Activism: Good, Bad and Ugly
         Date: 24-Aug-2021

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Let the first things come first. When first approached to write this article, I had never thought of activism as a subject. For me, activism is an impulse, a strong desire to fight what is wrong and cure the wrong through existing laws and means of democracy. Enough said, Linguists trace the origin of activism to the Latin word ‘actus’ and traces it to Greco roman period. Whatever the origin may be, activism inspires action from inaction and sets into motion the human desire to tackle wrongdoing.


Modern western notionists, trace the origin of activism back to Sweden in the 19th century when certain Swedish groups petitioned to end Swedens neutrality. Perhaps, it is also the earliest example of Bad activism. Most of these activists wanted Sweden to end its neutrality and join Germany, had these activists been successful, Sweden had to face the ravages of both world wars. Therefore, even though there was activism in support of joining forces with the Nazis, the ultimate policy of neutrality by the Swedish Government saved them from the hardships of war and the eternal shame of fighting for a devilish ideology.

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Now, having got a reference point to understand Bad activism and learning that activism cannot win each time, and rather it is for the best that activism fails to succeed sometimes. Let's see an example of Ugly activism.


An ardent environmental activist and ecologist, Allan Savory had worked all his life for the preservation of ecology. There is not even infinitesimal doubt about Allan’s conviction to ecology, rather it was his radical conviction that made him the embodiment of Ugly activism. In the 1950s, worried by the rapid desertification of Africa, he develops a strange belief that the elephant population in the African National parks and their grazing habits were causing desertification. Subsequently, blazed by his belief and yearning to rectify it, Allan convinced his fellow scientists and the Government of Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) that Elephants were destroying their ecology. As a fallout, the Rhodesian Government killed 40,000 elephants within a very short


span. It took the murder of 40,000 elephants when Allan finally realized the ugliness of his activism and the irreversible damage he had done. If only these Elephants had the same rights as Dogs and Cats of the European world, Allan had to stand trial in the international court of justice.

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Nevertheless, one thing is clear, that even though activism maybe be inspired by a desire to do something good, yet it may end up being another Allan Savory moment. Therefore, a parochial approach to activism can cause more harm than good. The likes of both Bad and Ugly activism is also a common phenomenon in India, where the very integrity of the nation is challenged, where, in the name of activism, ugly jokes are cracked, and where under the guise of activism entire cities are held hostage, public properties destroyed and citizens molested.


Having said so, the idea of Activism in its genuine sense was not unknown in India. Perhaps, the first-ever account of constructive activism can be credited to Jagadguru Adi Sankaracahya, who reformed and rid the Nation society of many malpractices and re-established a Dharmic order. His endeavour contributed constructively to the Nation society and hence even after thousands of years he is still revered and worshipped.


Concomitantly, the next act of Activism that our Nation society needs to remember is that of Kautilya, who not only bought down a corrupt empire but also conceived the formidable kingdom of Magadh, which kept the advances of conquerors like Alexander in check for centuries.


But above all, if there is one man that this Nation society has to choose from all others for inspiration on activism, then it must be Chatrapati Shivaji for his celestial achievements.


While critics may raise objections to using the term Activism, but then we must remember what Chatrapati Shivaji’s vision was. His Dream was not to build a fiefdom for himself, rather his every action and decision was only for achieving Swaraj and Swaraj only. In contemporary terminology, the ideal of Swarjya can be equated to the Ideals/ Beliefs that fuel the deeds of activism today. The

the inclusive ideal of Swarjya fuelled the resurgence of a nation from deep slumber and can be labelled as the most selfless act of Activism even by today’s standard.


Under today's circumstances, if I had to design a blueprint for activism, it would be filled with the exploits of Shivaji and Peshwa Bajirao. Their skill to anticipate when to retreat, when to wait, when/how to harras their adversaries, and when to fight tooth and nail is something every activist must try to develop in himself.


However, there is one pitfall in activism, mistaking identitarianism as activism. Many notionists, Europhile intellectuals have tried to define identitarianism in different ways, but in present times and India’s context, it has only one attribute i;e anti-thesis of every civilisational ideal. Activism inspired by minorityism, gender and contemporary culture can be compartmentalised in this category, where activism is destructive and in constant friction with everything and anything that doesn’t fit their exclusivist concepts. Thankfully, most of us are aware of this and are learning to tackle them in the interest of our Nation Society.


One real-life example of identitarianism is that of Munnaf Farooqi. Where Farooqi under the guise of activism and standup comedy, fulfilled his vested radical instincts. Constant mocking of traditions and beliefs of our society seeded the hyper- woke generation with a sense of distinct identitarianism, and inspired them to mock the Nation, its culture, traditions for membership in an exclusive elitist club of Abrahamic-atheists. The Ugly activism of such people can only be checked with counter activism. For courtrooms are the new battlefields and our complaints, and litigations, new weapons of war.


Here I must admit, if not for the constant guidance and unwavering support from my mentor, I would have never traversed this path. Under the false belief of activism being an elite political affair and mostly against national interests, I never had any confidence that a simple complaint written in plain Assamese, Hindi or English can, in reality, conceive any fruit. But irrespective of my presumptions and reservations, it was a happy tryst with reality to recognise that activism pursued in modest ways often worked better than five-star Activism. In the last four to five years, we had achieved some exploits in favour of the Nation society that still looks to me as more of divine intervention than a plain random victory.

While details of all our past activities and triumphs are not practically possible to be reproduced in a single article. Yet, I will try to provide some instances that may inspire our readers. For obvious reasons, will mask some details that can identify or peril the wellbeing of ground activists.


The growing menace of radical proselytising groups is now a well-documented fact. In some states, especially where they have gained sufficient socio-political influence have started forcing their hands on the followers of indigenous faiths and traditions. One such incident was witnessed in a state of Northeast, where radical evangelist groups, by their sheer majority and influence denied the last rights of an indigenous tribal, citing cremation as a heretic act. For a long time, militant Christians of the state have been imposing heresy laws on the minority indigenous population.


However, with little nerve shown by our activists on the ground, the dynamics of power changed for the first time. Beginning with FIRs in local police stations, filing complaints with the Governor and DGP, and flooding the district administration with complaints from outside the state created a much-needed impact. Militant Christian groups and administration for the first time realised that the entire country is watching them closely. It also gave newfound courage to our indigenous brothers, and although no arrests were made, there was no further obstruction of access to the cremation ground either. Additionally, the state government ordered district administrations to earmark dedicated land and funds for cremation grounds across the state. It may very well turn out to be a farce, hence, at regular intervals, we are serving reminders from across the Nation. Thus, communicate a subtle message that we are watching.


Coming to another incident, a few months back, evangelists with the support of few officials in the administration encroached upon government land. The design was so elaborate that, government quarters standing on government land were declared unsafe for occupation and was evacuated, demolished and finally completing the encroachment by building a church wall engulfing the pristine land. They have never faced any opposition so far and were now carefree in their methods. The first thing our activist did was file legal notice to the Additional District Commissioner, under whose signature the government quarters were demolished. We demanded an explanation as to how a comparatively new government building became unfit for occupation and sought enquiry and action

against those officers who were responsible for constructing this building with substandard materials and designs. Next, we served another notice to the District commissioner with photographic evidence as to why only the building was partly demolished and fixing the responsibility of action. Initially, DC tried to dodge our notice by passing on the buck to ADC. We responded with another notice, fixing the guardianship of public property on him. Concomitantly, our activists filed objections with the state grievance cell. Finally, DC bowed to the pressure and cleared the encroachment by cordoning off the area. The administration also demolished the illegal compound wall, and for the first time, these militant evangelists were defeated in their turf. As an act of retribution, these militant Christian groups are trying their best to pressurise the small minority population comprising of indigenous people. But our endeavour has provided our Indigenous tribal brothers with the much need courage and perseverance. This story is still developing and we are keeping a sharp eye on the developments.


These are just two stories of triumph among many from the past, and much more awaits us in the days to come. Before concluding, it is imperative that I appropriately share my concerns.


Activism for the Nation is a full-time job and there can be no leniency. Saying so, I have often seen activists struggling to meet their basic needs. It is not that resources are scarce, instead, there is abundance, but misplaced priorities and ego-centric favouritism. When we struggle to meet the basic requirements of our activists, the sight of wasting lakhs of rupees on fancy seminars breaks our morale. I am still trying hard to apprehend the real impact of such seminars, the money spent on felicitations and continental foods. I am also critical of a new phenomenon of intellectual forums mushrooming across the nation. Where, in the name of intellectualism and narrative building, they are building memes and video contents or at best are functioning as event management groups.


Fancy buildings in posh areas are rented and money is spent on buying dapper gear which is often found covered in the dirt. While incredible amounts are being spent on accumulating material apparatuses, the needs of the most important apparatuses i;e our activists are being overlooked. While intellectualism is important for a society, yet it must not be reduced to show business. To put my thoughts in plain words; We were an intellectual powerhouse when Khilji sacked Nalanda, we were intellectually advanced when a handful of Khiljis sacked the Sena Dynasty of Bengal and pillaged the land, and we were intellectually

advanced when the marvel called the Vijayanagar empire was destroyed. But it was the courage of one Raja Prithu of Kamrupa who devasted the Khiljis, it was one Chatrapati who ignited the fire of Swarajya and thus roused a Nation. Maybe our time will come when we can finally settle to pursue the lesser priorities, but for now, we have to settle for perfecting our strengths. Lastly, we must remember how Chatrapati rightfully understood the strategic strength of forts and played on his strength till he achieved his dream.