Finally, our Prime Minter broke his silence on violence in Manipur. But his speech is greeted as worse than his silence. The www.scroll.in an online news portal said that by his own standards, his silence over Manipur was stunning yet his statement to the press outside the parliament was worse. When over 150 people were killed and thousands are still displaced, the silence of otherwise loud PM appears to hide something. Once the disturbing two months old video of two women gang-raped and paraded naked went viral, the silent PM finally opened his mouth. Does the coming of this hair-splitting and heart-shattering video into the public domain tell us something about the manner in which the violence in Manipur was handled and allowed to fester? Was it staged and managed using state power or apparatus?
It is hard to accept the view of Chief Minister Biren Singh that he just came to know about the ghastly incident after the video went viral when we can already find an FIR filed on 18th May 2023 days after the tragic incident in a police station in Manipur. It only manifests that unfortunately, Biren Singh was acting as a Meitei strong man rather than the constitutional leader of the people of Manipur. The www.scroll.in clearly sees the attempt PM to equate the horror of Manipur with crimes against women in other states as nothing but a crafty and cunning way to deflect the issue and cover the actions and inactions of the Biren Singh Government. It is exactly because of this that www.scroll.in says that the speech of our PM is worse than his silence.
If at all any comparison exists between the horror of Manipur violence with any other crime is the case of Bilkis Bano which occurred under the reign of Modi while he was CM as well as PM. While he was CM the dastard event of Bilkis Bano occurred and while he is PM the victim was raped again when the perpetrators of the crime were let loose and welcomed like heroes. Perhaps, the real Gujarat model that used the bodies of innocent women as instruments to write political scripts came out in the open and hence, the golden silence was eloquently broken. The silence was bad enough. But the breaking of silence became worse as our PM spoke more as a BJP leader rather than as a statesman and PM of the mother of all democracy. When the Vishwa Guru falls silent, India too stoops low in front of the world. Our civilizational values begin to look uncivil. A nation that worships feminine Gods cannot treat its women in the manner the viral video manifests. Unfortunately, we may have to accept a hard fact. There is nothing wrong with our civilizational values barring the evil of casteism. But those who stand as self-appointed defenders of our civilization seem to be the most uncivil themselves.
Martin Luther King Jr. rightly said that there comes a time when silence becomes betrayal. The silence of PM Modi and that of each of us about the violence in Manipur was indeed a betrayal. But by breaking his silence over Manipur, did our PM betray again? It appears so. This is because his silence also continued in the speech. The speech was silent about violence in Manipur. It was silent about Government’s inaction in Manipur as well as the continued violence in Manipur. Even as an attempt to speak was made, we can discern several silences in the said speech. When one’s speech speaks silently for the perpetrators of violence a conscientious listener may decode the voice within the voice that speaks. Such a listener may sight the double betrayal of the Prime Minister. When the speech tries to cover several silences, it speaks loudly and violently for the perpetrators of violence and shows that the most ghastly incident cannot shake the conscience of the speaker.
When the speech becomes disfluent, several silences begin to speak. Such disfluent speech fluently reveals the intention of the speaker. While the silence of the PM was the betrayal of our constitutional as well as civilizational values and his speech after a long pause of annoying silence was a double betrayal, the silences that are voicing out of his speech are betraying him too. The voices of silences are betraying the speaker, our honourable PM. This is the triple betrayal. Unfortunately, the speaker is not aware or pretends to be not aware of this self-betrayal because he is deliberately not listening to the voices of silence in his own speech. His silence over Manipur has come to embed his speech over Manipur. This is where lies the triple betrayal. The disfluent speech pours out the voices of many silences, and silenced. Sadly for the speaker, his influential speech begins to look like the betrayal of his own people.
One cannot dismiss this as a case of you being damned if you stay silent or you are being damned if you speak. It is a case when one can index a congruence between silence and speech. It is the case where speech continues the work of silence. It is the case where speech silently speaks for the perpetrators of violence and heinous crimes. One can hear which side the silence as well speech of the PM has chosen. When the silence within the speech begins to speak, we can see how a dark side inhabits what is made to look like the bright side of our society. When silence begins to speak, we can listen to the double speak and discern how the very speech becomes a witness of falsehood. The disfluent speech has become the influent voice of several silences that our PM wishes to keep under wraps. But a question still remains. Which side shall we choose? shall we choose silence and its congruence with the speech? Or shall we choose the side of the voices of silence that are trying to speak through us and in us? Shall we be on the side of the silenced other? Shall we continue to be ceased by the banality of evil? If the ghastly video does not shake our conscience, it shows that we have stepped into a society that cannot discern what is good and evil. Maybe evil has begun to look good. We have, thus, truly stepped into a society of banality of evil. Perhaps, this is the new India that our PM celebrating.