Disha Ravi’s mother was in visible despair after the media reached out to her for comments on her daughter’s activism. “I just want my daughter to return home safe, and don’t want to say anything that might go against her,” a scared Manjula Nanjaiah told The New Indian Express, with tears in her eyes and panic in her voice.
Contrary to the baseless mudslinging by the right-wingers about the young, barely-out-of-college planet-lover, 21-year-old Disha Ravi is neither a Syrian Christian from Kerala nor is she heavily funded by the opposition. Rather, she hails from a humble family in Bengaluru, with a background in farming.
Her mother Manjula is not alone in her plight. There are scores of parents across India who are waiting for a despotic government to reconsider their ‘unforgivable’ stance towards young liberal idealists. And hundreds of more families are desperate to shush the independent young voices in their household now.
“Do Not Speak Up”
The day Disha Ravi was ‘whisked away’ (as Ramachandra Guha writes) from her home in Bengaluru by Delhi Police, worried parents all across the country started placing frantic calls to their children.
“Don’t post anything about the farmer’s protest on social media.”
“Do not share any content that is even remotely anti-national.”
“Focus on your studies now. No need to think about politics.”
Such advice was dished out rampantly, even by parents who are known critics of the present government. This included the mothers and fathers who, in their youth, had dissented freely against governmental policies, walked in marches, or raised their voices, without having to worry about spending months behind bars.
The millennials in India might have dared to start a ‘Finger on Your Lips’ trend on Twitter, but Gen Z is growing up learning that silence is the keyword.
Freedom of Speech and Right to Peaceful protests are the soul of an independent and a Free Democracy in a democratic country.
I still demand #FreeDishaRavi .
— Maanvinder Pilania 🌍 (@MaanvinderP) February 21, 2021
Youth groups concerned about the clamping down of young climate change activists – #DishaRavi, #NikitaJacob & #ShantanuMuluk gathered today in solidarity in Thane outside Collector’s office to demand decriminalization of dissent.#FreeDishaRavi #fingeronyourlips #FreeNodeepKaur pic.twitter.com/iVfFyWvBLm
— Muse Foundation (@FoundationMuse) February 18, 2021
— Kaafi Sanskari (@KaafiSanskari) February 17, 2021
These are unprecedented times in the history of politics in independent India. Rarely there has been such a time when farmers and youngsters of the country have been equated with militants, alongside free thinkers – basically everyone who believes in the concept of ‘democracy’. And the country thrives within the smartphones of the ones gullible enough to believe a Hindu Rashtra is the answer to income inequality, agro-crisis, unemployment, or even an imminent war. If you are borne and bred with the curse to think different, then you are doomed.
You Can Be A ‘Criminal’ Too
While Disha Ravi’s arrest, preceded by international ‘interference’, might have prompted a section of the youth to roar in protests, it is not long before their voice will be silenced too. Sometimes with batons, sometimes with expletives, and if you’re important enough – with a bullet or two.
On February 19, Friday, Home Minister Amit Shah did not mince words while trying to prove how dangerous Disha Ravi is for the nation. His remark on how ‘age, gender and profession is irrelevant’ when it comes to punishing a ‘criminal’, is a clear warning for any of us who would dare to speak up. And then Disha Ravi’s bail plea was rejected by the court, no surprise there.
You need not have an imagination like Tolkien to perceive the colour of India’s future. Soon, as the county drapes herself in dazzling saffron to cover the oozing, putrid blood-red underneath, we can pick up our phones to watch cooking videos or Tik-Tok gems while our conscience stays caged forever.