I may feel frustrated, depressed, sad, yet I cannot be a part of his great festival of “award wapsi”, cannot avail this once in a life time opportunity. To begin with, no government ever considered me worthy of an award. When I say no government, I mean government of India. I have suffered rulers of different hues and colours, Congress, Janata Party, Third Front, UPA, NDA. Some that lasted for decades, others who lasted less than a month and never survived a majority test on the floor of the Parliament.
Let me start with, I didn’t protest when Bahadur Shah Zafar was sent to exile, I didn’t exist then but my great grandfather could have protested, my great grandmother wouldn’t have stepped out of the house I guess, nobody knows about her. My grandparents could have protested when Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters were martyred. My parents never received any awards and so didn’t return any. Let us come to my story, I too had many reasons to return awards, if only I had them, nobody was magnanimous enough to let me return their awards on their behalf. The first instance I remember is when Emergency was declared, I was barely into my teens but understood what was happening around me. Like everybody else, I wasn’t happy about the murder of democracy. I remember listening to BBC radio for updates, AIR and DD were state controlled and only “Har Har Indira” and “Har Har Sanjay” could be heard. I didn’t protest and couldn’t return any awards, didn’t have any awards and there was no social media to outrage. I had to write the 21 point programme of Indira ji and 5 point programme of Sanjay ji in my exams. I didn’t believe Indira was India and India was Indira but had no way to show my unhappiness. Then Emergency was lifted, Janata Party was formed, much like “the Mahagadhbandhan” in Bihar. Elections took place, democracy won. My role was limited to screaming “Janata Party zindabad!” when we crossed Ch. Charan Singh’s motorcade consisting of 2 jeeps; he smiled and I was delighted. When the Janata Party leaders fought for days to elect a PM from amongst themselves, I saw my heroes fail miserably, I was hurt but I didn’t protest. After a lot of tamasha and change of 2 Prime Ministers, the Janata Party government fell mid term. I was very disappointed but couldn’t and didn’t protest, I just helplessly witnessed it. Indira ji campaigned, “chuniye unhe jo sarkar chala sakain” and she was elected. When she was murdered, I was shocked, and then happened the carnage of Sikhs in Delhi. I still can’t get over that, and again I couldn’t protest. Couldn’t return any awards when Babri Masjid was demolished. There were riots/carnage in Bhagalpur, Meerut, Maleehabad, Gujarat, Muzaffarnagar, Hashimpura etc etc at different times but I didn’t return any awards or protest. There was no social media to outrage and newspapers wouldn’t have printed my articles, they wouldn’t have found me good enough.
My point of quoting all these disgusting, shocking incidents that I witnessed over the last few decades is that most people did not outrage then because they couldn’t. Many people did raise their voices, their protest wasn’t highlighted the way protests are showcased now. There were no 24 x 7 news channels, no screaming anchors to highlight/magnify incidents. No Facebook, no Twitter to outrage. This definitely does not mean that people should not express displeasure now when a Dadri/Faridabad etc etc happens. “Pehle uska sign lekar aao, phir uska sign lekar aao”, film Deewar style logic doesn’t make sense. One community did this, the other did that and both argue that they are equal and justified. Religion and caste doesn’t matter, an injustice is an injustice. The law of the land has to be respected, nobody is above the law. Everybody has a right to protest in a democracy, he or she has the liberty to decide the threshold and quantum. People returning awards are brave people, even if they are biased towards “A” Party they cannot be termed anti national or opportunist.