The book that I’m reading now is An Orchestra of Minorities, the new novel by the Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma. The eponymous orchestra does not refer to any musical composition; it refers to a lament. This orchestra is a collective lament by a brood of chickens produced when they lose one of them to a hawk. When the hawk carries away one of the chickens, the others produce the same sound together, “like a burial song for the one that has gone.”
The protagonist’s father calls that lament an orchestra of the minorities. The chickens belong to the minority of birds that are “fragile” and “very unlike the wild birds”.
These days India is witnessing a lot of orchestras of minorities, protests against the apparently ill-motivated Citizenship Act. The country’s extraordinarily powerful leaders keep telling us that the Act is good for the country. But millions of citizens refuse to trust them. Trust cannot be extracted through barrels of guns.
A few days back, on 23 Dec to be precise, a young man named Mohammed Raees died In Uttar Pradesh. He had been shot in the stomach by the UP police three days prior to his death. He was a street hawker who happened to be present at the site of a protest against the controversial act.
“Did he die because we are Muslims?” His father Mohammed Shareef asked Vikas Pandey of BBC. “Are we not citizens of this country? I will keep asking this question until I die.”
The chief minister of the state who is a self-proclaimed yogi threatened to take “revenge” on the protesters by confiscating their property to compensate for the losses incurred by the state. There is no harm in making people pay for the damages they cause. But is that revenge?
|A 'Wanted' poster put up the Kanpur police|
The 'criminals' can be identified by their dress, as the PM said the other day.
When the government wants to take revenge on its people, orchestras will rise in the air. Plaintive orchestras like those of the fragile chickens? Or assertive orchestras of rightful citizens? Either way, It’s a bad situation. The New Year doesn’t seem to hold bright promises.