All our efforts towards justice seems like a Sisyphean quest. Rolling one pain over another and trying to overcome the present in an effort to heal the scars of the past is back-breaking, mind-numbing and soul-drowning. We are caught between losing focus when we have a purpose and loosing purpose when we have a hard-earned focus. We tilt continuously between the baggage and hangover of the past and the future’s uncertainty while troubleshooting the turmoils that is now. Such hoping and toiling and repeating is arduous than ever. We did not live in the times that were, but in the recess of our spirit, we somehow as underdogs (may) feel that history is coming to a dark, gloomy climax in these times, moments that stare us like demons in our face. This is more a daily ritual, an unavoidable custom, especially for the oppressed sections of the society as every material reality is pitted against ‘them’ (read: us). I have always been fascinated and driven by the little things in life. What was dear to me was trivial and dated for my friends and siblings but I continued to hope.
Hoping and imagining are childish, for my friends as well as my enemies but I continue to be childish, adamant enough to recover the parts of myself that was lost in the process of ‘growing up’. It is this virtue that keeps me believing in justice and letting go of my subtle oppressions as a man. In this piece, I refer to Hoping as a continuous struggle against one’s self-pity as much as the striving against others’ scorn of our quest for emancipation and not merely a phrasal hope, dry and unused. These are desolate times, of disillusion and hopelessness. This is the rule of the heartless-mediocres and we know that the worst is yet to come, obviously pushing a cliché here. Hoping is contagious and has the power to spread within the oppressed communities and we need it badly for such a time to sustain our personal and collective endeavours whereas death of hopes can be fatal for the arduous journey of individual emancipation and a liberation that is communitarian, a journey that is too personal yet so fondly collective. We have witnessed helplessly and angrily with tears and dreams decimated about the Rohith and the post-Rohith events and the foxy silence of the oppressors who usually pose as liberators, in the case of Delta Meghwal and the year coming to an end where the sheer agony and torment was visible in the tired, inconsolable face of Najeeb’s mother.
In the year that past, hoping was scandalous in the face of the oppressor’s indifference, before the institutional strength of the fascist and against the pens of the conscienceless academics. Hoping against injustice and indifference. All that we possessed was hopes and imaginations towards a bright tomorrow, that cruised us through the dark valleys of death. Even as I articulate my hopes and also echo the desires of my countable friends and mentors, I admit the risk of sounding surreal and idiotic, though not presumptuous.
Hoping is what has kept us in shape while mourning for our loved ones and for the dreams that were shattered before us. Recovering our hope and imagination amidst the diverse colours and shapes of fascism will continue to be an act of dissent against the onslaught on our dreams and our collective remembrance. Hope can be so mundane but continues to be exhilarating, it is this virtue that is so necessary to make up for all the bitterness that sufferings bring on us. The machine has begun its contract, not as much as bulldozing and razing down structures and walls but striking at everything that you and I hold dear, the priceless hopes. There is a gaudy display of power that is both gross but normalised in the endless queues seen around ATMs and the pains lost in the race towards our own survival and the preservation of our genes. Life is such a paradoxical sitcom, after all.
The memories that speak of the struggles of Rohith and mother Radhika, Delta Meghwal is not something a fascist dispensation can finish off by raising a wall or awarding a Bharat Ratna for the killers and thieves of our peace, a legacy that is built with tears and blood. The memories of Senthil, Rohith, Delta and Najeeb are woven together with the pains of the families that have suffered both death and the ignominy brought upon them by the power centre as a result of hoping and struggling after the demise of the beloved, if death was violence on bodies the events that unfolded was violence on the preservation of our history and a wanton hunting down of the memories to be brought down, through the desires of an imperial order. The blitzkrieg is on and we are almost overwhelmed, we are thrown down but cannot be thrown out and we won’t be. This is our hope, a hope that resists complacency. The events that unfold is frightening and disheartening to the spirit, a spirit that keeps our fights together and anticipates the liberation of the self and the unequal social order. We have seen how Rohith’s memories, which especially Ambedkar Students Association as a fraternity holds dear, were taken down by the academic dispensation. We have seen the celebration of a gross power play that continues to be enacted from Delhi and for Delhi, the marketplace of all things dark and preposterous.
An academic caste-class that acts as nothing but a defender of violence through ‘intellectual’ means. This desecration was indeed an insult not just to a past we share with Rohith but an attack on our collective remembrance, our ability to hold to the past as a form of protest, resisting a destruction of our cherished past that flows deep into the present and will hold us together and stronger in the future as well. But what trumps this psychic violence on our remembrance is hoping for justice, looking for the rumbles requires resilience, day in and day out. Because our memory is not a relic of the ages past, objects to be forgotten and preserved behind the walls of museum but life-sustaining, blood and flesh that holds us in tension against the arm twisting of the imperium, with its gaze on our lifeworld, all out to marauder our hopes of a better tomorrow. The tactics to muzzle our speech and our desire to speak is aimed at hitting at our senses badly. But it is by looking and reliving the past as a lesson towards hope that we come to our senses, to life.
It is in the collective journey towards a promised land that our flickering hopes find a larger meaning, that will not forget the here and now, co-existing and journeying towards the unknown but surely that which will be justice.These are toxic times to the inner person that fights for the last person in the society. This alone keeps us going, at times it’s not ends that delight but the process. Not for the medals but for running itself. On the other hand, we meander away, at times, in search of the personal, momentary gains over the larger purpose at hand, that awaits our attention. Our fights, often, are in danger of becoming a mindless custom over a thoughtful, long-term reparation where a stronger, vibrant polity could be lost in the mindless chants of democracy. When madness of power overtakes our compassion for each other, we deny our souls the beauty of hoping for little things that push us gently towards emancipation, of what makes us humane. It is this madness as a staple diet that keeps the oppressor in power. The empathy for each other, our responsibility towards each other seems to be lost in a selfish race to know ourselves too much over the existence of the neighbour and this thirst for a non-existent power evolves into a cult created to worship ourselves daily at the cost of meaningful relationships that gives way to a community that stands together. Perhaps our hopes die here, without spaces to thrive. We are all too lost in the rottenness of bestial power-mongering and knowledge making that does not possess a human face. Universities that are morphing into an industry of books and research papers, cut off from the very people they claim to write of. The human mold made in the image of european white male and his reason continues to rule the world and it is this ‘reasoning’ that was found in defending and celebrating the perpetrators of injustice against Rohith,Delta and Najeeb which we witnessed in the last year as we tried to make some sense of our loss and the scars it has left on us over the course of time. We have made objects out of humans and humans into objects. Our hopes are to reverse this madness and that will keep us towards justice.
Trevor Jeyaraj is a PhD student in Arts and Aesthetics, JNU.