On Markandey Katju and the fine art of outsourcing protest

Justice Katju’s latest article ridiculing protesters who raise their voices against rapist-murderers was fresh proof of his prejudiced and recalcitrant mind. It’s tragic such people often slip truisms of the ‘media is celebrity-obsessed’ variety in their otherwise vile rants and end up striking a cord with way more people than they ideally should.

Justice Katju’s latest verbal fit is also symptomatic of a deeper malaise: the desire to outsource our protest and obsessively look for mass support for our cause. In other words, it articulates the desire to see our protest shouted out to the world and its TV cameras by those who have the time, energy and ability to.

This desire, if it remains just that, isn’t dangerous. It becomes so when it appears unfulfilled and causes mistrust and loathing towards that one and only group of people that can be counted on for support for any worthy cause- the protesters. Yes, that same bunch of often young, mostly ill-paid, permanently sunburned and far more dented and far less painted as a certain President’s progeny will have you believe.

So Justice Katju’s tirade was an expression of his annoyance at seeing what he thought was a bunch of women protesters obsessed with something he believes is a non-issue, or perhaps not as worthy a cause as those he (thinks he) is personally passionate about.

We should know this because we often come across less obnoxious versions of Justice Katju. We have all seen many who like their protests outsourced. There are many who hate it if the cries out there don’t exactly repeat their own.

When Bombay mourned Keenan and Reuben, what nagged at our mind was what Arundhati Roy taught us about urban protests and protesters. ‘Why no candle marches for soldiers blown up by Naxalites?’ some asked when Bombay socialites teared up over 26/11. Kashmiri Pandits are often dismissed as obsessive nuts and are judged about their silence over Gujarat. And speaking about the Gujarat riots automatically gets you branded as a fake, Congress-loving ‘pseudo-intellectual’ whose ‘pseudo-secularism’ makes her intrinsically indifferent towards Sikh or Hindu targets of violence.

Protesters tend to be specific. And that’s alright.

The truth is, it’s quite alright for an individual to feel more strongly about one issue than another. It is okay- practical even- for us to pick our battles. Barring the ideal but sanitized calls of the ‘give peace a chance’ variety, protests are almost always episodic, localized and centered around specific instances of human rights violation. A placard will either say Khairlanji or Malala or Kundankulam or Occupy or Palestine, depending on the where the placard writer is placed physically and emotionally. The underlying message is ‘down with injustice’. Invariably.

But if the average protest still appears too narrow in its focus to you, then here’s an advice- don’t do a Katju on it. It’s unproductive and sounds stupid. Be proactive and start your own protest. If your average TV anchor looks biased to you, don’t start sending her offensive tweets. Just draft and circulate your own petitions.

If your heart bleeds for Kashmiri Pandits, tell the world the injustice they have been facing. If Bhopal bothers you, then write about it every day. If Aruna Shanbaug gave you nightmares, share her story repeatedly. And if Nirbhaya woke your conscience, then blog about her for the rest of your life even if nobody cares about her anymore.

Voice your concern continuously, with or without overt support from others. Try also to lend strength to any cause which sounds worthy of support. But if you can’t, then the least you can do is not mock it.

Don’t envy or belittle the support brutalized victims manage to get. That support is really all they have. That support is really all we have.

Your open derision might successfully trigger apathy or even hostility toward ‘the other cause’ and weaken it. But it will never get support for yours.

One thought on “On Markandey Katju and the fine art of outsourcing protest

  1. You are being totally unfair to Katju.

    **************
    This desire, if it remains just that, isn’t dangerous. It becomes so when it appears unfulfilled and causes mistrust and loathing towards that one and only group of people that can be counted on for support for any worthy cause- the protesters. Yes, that same bunch of often young, mostly ill-paid, permanently sunburned and far more dented and far less painted as a certain President’s progeny will have you believe.

    So Justice Katju’s tirade was an expression of his annoyance at seeing what he thought was a bunch of women protesters obsessed with something he believes is a non-issue, or perhaps not as worthy a cause as those he (thinks he) is personally passionate about.
    ******************

    So any critical analysis of the protests is a ‘tirade’ or an ‘expression of annoyance’? It is not a tirade to say that the very same people who go for candle light marches for the Jessica Lal murder cases of the world shouting for ‘justice’ don’t bat an eyelid when they see women and children begging on the street, or care if tribal women get raped by security forces in the name of counter insurgency. For such protesters, injustice only happens to them. Justice is for them alone. They cannot even conceive the injustices, including sexual violence that people living on the margins – who are by the way the majority of Indians – go thorough.

    Katju was not expressing annoyance, no sane person can say that protesting against violence that women face in our society is a non issue, it is an issue, along with economic equality, gender equality is THE issue. What he was trying to suggest is that the middle class must start feeling empathy for victims of not only their own class, but others as well. He is not wrong in this.

    Dont get me wrong, I’m not trying to mock those protesters against rape, i was part of one of the protests, i believe that those days of protest were one of the most important things to happen in Delhi in a long time. However. at the same time, we must never forget to be self critical or analyse situations in a dispassionate manner.

    ********
    what Arundhati Roy taught us about urban protests and protesters. ‘Why no candle marches for soldiers blown up by Naxalites?’
    *******
    She is not wrong, the greatest injustice is happening to the tribal people of India, does the middle class care or give a damn? No, for most of them the tribals are ‘leftist terrorists’ who need to be eliminated so that we can progress on the path of so called development.

    To quote Arundahti Roy, ‘the greatest secessionist movement in modern India is the secession of the middle classes into an outer space leaving the majority poor and marginalized behind.’

    I find that journalists in general, although perhaps not you, have always had a problem with Katju because he says things about the media that they don’t like. I’m afraid, speaking the truth cannot be categorized as ‘verbal fits’. He is completely accurate in his analysis of the media.

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