Social crises and a silent civil society

Each time there is a law and order fall-out in the city of Shillong this newspaper gets several letters from concerned individuals expressing their views succinctly and with large doses of pragmatism. However, most of these authors do not wish to reveal their names for fear of a backlash. What kind of a society do we live in where free expression is fraught with danger? A democracy thrives because citizens engage in day to day governance, call out wrongdoings and generally give suggestions on what and how governments could improve governance and enforce the rule of law. A society where people feel insecure even to express their views cannot be called a democratic society. Only in autocratic societies and dictatorships are people resigned to the culture of silence despite all the sufferings they endure. When people are asked why they want to maintain anonymity they say that they feel unsafe revealing their identities. What does that speak of the civil society space in Meghalaya? Is there such a space or are people condemned to remain silent despite the violence that regularly visits a section of the society?
Civil society is a diverse group of people coming together for a common cause. This is yet to develop in Meghalaya. Most groups are ethno-centric pressure groups and echo-chambers of each other. Those who speak up at critical times also get marked and targeted. Many feel that an issue that does not affect them is not worth speaking up for. But there is such a thing as humanity that connects individuals in a society and humanity is about being there for each other. People of Meghalaya, especially the educated and informed section should ask themselves if silence is equivalent to approval of all the wrongdoings that are happening in the society around. Refusing to speak against injustice can be translated to accepting the status quo. Silent spectators are also enablers in crime. Keeping silence in the midst of injustice only allows injustice to prevail.
And what if the person who is silent becomes a victim at some point and everyone chooses to remain silent? Not speaking up means allowing others to trample on our human rights. Speaking up is a responsibility, not a choice. It also gives one inner peace. Above all speaking up is an act of humanity. Inequality is a major threat to social and economic rights. Standing in solidarity with those affected by racism and other injustices gives them a sense of hope. This is what fosters human relations and builds a democratic ethos. When one person speaks up others too are encouraged to take a stand for the truth. People don’t need to be reminded that there’s unity in strength.

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