Mahua Moitra's speech, Owaisi's oath taking, Speaker Suresh's benign chastising: Why this week in Parliament left me feeling empty
During Moitra's speech, Kerala Congress MP Suresh Kodikunnil was in the Speaker's Chair looking benign, smiling and occasionally saying things like 'you already took three minutes'. Suresh is an interesting character, a seven-time MP. This week when he took his oath in Hindi and was reportedly scolded by Sonia Gandhi for not taking it in Malayalam or English.
The day began with many friends and acquaintances exchanging first-time Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra's maiden speech in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. I watched it and immediately realised that today I was Uncle Scrooge at the Antifa Christmas. To quote my Israeli friend, I feel 'nuzzing'.
This is not Moitra's fault. When she was an MLA, Moitra had gone to court several times to fight the Modi government's snooping and surveillance schemes. On Tuesday, she delivered an energetic, well-written speech. She began by saying that she accepted the mandate the BJP had won and then said, "it is the very nature of the overwhelmingness of this mandate, of the totality of this mandate, that makes it necessary for us to be heard today, for the voice of dissent to be heard today." She variously compared the BJP's self-satisfaction and performance to a kaala bhoot you scare children with or the rapidly rising numbers of a start-up.
She quoted the signs of early fascism she says is listed in a poster in the main lobby of the Holocaust Museum in US. That's not where you'd find it but you get what she means. The end is nigh, minority log. Tum sab pachtaoge, majority log.
All of which is true but by this stage of her speech, I felt like I was listening to someone who had watched The Hour of the Furnaces too many times in college. Because I felt 'nuzzing'.
This, despite the fact that just this week me and my college friends spent a whole night making black jokes about how our names and surnames (Abraham, Fernandez, Mahfooz, Ayesha, Amina and so on) would land all of us in a place where we will need a desi-Schindler to ship us, our parents and our children out of the country.
The reality is that I began worrying about dying for my surname in 1999 and my nerve endings seemed to be slowly dying from years of assault on my senses. What are you supposed to feel when by far the least disturbing thing that happens in a week is the BJP MPs heckling the Muslimness of Asaduddin Owaisi as he steps up to take his oath?
When it happened, I watched the usually sharp Owaisi's face and admired him briefly for looking unruffled. A few seconds later when he responded by yelling 'Jai Bhim, Jai Bhim, Takbeer Allah hu Akbar, Jai Hind' as if he was another school boy carrying forward in class a joke that had begun in the morning back in hostel, I could no longer feel it in my fingers or toes. Us, Ayeshas and Aminas, may not die but we often live in a lack-of-concentration-camp, walking around with unfocussed anxiety, feeling incapable of doing anything.
During Moitra's speech, Kerala Congress MP Suresh Kodikunnil was in the Speaker's Chair looking benign, smiling and occasionally saying things like 'you already took three minutes'. Suresh is an interesting character, a seven-time MP. This week when he took his oath in Hindi and was reportedly scolded by Sonia Gandhi for not taking it in Malayalam or English. Watching him being congratulated by the BJP MPs and greeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you might ask, what's his damage!
His explanation was that he took the oath in English last time and wanted to take it in Malayalam for a change. But I was intrigued by the possibility that he was not interested in being pegged a good representative of the last Gaulish village. And the future out of this drugged sleep may lie in refusing to participate in the majority's sadistic cat and mouse game. If you can afford to refuse, that is.
The second time I watched the video I felt the faintest of stirrings. Watching Moitra power on despite the heckling, saying things like she deserves to finish her maiden speech, telling Suresh to put the house in order before she continued, I had this thought. Perhaps her too-neat speech with its distinct lack of poetry doesn't matter. Perhaps the feeling that I ought to feel something again is enough? And if we had ten Moitras refusing to accept political neuropathy we could survive this moment. If the Moitras, I beg, don't continue to sound like 1960s agitprop films.
This week feminist activist Jaya Sharma wrote: "Might it be that the bewilderment continues because there is a glaring blind spot in the way in which we understand politics? Might it be that facts and logic were never the only driving force? I will argue here that in order to understand the recent election results and the power of Hindu nationalism more broadly, we need the lens of the psyche. The play of desire and the erotic is key to understanding politics and dipping into our own sex and love lives can help us see this... Hindu nationalism offers its supporters the rarest of rare combinations — security and adventure."
I didn't feel entirely swayed by the details of Sharma's essay but you should read it because in all the dull post-election analysis hers the first that I have seen that attempts to find answers away from 'facts'. Sharma ends her essay saying, "Reducing our sense of bewilderment and putting to rest our blind faith in rationality is a must for any alternatives to emerge." It is in the realm of feeling we might find answers. Even if there seems to be nuzzing right now.
The author is the founder-editor of The Ladies Finger, which is is India's leading feminist online magazine
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