In ‘The Lesson’, Sowmya Rajendran’s dystopian novel set in the capital city in not so very distant future, everyone, especially women, have to live by the Conduct Book. Big Brother is watching. Moral Police is prowling the streets – watching you (there is a ‘dupatta regulator’ with a measuring tape ensuring correct lengths of dupatta and how it is worn). Adjustment Bureau is keeping a tab on everything. From your age - the Conduct Book Chapter 8: Get Married, Stay Married – ensuring timely marriages - the Marriageable Age Notifier sends pink slips to your door well in time. Notices appear at your home if a child is not born within a fixed timeline (Chapter 10 - Compulsory Maternal Feelings). Despite all the efforts there are some whose behavior disrupts the new order. Especially women – asking for divorce, not adhering to dress codes, avoiding marriage and childbearing. For such cases the system calls in a specialist – The Rapist. To teach these women a Lesson.
On 10th October, students from AISA were protesting outside Home minister’s residence demanding that Union minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, accused in an FIR of conspiring to murder protesting farmers, be sacked from his post. How could Delhi Police see their boss’ authority being challenged? Especially by girls! There was a need for a lesson here. Two girls, Shreya K and Neha Tiwari were dragged on road for 300-400 meters. The police lifted their clothes to shame them, threw them into a bus and then kicked in their private parts repeatedly for 20 minutes.
“A politician tells lies to hide the truth. A writer tells lies to show the truth.”
The conduct book is in operation for a while now. Those who resist – are being taught a lesson.
Oct 12, 2021 – Lakhimpuri Kheri – tens of thousands gather to pay homage to four farmers and one reporter crushed to death under the tyres of cars belonging to Ajay Teni and as per eyewitness his son driving one of these. What happened in Lakhimpuri on the afternoon of Oct 3rd , when peacefully protesting farmers were mowed down was a lesson. You dare not challenge the rule of your local leader/don/Bahubali – or you will be crushed.
Oct 12, 2021 - About 420 kilometers away in the heart of Delhi, possibly the biggest Shree 420 of this century, addressed a gathering. “Some people see human rights violations in some incidents but not in other similar incidents. Human rights are violated when viewed via political spectacles. Selective behaviour is harmful to democracy."
There is a lesson in this profound statement by the supreme commander. It would have been wonderful if these words were a lesson to UP police – that a murderer is a murderer even if he is my minister’s son; to Delhi police – let the citizens doing lawful, peaceful protests be and go arrest those who started the riots last year with goli maro slogans; or to NIA to let an old man with Parkinson’s have his sipper. But where’s the fun in that. On the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, foundation day his message was for those who stand up for the rights of the weak and marginalized - it is this behaviour that is dangerous for the democracy.
‘Srinagar Chemist among 3 gunned by militants.’ ‘Massive crackdown in J-K after civilian killings; forces detain 700 ‘terrorist sympathisers’.’ ‘5 Army personnel killed in J&K.’ ‘Encounter underway in J&K’s Shopian – 5 killed.’ ‘2 killed in encounters in J&Ks Anantnag, Bandipora’. It is in the backdrop of these news headlines that Justice Arun Mishra opens the event to mark 28 years of NHRC by saying, "It is for you, Mr Shah, that a new era has now begun in Jammu and Kashmir."
There is a lesson here as well! Justice Mishra of all people knows! No matter what happened on the morning of 26 March 2003 when Haren Pandya was shot dead, no matter if Gujarat High Court observed “that investigation in the case of murder of Shri Haren Pandaya has all through been botched up,” no matter the witness account on how the bullets that killed Pandaya could not have been fired from few inches of open car window, no matter the story that even the police photo of the incident showed, Justice Mishra accepted that botched up investigation report to close the matter. The lesson – close your eyes to the reality, forget your duty to the constitution and do the bidding of the supreme duo (while singing their praises - at an international judiciary conference he said of supreme commander “We thank the versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally, Shri Narendra Modi, for providing us inspiring thoughts…”) and you will be rewarded. According to various reports, Justice Mishra appeared to have helped the Central government in many cases including the judge Loya case, Sahara-Birla corruption case, Sanjiv Bhat case, Haren Pandya case and bail for Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Rules are changed to reward the loyal – you are made the chief of human rights body! To further protect human rights! To protect democracy! The lessons! The lessons!
In his tribute and his lament Rabbi Shergill writes and sings -
Mera naam Bilqis Yakub Rasool, Mujhse hui bas ek hi bhool, Ki jab dhhundhhte thhe vo Ram ko, To maen kharhi thhi rah mein.
Mera naam shriman Satyendra Dubey, Jo kehna thha vo keh chukey, Ab parhey hain rah mein, Dil mein liye ik goli.
Mazha nau aahe Navleen Kumar, Unnees june unnees var, unees, unees, unees… unees var.
Mujhe kehte hain anna Manjunath, Maine dekhi bhatakti ek laash, Zamir ki beech sarhak Lakhimpur Kheri.
Oh India and you few adarshwadi Indians – when will you learn your lesson!
Oh Lakhimpur Kheri – when will you learn your lesson!
Shreya K and Neha Tiwari are thrown into the bus, and before she starts hitting the girls in their private parts the policewali says - ‘we will show you your aukaat.’ Oh young girls, oh bright students, oh free thinkers – when will you learn your lesson!
Yesterday a friend asked if there is any hope for the farmers movement. Having breathed Tolkien as life nectar the question ‘is there any hope’ always brings him to mind. Battle of Helm’s Deep is about to start. Tens of thousands of armies of Saruman have surrounded the few hundred Rohirrim in the keep. Every young boy who could lift a sword is asked to join the defences. Young Hanif son of Hama asks Aragorn, “Men are saying we will not last the night, they say its hopeless.” Aragorn takes his sword, checks it for balance. “This is a good sword, Hanif son of Hama,” he says returning the sword to Hanif. Then he places his hand on the shoulder of the boy, looks him in the eyes and says, “there is always hope.”
When the girl finds out that The Rapist has received the order to teach her The Lesson – she considers running away. To another city, another country. Disappear (or better become an NRI!). But the Conduct Book makes it clear – The Lesson will be served. If she disappears – it will be served on her sister. If no sister, then some other loved one. But the lesson will be served.
That is when she decides, she can’t be that person, the one who runs. She will stand her ground and face her lesson.
She decides that her body will be her sword. She will not be forced into surrender without a fight. She will face the hordes of Saruman. She will wait for the Sun to rise.
She will face the lesson when the jeeps and SUVs run over her.
She will face the lesson when in her Parkinson’s old age, she is denied a sipper
She will face the lesson when she is kicked there.
“There never was much hope,” Gandalf tells Pippin. “Just a fool’s hope.”
She decides she will be that fool.
*** *** ***
Rabbi’s lament continues its echo – more sorrowful every passing moment -
Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan hain… Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain… Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain…
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