I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing happens!
Nothing… Silence… Waves…
—Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
– Juan Ramón Jiménez
Change, like melancholy, creeps up on you. It’s easy to miss when everything around you slowly changes till you feel untethered from all that was once familiar. There are moments that betray that change. Yet you often feel it in your bones before knowing it in your head. But when you know, and in time you do, you cannot go back.
One such moment: The BBC made a documentary India’s Daughter about the gang rape-murder of a student in Delhi in 2012. The documentary featured an interview with one of the rapists. The Indian government, taking exception to this, as it takes to anything critical of India these days, moved to ban the airing of the documentary. Knowing that the documentary was uploaded on YouTube, and my first reaction was to download it before the government takes it down.
It was an act simple enough, yet one that wouldn’t have crossed my mind even a few years back. I had internalised the state censorship. I modified my behaviour to accommodate the strictures on my rights. Not to say that the previous government didn’t censor. All governments do. But this feels different. The rhythmic regularity of censorship is becoming a metronome to our collective everydays.
None of this now raises eyebrows. Day after day, the Indian government shrinks the space for dissent. BJP politicians outdo each other in bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia. Politically useful rapists and murderers are given ‘clean chits’ or reinstated in positions of power. And this becomes a part of the our lives. The media, gagged in ways, grows tired of the shock value of it all. It is not spoken about for it has become unremarkable.
Like a well-oiled propaganda machine, the change has been successfully invisibilised. It is the new normal.