On the Deafening Sound of Silence that Blinds us

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Silence has become golden to most of us. The global pandemic has increased its decimals. Today silence has become lauder and is visible.  Unfortunately, it is making us deaf and blind. Our parliament has fallen silent.  Our legislative assemblies are cut short.  Even the Supreme Court seems to have preferred silence and appeared to have silenced dissent as we seem to see in the contempt case of activist advocate Prashant  Bhushan.  Silence has become an order of the day when it came to public policies. The New Education Policy( NEP) was not debated in the parliament but got approved in silence  of a cabinet meeting of the Modi Government. The New Draft of environmental impact assessment (EIA) policy that apparently seeks to silence all oppositions has opened doors to projects that may be otherwise deemed dubious and ecologically disastrous.  It even has made it possible to approve already running projects that are on the slippery slope of environmental pollution without proper safeguards through what is called post-facto clearance.   

The Draft under our considerations seems to be an attempt to even silence nature.  This seems to become clear when one looks at a list of projects exempted from environment assessment.  These include projects that are characterised as strategic by the Government. Others that are listed there are  inland waterways and national highway projects. Even construction projects up to one lakh fifty thousand square meters are exempted from environmental assessment. But can nature be silenced? Will it not hit back with sound and fury? But for now, silence seems to be a preferred commodity. It is our xanti and peace.   It is not just silence but a desire to silence all resistance has become a golden rule. Environmental violations cannot be reported by the citizens anymore. They can only be reported by the project proponent or government representatives.  A sort of self-regulation by the project proponents seems to be brought in by taking away the right of citizens to dissent.  It even cut down the current thirty days time frame for public consultation to twenty days showing that silencing the citizen is deemed necessary to what masquerades as progress and development. 

The culture of silence has enveloped us. It has made it difficult to discern and differentiate between strong leadership and dictatorial leadership  or declared emergency and undeclared emergency. Silenced and non-participative democracy has become the new political reality. Our MPs speak very less in parliament. There are no debates there. Law are passed in a hurry without discussion.   Democracy has become a silent place.  Our citizens are massified into a motley crowds and we have begun a war of silencing each other by hurling  charges  that  often deem and demonize  a victim  to a villain-hood  of  an anti-national.  These attempts to silence the demonised other has even brought out the violent best in us. Riots, hate-speeches, and lynchings also underline the powerful way we like to speak the language of silencing the demonized other.   Even God is not left out. We can kill in the name of gods. Somehow we learnt to abuse the silence of God. 

Covid-19 has also brought about the silent deaths of several Indians.  We continue to be a silent crowd that is insensitive to the plight of the migrants and the poor. Our voices are muzzled and we can no longer speak for the victims of suffering and injustice.  Culture of silence has put our ethics of care as well as ethics of justice in the oblivion of darkness. Silence conceals and hides the fact that what masks as our interest is actually our self-destruction. It has provided cover to the powers that be. We seem to have opted for political quietism leaving our life, country and  future in the hands of a one who is designed and projected as a strong leader. We have chosen  uneasy silence that at best enjoys watching the political drama at play. The politics of exclusion and domination as well as  the economics of handing over the resources of the people to big corporates  do not agitate us. We seem to still have hope in the trickle-down economics of the neoliberal corporatization of   national resources. Our silence seems to have led to the breaking of the last wall of our defence. Unfortunately,  our judiciary is silently going the way our democracy went into a deep slumber a long time ago. 

We have to come to terms with our silence. Our silence is indeed political. It does speak a political language. But it does not seem to be strategic and religious. A strategic silence is critical. It watches its interest in silence but interrupts it with resistance and dissent when public interest or interest of our people is sacrificed. The culture of silence is born out a politics that masks the interest of an elite minority which preys on the resources  of our  country. A critical silence will assess how a majoritarian politics hides an elitized or minoritized economics.  Maybe we have to embrace the critical, reflective, and strategic silence.  Such as silence is also profoundly related to the religious silence embedded in the very ethos of our civilization.  

The religious silence is an empty place. But emptiness is fullness. It is a place of the plenum. We need this silence that will enable us to see how we have filled into our emptiness things like lust, hate, and violence.  We have this challenge to be critical of our silence.  We have to assess its strategic value for the harmony and well being of each and every son and daughter of mother India.  This silence of the empty place will give us the third eye that has been devoutly celebrated as the third eye of God Shiva of the Hindu tradition.  This critical third eye will give us an insight that enables us to understand that politics as well as economics is what we put in the empty space of power. Such a third eye  has the power to open our mind and hearts to our reality and  the veil that hid us from it will fall away giving us a vision (darsana) about what the culture of silence has done to us and our society.  This darsana (vision) of the truth (satya) can break our silence and we will be born-again with a power and voice of dissent. Our lost voice will then start speaking the explosive truth that can break the chains of oppression as well as set us all free from a politics of hate and the culture of silence that afflicts us. Into this freedom and truth, let us all rise in the power of wakefully animated silence.  

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao