A short while back, I was writing an article titled “How (not) to handle protests”, a satire plainly inspired by the Indian government’s poor handling of protests. I had my rough draft, and the content was there because the government has obviously not left us short of it. The topic was interesting for someone who’s just starting out with writing (for real monies).
However, I just couldn’t seem to get the article where I wanted it to be.
I was reading a satire by Harishankar Parsai. I was reading research papers so I was informed. Beyond that too, I read the newspaper daily so I’m well aware. I interact with fellow journalists and activists on a daily basis. So then, what was stopping me?
The arrest of Disha Ravi.
About a month ago, I had written another article on how our collective existence is currently a fear-peddled reality. This is something that I’ve consciously been aware of since May 2019 when in a conversation on Indian History, a friend asked me-
“Do you really think Ashoka had a change of heart or were his subjects just too scared to disobey him?”
In the fact that History is in fact documented and compiled by humans, I found the space and liberty to accommodate my view- the latter seemed more likely. (Disagree as you may, I only request that you do it respectfully.)
Ever since, before indulging in discussions and debates following any policy that the government announces (there hasn’t really been deliberation and coming to a decision as much as there has been fan-flared announcements)- I factor in ‘fear-among-those-directly-impacted’ while formulating my opinion.
It has also helped me in gauging political temperaments and actions without being swayed by personal ideological inclinations and beliefs while reading opinionated editorials. (I do find myself aligned with idealists more than realists but it does help me to not get carried away)
So far, this awareness had helped me but suddenly I found that the fear had sneakily seeped inside me and I was unable to write what I wanted to write. If I am being honest here, it wasn’t even letting me think the thoughts that I wanted to think.
I was not crippled in fear, at least not yet anyway. I would go about my days as usual. I’d eat my breakfast, speak to the person I’m crushing on as candidly, work on my assignments, and read the newspaper- but every time I would open that document to work, I couldn’t.
Now that I have hammered it out of myself and the article did turn out the way I wanted it to, in (almost) all its bold satire and is published somewhere- should I be directly arrested for the article itself, what will the course of action be?
On the family front, they will most likely post my bail and ship me off to some village where I can not cause such trouble and turmoil. But will that mean that I won’t have their support and they won’t be standing in solidarity? From my past experiences, I am well aware that family support does mean a great deal to me. But presently, my politics is dear to me.
If my family and the ideals I believe in are on the opposite spectrum, how do I navigate or balance them?
Should they not post my bail, how long will it be before the news of my arrest even reaches my friends in different corners of the country and some overseas as well? I am just beginning to write and am not even affiliated with any publication or media house to stand by me or provide support- I’m not even sure about how freelancing works, let alone arranging for a bail as a freelancer.
I don’t think I should have a lot of problem in jail given that I am a people’s person but being a political prisoner- the authorities are going to do unspeakable things to me, aren’t they?
Do I have it in me to make it through, the way Munawar did, or Nodeep did until someone, anyone posts my bail?
I don’t have the media exposure or support the way Disha has or Shiv Kumar has- I don’t want to get sucked and lost in the system and rot in jail.
Hypothetically, should I get arrested and then I’m out on bail, what are the implications that it will have upon my future employment prospects, educational prospects, and traveling? I lost my passport shortly before the pandemic and I haven’t yet gotten to applying for a new one. What if I get arrested before I can even get another, forget visa and actually traveling- what if they refuse to issue another passport under the new gray regulations against dissenters?
Alternately, if I am not arrested directly for the article, am I now carrying a bullet on my back? Or worse still, is it threatening my family? If it is so, is there a way to know for sure that I’m causing them so trouble to at least be in a position to accept responsibility and try to make amends? Or will I suffer endlessly with no way to ever absolve my guilt?
When I wrote my last article, I wasn’t sure if these thoughts were my anxiety just putting in overtime and that helped- it meant there was still hope that it was my anxiety. However, with the arrest of Disha Ravi and the warrants issued for Nikita Jacob and Shantanu, my fear is now lodged as a reality.
Thousands of miles away from the actual protest site, for merely expressing dissent towards the current dispensation and standing (virtually) in solidarity with others in the cause of environment, human rights, better pay, improved standard of living- I may well be arrested.
How do I cope with these real possibilities in their New India and write on politics without compromising on my ethics and integrity?