Saturday, 7 October 2017

Weep India


-Brian Mendonça

Weep India
For thy daughter is slain
The grief, the horror
The sadness, the pain.

Were we not from a land of peace?
Of benevolence,
of Buddha
Of compassion, not caprice?

Scion of the Mahatma
What noble ideals do you invoke?
Will history forgive
What you now provoke?

Mowed down in cold blood
A woman unarmed
Save for her pen,
her panache, her poise.

Fie on thee,
Locusts of the night
Who do prey
Like the werewolves of evil.

The earth shudders
‘neath the weight of your deeds.
No face, no land
can hide you now.

Teacher’s Day
Is drenched in your blood
A country-made pistol
A blot on the country.

Many have fallen
In these dark days
The crimson tide
Flows unabated.

The silence of a billion
Behoves not its leader
To wage proxy war
Against scribes unfurling.

Weep India
Thy flag at half-mast
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.*


Words fail me as I write. To me this is an epitaph on India. Or rather, the India that I know. The cold-blooded murder of an activist and senior journalist leaves us speechless.  We do not know where to turn.

It is the duty of the Fourth Estate to be a watch dog for the public. But when freedom of speech is muzzled or so brutally suppressed, one wonders how one can continue to presume a mandate for governance.

Journalists have been on the front line to bring social change. Some have paid with their lives.

Much news, if not all, is manufactured.  Powerful lobbies sieve information to curate it for the public. Which is why there is no real news anymore. Soft journalism has made us a vegetative society, unable or unwanting to know the truth.

I look up the website gaurilankesh.com.  The Kannada website proudly proclaims the issue date in English as 6 September 2017 – the day after Gauri was shot. So the struggle will go on. The battles in the vernacular are not the battles in the English press. Which is why Gauri chose to be an independent journalist with her own website to speak out her mind.

Killing Gauri seems to be a pyrrhic victory. The goons who did her in have done her a favour. The groundswell of support for her has evinced a keen interest in her outspoken critique of government. More people are aware of her work through social media and through her website. Her championing for the cause of the minorities is well-known.

An assignment for undergraduate students showed how deeply the youth feel alienated by recent events. One queried the violence in India. Another called for ramping up security for women journalists, and a third decried the dictum of death for dissenters. Gauri’s greatness was that she could traverse the world yet chose to throw in her lot with the poor, the marginalized and the voiceless. From Bengaluru she could reach out to Dadri.

She lived a life of conviction. On her own terms.
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*’From Darkness Lead Me to Light.' Brihadaranyaka Upanishad I. III.28. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on 1 October 2017.  Pix courtesy firstposthindi.

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