Guardians of India's Soul
Editor's note from August 2018
Ankit Saxena, 23, was killed because he loved a young woman from a different community. His parents tried to physically stop his assailants, but couldn’t save him. Ankit’s father Yashpal mustered some strength to speak about the hatred that devoured their only child, when Reader’s Digest visited their home. His mother Kamlesh just looked vacantly into space. It has been impossible, for me, to get past the agony of a woman who has seen her child bleed to death. Our lives will go on, but what about Kamlesh?
And she isn’t alone. There are any number of people whose lives have been shattered by the rage and violence that you can touch in the air today. Armies of brutal hatemongers let loose upon us are going about their mission with chilling precision. India is almost unrecognizable, with spiralling mob violence and gruesome lynchings. Sharply condemning these “horrendous acts of mobocracy”, the Supreme Court concluded that they are made worse by the apathy and “inertia of the police” and “the grandstanding by the perpetrators of the crimes on social media”. Then there is the shameful valourizing of these criminals by lawmakers.
As we celebrate another Independence Day, we condemn these profound crimes against people who were mostly soft targets with no one to defend them—minorities, migrant workers, tribals and mentally challenged people. Some were urban youth, who simply stopped to ask for directions. This is a grim reminder that the most important freedom—the right to life—is under threat in these times. Remaining mute bystanders is not an option for us any more.
Looking for hope, we turned to India’s youth. Our August cover story ‘What Freedom Means to Young India’ captures powerful voices, both searing and uplifting. ‘How Free Are We?’ by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta helps us make sense of freedom in a digital world. Andrew Otis’s column is a fascinating account of the freedom of the press in 18th-century Bengal.
Heroes don’t always come dressed like movie characters. Gagandeep Singh was in his uniform when he came between a man and a mob. Ankit’s parents, who chose love and compassion, in the face of unimaginable loss look ordinary. They are the real guardians of India’s soul. Salute!