As another day passes with the ongoing struggle to even protest, some questions would normally arise in a half sane mind. Something on the lines of when men are given guns to protect, who do they choose to use the guns against or any weapon of so called defense for that matter? This is a conversation between two vulnerable ideals- a student and democracy- both unsure of the answer.
I’ve put a picture of democracy in front of me; it’s your average mature lady, painted in different shades, holding a sickle in one hand and thresher in another. She has eyes encircled with black charcoal; if you look closer it becomes a beggars bowl, held out in anticipation. Outside my hostel room, it’s a mixture of cold and chaos. Our professors, seniors or any “scholars” for that matter have left the campus in the hands of this miscellaneous atmosphere. Education has taken a pause. But I have questions to ask outside of my lecture hall, I have thoughts emerging in my mind during these politically volatile times that need to be attended to. So I have decided to have a conversation with this lady in front of my eyes; A dialogue of sorts.
“Who do you represent?” She asks me. I tell her “The truth”, both my answer and assertion. We look at each other with suspicious eyes, as history has taught us both to see this way. She settles her brows slowly into wedged tension less lines. So I go on with my questions, I tell her I have been alone. I have grown to see borders and barbed wires between houses of the common and the uniformed. She tells me “but barbed wires keep out intruders”. I sigh and let her know that they come at us with such sharp lines to keep our foot from stepping into their territories. “Oh you must be carrying an unsafe object in your hands, your feet must be ridden with blades?” She tells me. “No” I reply. “We only come holding papers in our hands, an old revolutionary’s poetry on our lips.” “What do you point at them then?” she naively asks me and I tell her “our chests”.
She sees my hand rolled into a fist and asks me how as a student I hold a pen? “We don’t write often anymore” I tell her. “It is a ball of fear that I am holding inside of my hands, a slogan pitched at me from a reddened path by my comrades taking shelter from canisters of gas. We’ve all held it in” I whisper to her. Democracy eyes me down, funnels her words into a well known phrase. “Oh but they protect you. They wear our lands khaki on their shoulders; they would never betray any color of the flag” “The flag’s being repainted” I tell her. She refuses to hear the color. Democracy sits in silence with me, I offer her tea, as she tells me her throat is dry. I push aside my sketches of Kashmir to let her breathe a little. Democracy feels anxious in my hostel room.
“Why did you call me here?” She jabs at me. “To ask questions” I soothingly reply. “Be done with it then” The uneasy democracy says to me. So I grab my phone and use it to show her my modernly acquired evidences. Her charcoal circles shut themselves up at the sight of broken heads and blinded eyes. “They can be doctored” and as she says this I no longer feel surprised at democracy, she has given in too, her words have too been thrown into the machine and sieved through carefully vandalized thoughts. So I with all my years old sigh, ask her one last time “Who does democracy protect anymore?” She slowly crawls back into the 6×6 canvas lying unorganized on my desk.
In my quest to find the answers, democracy too falls short. There is a slight murmur in the air tonight again, that we’ll be going to sleep unprotected in our hostel rooms. That lathis and khakis are no longer peaceful. They can barge in anytime. I lay back in my rectangular bed too short for me to fit in and look at my poorly painted democracy with the same questions in both our eyes- “Who protects us anymore?”
Department of English, Jamia MIllia Islamia