Dear startups and entrepreneurs in India,
Let me tell this to your face: your silence on the increasing lynching incidents in India is DEAFENING and extremely WORRYING.
I have often wondered — and felt disappointed — that how you people, who have navigated choppy waters in life and silenced your critics to become a brand on your own, cannot speak out against “state-sponsored” violences, which have been on the rise in the past few years? How can you be a mute spectator to the brutal and barbaric killings of our fellow human beings in the name of religion and ideology and for the crimes they have not committed? Why don’t you speak out against those who take law into their hands?
Is it that you are afraid that your business will be targeted by right-wing elements in our society? Or are you scared that you will be called anti-national and asked to go to Pakistan (which is perceived as our enemy) if you call out the complicity of the current dispensation, led by an authoritarian and ultra-nationalist prime minister?
If the answer is ‘yes’, let me tell you that you are a coward, or I would say you are no different from those who perpetrate attacks on innocent people.
Tabrez Ansari, a 24-year-old from our neighbouring State, was very much like you and me with many dreams. He was recently married and was in the city of Ranchi to visit one of his relatives. He is no more with us. He was lynched by a few goons on the suspicions of theft. As per multiple reports, Ansari was tied to an electric post and brutally thrashed with sticks by a mob in the Jharkhand’s Seraikela-Kharsawan district last Wednesday. He succumbed to injuries on Saturday. A video footage shows he was forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman” before being murdered — the very Gods that we invoke and pray to every day. And what is more disgusting is that the state machinery, which was supposed to protect him, did NOTHING to save his life.
And he left this world. He definitely is a victim of our hypocrisy.
Ansari’s was not the first incident, nor is it going to be the last. You may remember dairy farmer Pehlu Khan, who was beaten to death by a group of 200 cow vigilantes affiliated with right-wing Hindutva groups in Alwar in Rajasthan in 2017. You may also recollect Mohammed Akhlaq, a 52-year-old man who was killed by a violent mob for suspicion of slaughtering a cow in 2015. You may also not have forgotten the numerous incidents in which Dalits (those living in the lower stratum of the society) were killed by violent mobs in the recent years in the name of cow smuggling in the last five years.
Whenever I hear or read about such incidents, my head hangs in shame. And I cannot keep my mouth shut when people get killed for no reasons. Be it a terror attack or a mob attack, violence has no place in a civilised society.
I know it is tough to take a stand especially when an authoritarian government is always preying on us. I know that you and your business may be targetted for voicing out your opinion and calling out the government’s response to such issues, or lack of it. I also know you may be trolled and abused by right-wing or extremist elements for speaking against them. Worse, the government itself could abuse its power to target you, like what Snapdeal had to go through when its brand ambassador Aamir Khan spoke about increasing intolerance in the country (people boycotted and uninstalled the e-commerce app en masse and a Union Minister was seen boasting about this incident).
But, still, you need to take a stand. We cannot be cowards and bury our heads in the sand. To take a strong stand requires a lot of character and boldness.
It doesn’t mean, however, you should express your views on anything and everything that doesn’t really concern you, but lest we forget — that as a responsible citizen, it is our responsibility to question the government when it goes wrong or when it fails its people.
Maybe, your individual voice may not be heard but you can do a lot as a community. You should at the very least issue a press statement condemning such incidents. You have a lot of influential figures among you. Your condemnation will move them at least a few of them.
Once again, violence has no place in a civilised society. And being silent is amount to being complicit.