of the shop, I saw a group of youngsters who had set a stall in the roadside and were holding up messages against Child labor and were conducting a signature campaign. The first thought that came in my mind was “What are the Idiots doing?”. I pointed it out to my friend, (who to my surprise was offended by my remark). She went on about the need to speak out and let our voices be heard and people like me had to empathize. I remained silent. I couldn’t somehow understand how a signature campaign or giving out notices in the hot sun will help stop Child labor.
In a democratic country such as India, the idea of people’s voice being heard is very much in. Students, political parties, and various groups use mechanisms such as hartals, rallies, protest marches to showcase their strength whereas smaller groups, and activists do it on a smaller scale by setting up stalls and doing chain rallies.
Looking back at the major protests in the past two years, the ones that stay in my mind are the ones that turned the most violent. The protests in Shopian, the clash between lawyers and police in Tamil Nadu, the Gujjars strike in Rajasthan. The extensive media coverage that these issues got ensured that images from these protests made it to the front page and “Breaking news” section of each newspaper and television channel. These images makes one empathize the pain and the torture the victim had to go through. The image of Qutubuddin Ansari pleading to the rioters became the face of Gujarat Riots. But years later, how many of us feel for the innocents massacred? Haven’t we sort of moved on? Sure we do feel bad when we read about them somewhere, but will that ensure that another picture like Ansari’s wouldn’t come out?
It is not about how loud or how long your protest was. It is how many you have convinced that matters. When the LTTE was defeated militarily by the Lankan army, a thirty year old bloody civil war ended, and along with it the hopes for a separate state for Tamils. The Shopian villagers protests against the security personnel, fell on deaf years. But amidst all this, Candles lit by a friends of Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Matoo protesting against their murder, helped them achieve justice. The accused in both cases were found guilty of all charges. The sense of support was because a person had been wronged and the emotion in the others surfaced as the signature campaigns, slogans raised, candles lit and what not. The key is to appeal to the people’s emotion. Unfortunately this does not work all the time.
People have far too many problems of their own. It is not that they do not care, it is just that they neither have the time nor the mind set to be bothered. The violent ones definitely attract the peoples attention, but ultimately everyone moves on. We pray for those affected and live in a hope that we do not become the victim. The healing factor is not the same for only those who were affected, the scars remain to remind them of the pain. How many of us help to remove that pain, i wonder?
I know people would get the notices from these youngsters, speak words of encouragement and toss it in the garbage can. I have met people who sympathize with the “poor”, and then turn around to spend a fortune on useless crap. I hate these phonies, and i felt for that youngsters for letting themselves believe that they are going to make a difference.
I do hope that someday all of this changes and i am proved wrong. But as of now it is not much and it is fading fast.