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The Many Shades of Dissent


We, the Government

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Our District is Red. If, however, our town were being judged separately, it would be Green.
Both, the Chairman of our Municipal Board and our SDM, patrol the town independently. Then there’s the act of the sarpanch of a neighbouring village. In marked contrast to the depressing stories of Covid+ve cases being hidden by relatives and neighbours, he not only reported the return of his own people from an external trip, but also had them lodged in the Garhwal Terraces for the obligatory quarantine. This is has added to the prevailing positive mood in our little Himalayan town.

We still believe that the choice of the centrally-situated, state-owned, Garhwal Terraces as an isolation centre was not ideal but that is another story!
The lockdown has encouraged us to re-visit the writings of great historians about earlier global crises. Politicians view events in 5-year chunks; Historians have a centuries-spanning perspective. Politicians prefer flip labels like The Red Menace, The Foreign Hand, Urban Naxalites. Historians classify social upheavals as broad, global, trends. Our netas’ quick-fix responses to Covid-19 could be due to any one of the following reasons:

1. The Shadowy Partner. Adolf Hitler had Himmler, boss of his Secret Police, to do his dirty work; a former Indian PM reputedly patronised a certain “brahmachari” who produced guns as a side-line. This good-cop-bad-cop diarchy has trickled down to the grass-roots. Recently a popular shop in our town was raided by our SDM because it was charging more than the MSP. It was found that the shop owner’s partner had been avaricious. All high-profile politicians, in particular, should be wary of their alter egos lurking in their shadows, the way sucker fish cling to sharks.

2. Blaming the Song, not the Singer. When a singer with a cracked voice makes a mess of a great song, should you blame the song? If a man with blue eyes and red hair becomes a traitor, would you brand all carrot-topped Caucasians as quislings? This is what many motor-mouthed netas do. They should recall the lessons of history. During the French Revolution, rabble-rouser Robespierre labelled many noblemen and women as traitors, and guillotined them. Then the fickle public turned on him, called him anti-national, and got him beheaded!

3. Insisting that Religious Beliefs are Facts. When Politicians fall short of facts, they turn to religion. But religion is based on Faith, not Facts. Leonardo da Vinci was persecuted by bigoted religious leaders for his scientific beliefs. That is Theocracy not Democracy. Our Constitution guarantees every Indian the right to dissent. That is Democracy.

4. “You can fool all the people all the time!” One of the legitimate reasons for dissent is objecting to staged diversions. For a long time, Romans were diverted by the activities in the Coliseum. But when they eventually realised that they were being given circuses instead of bread it was too late. The Roman Empire had succumbed to softness with the rich indulging in gargantuan orgies and the poor bedazzled by prisoners being fed to ravenous lions. It is justified to dissent to attention-grabbing diversions.

5. Some Indians are Above the Law. Is that why some are free to travel across state borders, party through the night, stage weddings in complete violation of Covid-19 quarantine restrictions? Are they protected by some super-national power? It is entirely justified to object to such disgusting favouritism which endangers our lives.

6. Monuments are More Important than the Welfare of the Common Indian. It is a great ego boost to have the World’s Largest Cricket Stadium and the Globe’s Tallest Statue. But that was before Covid-19 struck. Right now we need to feed and shelter our restless ocean of migrant workers. The examples of the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions are too ghastly to emulate.

7. Even if Something is Not Broken it Must Be Repaired. The reconstruction of New Delhi’s Central Vista calls for impressive creativity. At this tipping point in our history, however, it is entirely legitimate to devote all our resources to help our nation to recover from the devastation caused by this global pandemic. Everything else can wait.

Though it may bruise some fragile egos, sometimes it is most patriotic to dissent.