At a time when freedom of expression of an individual and groups is repeatedly being questioned and censored, comes a book which collectively presents voices of those who have persisted despite all attempts to muzzle their thoughts and voices.
Titled India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument, the book is edited by author and poet Ashok Vajpeyi.
The 546-page anthology published by Speaking Tiger and priced at Rs 499, brings together some of these voices that have sustained India as a great and vibrant civilisation.
Collected in these pages are essays, letters, reports, poems, songs and calls to action — from texts ranging from Rig Veda to Ambedkar’s “Annihilation of Caste”; and by thinkers like Gautam Buddha, Akka Mahadevi, Lal Ded, Guru Nanak, Ghalib, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Sadat Hasan Manto, Jayaprakash Narayan, Namdeo Dhasal, Mahasweta Devi and Amartya Sen.
Their words embody the undying and essential spirit of dissent in one of the world’s most diverse, dynamic and oldest civilisations.
“It cannot be denied that India had a very restrictive, indefensible caste system and many elements of a feudal structure. But simultaneously it also had a republic of the imagination in which ideas and wisdom had a democratic remit,” Vajpeyi writes in the introduction.
“Whether in traditions of creative expression or in the repertoire of intellectual articulation, in India dissent from faith or from the State has always not only been acknowledged but has also been allowed to grow,” he adds.
“Democracy’s one glaring failure in India has been that it gives the elected representatives of the people unbridled power and sanction to crush or curtail people’s right to question, differ and disagree with the government and official narratives,” he further pens.
The book reminds readers of those dissenting voices who have inspired revolutions and uprisings, helped preserve individual dignity and freedom and promoted tolerance and a plurality in thought and lifestyle.