Monday, December 26, 2011

Not legitimate

I’ve been reading a novel from which I want to share a few lines: “… says it does not matter if you lie to …. They have no right to silence, even if they know speech will incriminate them; if they will not speak, then break their fingers, burn them with irons, hang them up by their wrists. It is legitimate, and indeed … goes further; it is blessed.

Can you fill in the blanks? What and who are we talking about?

These lines are from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, set in the sixteenth century. Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, is talking about ‘heretics’, people who have different ideas about what the Christian faith is all about. Such people were arrested, tortured, and — especially if they had no money or political influence — burnt in public. The public rarely protested.

I know. Not a cheery memory during the festive season. But I bring it up because it struck me that the writer could easily have been talking about modern India. Nationalism is our sworn faith, and the state can snatch up people who have different ideas about what loyalty to India means, or what development should be. And the public still doesn’t protest.

Consider the fact that the National Human Rights Commission has recorded 14,231 custodial deaths in India between 2001 and 2010. That’s about four people a day. Not just slapped around or hung up by their wrists. Dead.

Read the full piece here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Devastatingly boring!

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