The multi-city ‘Not in My Name’ protest against mob lynching has been commended for seemingly waking a civil society out of its slumber. Many would say it was what forced the Prime Minister to make a strong statement against those killing in the name of cows and beef. But why do so many “liberal folks” have a problem with the protest?
While some took objection to the name ‘Not in My Name’, others downplayed the protest as only a gathering of “the elite”.
There were also those who claimed that the protest was a flop show. Like columnist Shivam Vij, who said that there were more journalists at Jantar Mantar than other people at the protest.
Ironically enough, not only was Vij completely wrong, he later admitted that he wasn’t even present at the protest. He did tweet an apology to the same effect, but that has been deleted as well.
Others questioned why the ‘Lynching Map of India’ on the stage at the Not in My Name protest in Delhi did not include a reference to Deputy SP Mohammed Ayub Pandith, who was lynched by a mob only days ago in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Usual Suspects
Those you expected to criticise the protest did so, no doubt. There was Times Now lying through its teeth, and blaming the protest organisers for defaming India on Pakistani soil. Though, not surprisingly, the channel got the facts wrong.
Times Now even blamed “Afzal backer” and “Azadi league member” Shehla Rashid for insulting Gandhi. Why? Because protesters in London had put a poster with the words “Republic of lynching” on Mahatma Gandhi’s statue.
Are you even surprised at Times Now’s stand?
Allegations of Elitism Unfounded?
There are those who have alleged that the protests were only attended by the “liberal elite”.
In an article for Newslaundry, Meghnad S rebuffed allegations that the crowd at the Delhi protest was an “elitist” one, “It was primarily a crowd that otherwise constantly outrages on social media that got off their bums for a change and braved heavy rains to be there. Everyone present was not ‘elite’ and no they did not do it to ‘defame’ the country. They were there to make sure the administration pays attention to the brutality, which was unleashed on unsuspecting individuals (sic).”
Disagreeing With the Name
Among the liberals who associate themselves with the cause of fighting mob lynching, there were those who fundamentally disagreed with the name given to the protest.
In an article titled, ‘The Savarna redemption: Why 'Not In My Name' campaign is a part of the problem’, Rajesh Rajamani wrote in The News Minute:
“This is not the first time such empty campaigns have gained currency in liberal spaces. Earlier, when Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched based on a rumor that his family had consumed beef, liberals protested against it by instagramming images of beef dishes and sharing chilly beef recipes. However, there was absolutely no attempt made to introspect or understand how these food-policing rules and the subsequent acts of violence stem from the Brahmanical Hindu religion.
“Instead of directing their noble intentions and rage outwardly and thereby disassociating themselves from these acts of violence, upper caste liberals should instead look inward and see if they can bring about any change.”
Rajamani even compared the #NotInMyName protest to the problematic arguments of the #NotAllMen campaign.
Not the Time for Division?
Ashley Tellis countered Rajamani’s arguments in an article titled “Interpreting ‘Not in my name’ on the lines of ‘Not all men’ is wilfully malignant”.
There is a difference between Hindu and Hindutva just like there is a difference between Islam and jihadists.
Tellis wrote, “‘We’ – and this is a ‘we’ across caste, class and gender locations who deem ourselves secular citizens against lynching, a ‘contingent ‘we,’ a provisional ‘we’, a tremulous ‘we’ – want to look outward at the moment and collectively protest. This does not preclude our looking inward constantly and vigilantly at the same time and examining our privileges and lack of privileges.
“No one is statically privileged or underprivileged. A Brahmin woman is still also a woman. A Dalit man is still also a man. A Brahmin homosexual is still also a homosexual. A Dalit trans person is both Dalit and trans and may be filthy rich too. But none of that prevents us from coming together at a particular moment and protesting against the killing of Muslims across the country no matter what their caste.”
"Don't Let the Bigger Enemy Win"
Author Amandeep Sandhu stressed on the need for solidarity instead of mere criticism. In a post on Facebook, he wrote, “I understand the critiques of today's protest. These are the critiques in English Departments that tore me up even more than the militancy in Punjab had torn me up just a few years before I joined university.”
Whatever your location on the geographical, social, economic, class, caste, gender matrix, until all of us who feel oppressed do not come together, the enemy will win. Unless we keep the focus on the bigger enemy and fight it, the enemy will win.
Sandhu continues, “As a born Sikh, in the 1980s, growing up in Punjab, I was shattered to learn that Hindus (and Sikhs) were segregated and killed in buses, roads, markets and homes in the name of my religion. As an Indian, living outside Punjab now, I am shattered that Muslims and Dalits and minorities are being targeted and killed in the name of my nationality.
“So, to all kinds of violence done appropriating my name, I say #NotInMyName.”
Dissing the Protest a Disservice to the Cause?
Documentary filmmaker Nakul Singh Sawhney reacted strongly to those dissing the protests even before they began,
“There are many, who will diss every protest, every solidarity and every effort against the Brahmanical fascism that endangers our nation today. Their very 'active' minds will always 'expose' how every little punctuation mark in the statements articulating the protest are also racist. They will psychoanalyze how the steps in the protest march were so bigoted. How, because the fist was raised to a certain degree while shouting a slogan, it makes the protester sexist.
“Oh no, please be clear, critical engagement is always welcome. But this is downright nonsense.”
The Choice Before Us
Listen to what those assembled at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Wednesday evening had to say.
During the Facebook live, we meet a protester holding up a placard that says “I refuse to be a citizen of Lynchistan, because #ItIsInMyName”. It is but evident that she disagrees with the phrase “Not in My Name’. But that did not stop her from attending the protest. Because above these differences is a larger fight.
And while criticism should most definitely be welcome in any democratic protest, there is a choice before us as to how we make it.
At a time when mob lynchings are occurring with increasing frequency across the country, and attempts are being made to forge a solidarity among citizens to stand up against the violence, which of the following options will you choose?
Will you join the protest, address its shortcomings and attempt to improve it? Or will you sit back and merely criticise, or even mock the protest instead?