In the current politically-charged climate of the country, there seems to be a wave of hysterics, bordering-on-manic jingoism that has raised action against any voice questioning authority, be it in Jawaharlal Nehru University with the absurd media trial of students and the unjust charging of Kanhaiya Kumar with sedition, the forced eviction of journalists and lawyers in Bastar, Rohith Vemula’s unfortunate suicide, the protesting Honda workers or the recent attack on tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader, Soni Sori.
The series of unfortunate events has left a ubiquitous question lingering in our minds — is there any safe space left where one can openly express any sort of dissatisfaction, critique a norm and/or defend one’s opinion without the fear of prosecution and persecution, regardless of how objectionable it may be? What is the status of freedom of speech and its limits; dissent is essential for the functioning of a healthy democracy, yet its consequences are increasingly distressing.
As the country continues to be divided, society is polarised with respect to the meaning of ‘nationalism’; with ‘Make In India’ being continuously propagated on one hand and the freedom of speech of citizens being questioned on the other, many people are overcome with tumultuous emotions that leave you feeling helpless, angry and confused.
One photographer has taken this overflow of emotions and dealt with it through the means of art, as a way to better understand themselves, their situation and the current state of the country that they live in.
Creating posters from the double page of newspaper spreads of articles regarding India’s current affairs, the artist, using the collage as a background, has pasted a poignant excerpt from Rohith Vemula’s heartbreaking suicide note at the forefront, in which “he manages to say so much,” using few words.
The poster serves as more than just a political statement in the streets of Mumbai, it stands as an important question, a wake up call that hits home for many of us, just as the passing of Rohith Vemula did. “The idea behind it is to get people to step out of their bubbles, read it while walking down the street and perhaps question what’s happening around us,” the artist, who will remain unnamed upon their request, told us.
”I think the message is greater than who did it.” As conflicting stories constantly rise regarding these recent events, criticism and counter-criticism; the artist’s overwhelming feelings of confusion, helplessness and the need to understand, is something that resonates with all of us.
Where: You can find the posters in the following locations across the city--Veronica Road. The Pali Market junction. The dilapidated building on the left after the flower shop opposite St. Andrews church. 16th road, with Shiv Sagar on your left. Juhu, outside Chandan cinema and on the road from Ramee guest house heading towards ISKCON temple. Versova, at the corner of nana-nani park, and a bunch more in Lokhandwala and around Andheri.