The conventional message conveyed by the ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ is: “See no evil; Hear no evil; Speak no evil.” This sounds like a pious moral teaching or a set rules of “Don’ts”. Mahatma Gandhi gave a different interpretation also by making a paradigm shift from “Don’ts” to “Dos” (See, Hear, Speak). In his fight for India’s independence, he did SEE the injustice done to Indians by the British rulers. He kept his ears open to HEAR the cries of the exploited and oppressed Indians. He had the courage to SPEAK against the unjust structures set up by the British rulers. Along with Gandhi’s death, his principles also had a slow death - i.e. forgotten by the people. As years passed, people were back to square one – i.e. do not see, hear or speak evil. Today this principle is interpreted by social/human rights activists like this: See various evils and human rights violations prevalent in the society; hear the cries of the oppressed and exploited people whose basic rights are denied; speak against various forms of injustice done to the marginalised people.
To understand this, let us have a closer look at what happened in the US very recently: Handcuffed, face down, knee on his neck, no can came for help. He begged for water, he begged for mercy, he begged for his life, but he got no help. His body trembled, his nose bled, he lost control of his bladder. Deprived of oxygen his organs were screaming, his brain was frantic and yet no one helped. He cried out several time “I can’t breathe”. His life was slowly fading away and he met a cruel, merciless and violent death. A black man, a gentle giant was murdered because he was black. People were watching George Floyd meeting his own death in a helpless manner.
George was an individual. He was not a popular leader or a celebrity or a VIP. Yet, the whole of Unites States of America is burning due to this one individual’s murder. The main reason is the race he belonged and manner in which he was murdered. Anyone, irrespective of caste colour, creed, nationality, will get triggered while watching the video of his death. The same thing is happening in America. People, both black and white, have been angered and they are out on the streets with peaceful (in some places) and violent agitations (in some places). Surprisingly these agitations have spread like a wildfire to many European countries. Surely these agitations will not only become part of the American history but also the world history.
It was a ‘black man’ who became victim of the ‘racist spirit’ of the white policeman in the uniform. All those who were under lockdown due to coronavirus, came out to the streets to condemn this cruelty. It is to be noted that all those who came out and agitated were not black people. Surprisingly, there were equal number, rather more white people among them. This is indeed a ‘heart-touching’ gesture of the white people. Though the murderer was a white American, yet, the rest of the white Americans wanted to acknowledge the ‘blunder’ committed by their own man. There were videos on the social media showing the white policemen keeling down in public and asking pardon from the black Americans. It was indeed an extraordinary gesture!
As per the American police and the l ocal media, George Floyd was jailed in the early 2000s for armed burglary, serving four years. There is yet another news that he was a drug peddler and accused in a murder case. Whatever be the nature of criminal cases against George, he did not deserve this cruel death. Does the American law permit this type of violent punishment in public? After Trump threatened to send the army to crush the protesters, the head of the US Military made an open statement: “Our oath is not to protect Trump but the Constitution”. Can we expect such an honesty in India? Never! The officers of the armed forces here give more importance to ‘Rajya Sabha seat’ or other ‘promotions/rewards’ than the Constitution.
If we compare the American situation to the Indian scenario, we will feel ashamed. Today most of us live like the three monkeys following the set rules of “Don’ts” by closing our eyes, ears and mouth. We do not want to see various socio-economic-political-religious evils around us; we do not want to hear the cries of the oppressed people; we do not speak against various forms of injustice and human rights violations.
· When the Tamils were murdered in huge numbers by Singhalese, we were just watching everything without any prick of conscience. The Andhra Pradesh Forest Police shot more than 30 Tamilians who were hired for cutting trees inside the AP forest. We were just silent observers.
· The environmentalists, along with the local people, held rallies and agitations against the setting-up of Nuclear Power Plant as well as the functioning of the Sterlite factory in south Tamil Nadu. Many of them were shot dead. We just watched the shooting incidents and police atrocities.
· Many innocent Muslims in North India were mob-lynched by Hindu fundamentalist groups who accused Muslims as ‘cow-killers’ and ‘beef-eating people’. Did other community people come to the rescue of the Muslims?
· Honour-killing has become quite common in many parts of India. Just because a backward community boy loves a higher caste girl and vice versa, the higher caste people demonstrate their cruelties against the lower caste people. Are we not silent observers on such occasions?
· A vast majority of middle, upper middle and rich class people were quite indifferent, inactive and passive during the ‘agonising exodus’ of the migrant workers due to unplanned lockdowns.
· Recently a shocking incident occurred in Tamil Nadu. A young girl from West Bengal was doing domestic work in a village near Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu. She was recruited through her family members who are based in Bengaluru. For the past 5 months or so she was repeatedly raped by the house owner and his colleagues. As the girl was insisting to go back to Bengaluru, she was beaten up badly, put in a car, gang-raped again inside the car and was thrown outside from the running car. A passer-by woman felt pity on the girl and informed the local people. They took the girl to the nearby hospital where she is being treated now. Neither the women activists nor human rights activists have raised their voice so far.
In India there have been certain public protests, rallies, candle-light marches against gang-rapes - e.g. in the case of Nirbhaya and the lady veterinary doctor in Hyderabad. But these are just stray incidences. Rapes, sexual abuses, human trafficking (especially girl children and women), prostitution, child labour, bonded labour, unending atrocities on Dalits, robberies, human sacrifice to appease God, smuggling (currencies, diamond, gold, drugs) are widespread all over India. Do we raise our voice against these crimes? Even after 72 years of independence, sanitation works – i.e. toilet and sceptic tank cleaning, public sewage cleaning, collecting garbage, sweeping public areas - are done by the so-called ‘scheduled caste’ people. Shockingly, they do most of these works without proper gloves, masks, shoes and uniform etc. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic situation, these people are forced to do these works without much security measures to protect themselves. Are we not the silent spectators?
“Solidarity” with every human being, irrespective of caste, colour, creed, culture, language and race, is the lesson we need to learn from the white people in America and European countries. Here is the most recent example. Marianne Williamson conducted several ‘Atonement Meetings’ in US and made the white Americans apologize to Black Americans (present at the meeting) by taking this oath: “On behalf of myself and on behalf of my country, to you and all African Americans from the beginning of our nation’s history in honour of your ancestors and on behalf of your children, please hear this from my heart. I apologize. Please forgive us. With this prayer I acknowledge the depth of the evils that have been perpetrated against Black people in America from slavery to lynching, to white supremacist laws to the denial of voting rights, to all the ways both large and small, all of them evil, all of them wrong. For all the oppression and all of the injustices, I apologize. Please forgive us. For the denial of any civil rights, for inequalities in criminal justice to any instances of police brutality, to the denial of opportunity. For economic injustice, for any ways that a racial element has played into the perpetration of injustice, I apologize. Please forgive us.” Marianne argues that a national apology and reparations are necessary to heal the country. She gave a powerful message: “No presidential pen or constitutional amendment could eradicate racism. It could eradicate the institution which was a manifestation of that. There are certain things the government is not going to do. So, where does it begin? It begins with us. And that begins with atonement.” It is time for our introspection - When will we, Indians, learn this lesson?
We all belong to one human family and hence no human being is more than another human. As human beings we should not be ‘silent observers’ of inhuman incidents happening in our day-to-day life. We need to become ‘humane’. Whenever we see injustice, oppression or exploitation anywhere, we must register our protest in a peaceful manner and express our solidarity with the victims of injustice. Let us give everyone the due respect and dignity!(Published on 15th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 25)