Since its invention, ink has played a major role in social transformations, giving push to political revolutions, influencing public sentiment against oppressors and tyrants and giving voice to millions among other things. But now it has become a much too frequently used tool to smear individuals – whether crooked or not – as a means of shameless protest or retribution. An unusual turn of events again raised the legitimacy of ink attack protest done by people who advocate just causes but use deplorable means to act for their realisation.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut were subjected to ink attacks on the same day. This has become a regular incident and one that raises serious questions over the depleting standards of protests and the levels to which people are willing to stoop down under the garb of those protests. On Tuesday night in Bikaner, two youths affiliated to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad threw ink at Kejriwal as a protest over the Delhi CM’s comments on the Indian Army. In Lucknow, a Shiv Sena worker threw ink at MP Sanjay Raut amid clashes between rival factions in the Sena. In fact, this was not the first time Kejriwal faced an ink attack. On 17 January this year, a woman threw ink at Kejriwal after a public address in Delhi over the odd-even scheme’s success.
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These incidents closely follow the recent ink attack on Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who was attacked on September 19 this year outside LG Najeeb Jung’s residence. He was attacked for ‘being unable to handle the Dengue and Chikungunya outbreak in the national Capital’.
In other incidents, independent MLA Engineer Rashid had his face smeared by attackers from the far right group Hindu Sena at the Delhi Press Club for holding a beef party a fortnight earlier. On October 12 last year, Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of the Observer Research Foundation Mumbai, was smeared as Shiv Sena activists threw ink at him for organising a book launch in Mumbai for former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. Kulkarni was a close confidante of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and was also his speech writer. Some of the speeches written by him echoed in Vajpayee’s voice in the ramparts of the United Nations as well. This incident was widely seen as an attack on free speech and Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut, who faced the ink attack himself on Tuesday, had termed the attack as a “silent protest” adding that it was a “mild reaction from Sena. Similar attacks were carried out on Subrata Roy Sahara and NCP chief Sharad Pawar in the past.
Freedom to hold a difference of opinion is everyone’s right. Free will also allows people to detest some others for wrongdoings. But, somewhere a line needs to be drawn. Vigilante activities to humiliate people and acting as pseudo law enforcers is not the right anyone can claim. Such acts highlight how such individuals disregard the law and insult the constitutions and principles enshrined within. Ink was the weapon in hands of Marx, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Mandela, Tagore and several others who used it for writing words that would change the world. By condoning such attacks and supporting such actors every citizen insults the values of a democracy governed by law. Otherwise, what is the difference between us and deconstructed society imploding with vigilante violence. Ink attacks cannot be called a means of silent protest or mild attacks. If anything, they are a deliberate attempt to humiliate, intimidate and a direct physical attack that needs to be stopped with forceful action, no matter perpetrated against anyone.