I knew Gauri as a fellow activist. She was intense, fearless, fierce, rebellious and still so soft and affectionate. Like any other activist I might have met her less than half a dozen times but felt so close that when the news of her felling to assassin’s bullets reached me, I felt a part of me collapsed. We met for the last time at the gala conference on Ambedkar organized by the Karnataka Government in July 2017, where we ate our lunch together. She reiterated her wish to publish my book on Mahad in Kannada but complained that my friends did not cooperate in translating it. I would be happy to see it published by the Nyayapatha publication in deference to her wishes. For such may be the only things we can think of doing; many of her wishes are fast getting distant from the realm of possibility these days. Can we think of India being secular? Can we expect justice to Dalits and minorities? Can we empty out the communal poison from our people’s minds? Many such things that Gauri willed for are just getting out of bounds for us today.
I wonder how she would have reacted to a series of things that are passing around us with the speed of moving frames of a horror movie. It appears like worst nightmares come alive before our eyes in rapid succession that we cannot even grasp them. How she would have felt about the media prostrating to the powers and people falling silent or themselves becoming part of the nightmares. How would one feel who spent the best part of one’s life in teaching people how to love to see lynching hapless humans like brutal beasts? How would she feel people celebrating someone being so killed, someone being raped and defamed as promiscuous? How would one feel being helpless and defenceless when the institutions became collaborators of criminals?
A 23-year old student, running out from the clutches of a rapist, who is the chairman of her college, has been a Member of Parliament and a central Minister and is close to the present chief minister, musters unusual courage in speaking out against her powerful tormenter. This man, feigning as a holy man, allegedly raped her for over a year and abused many other girls of her hostel inmates. But still, the SIT constituted at the instance of the Supreme Court grilled her for 15 hours, searched her premises but neither filed an FIR nor questioned the tormentor. The horrific tale, where the girl is now arrested for extortion charges is a travesty of justice. With all evidence against the former MP, he is enjoying VIP treatment in the hospital while the student is sent to judicial custody. Media that was silent when the girl had filed a case against the chairman of the University, has subverted the narrative and making a victim out of the chairman being the victim of extortion, ignoring all the video evidence that implicates him in his abusing the power.
A similar case of a 17-year girl in Unnao being raped by an MLA of the ruling party, cried for justice since June 2017, losing in the process her father in judicial custody, two more relatives when a speeding truck dashed against her car, and barely surviving herself to see her own devastation in years ahead. Even a man on the street could see who is behind such killings but our justice delivery system these days just cannot. As per the latest news, the murder charges are removed from his charge sheet. It appears to see what is prompted to be seen by the powers that be.
The case of Tabrez Ansari, a 24-year old Muslim youth who was mercilessly beaten to death in June this year, already appears decades old in our memory clock conditioned by the media that has completely sold its soul. He was mercilessly beaten as he helplessly shouted Jai Shriram as dictated by his tormentors on a film, which was broadcast publicly on television. He died in the hospital of the cardiac arrest, as his post-mortem report noted. It also noted that the cardiac arrest was due to his deep injuries caused by brutal beatings but the police picked up the word “cardiac arrest” to drop the murder charges on the 11 accused. The innocent woman who lost her husband in such a horrific manner stares blankly demanding justice, which may never come. Not to speak of Kashmir, an open and shut case of the breach of constitutional morality and of the Kashmiris who meekly wonder whatever was happening to them and least about the NRC, that might entail the biggest human tragedy in modern history if it unfolds as the honorable home minister promised. Every day, dozens of such misdemeanors of our power-drunk rulers are happening around us emboldening the tribe of their Bhakts.
Even if Gauri had not left us that day, she could have been trapped in the even expanding Bhima-Koregaon case!
Anand Teltumbde is a professor, scholar, writer and civil rights activist.