The Mobile Camera : A Modern-day Madame Defarge
Circa 1780s, France
Dickens in “A Tales of Two Cities” talks about how Monsieur the Marquis runs down a child with his carriage and moves on after throwing a gold coin at the hapless wailing father. Now the Marquis was a member of the French nobility and would not have lost much sleep over the death of such an insignificant commoner. He might never have been “brought to justice” but for one Madame Defarge.
Madame Defarge was the wife of a wine vendor in downtown Paris. Through the day, she sat at the shop knitting. She kept a mental note of all excesses perpetrated by the nobility and knitted down the names of the perpetrators in her knit—on a later date, the list would be used to bring them to the guillotine. The Marquis’s name also got registered in the list
Circa 2021, India
Not many had heard of Lakhimpur Kheri, UP, one nondescript village of the six lakh villages in India, before October 3, 2021. On that fateful day, an SUV hit a gathering of farmers from behind, ran them down killing four farmers, and fled from the spot. The SUV was the lead vehicle in a convoy of cars—the convoy was carrying workers of the party in power, both at the centre and the state. The lead car belonged to the son of the Home Minister of India and as per the FIR, he was driving the car.
That it was not an unfortunate accident but a deliberate act, was amply established through the mobile camera videos that surfaced after the incident. Like the gold coin thrown by the Marquis, some money has been promised to the bereaved families. But what is bizarre is the brazenness and alacrity with which the ruling dispensation has gone about shielding its home minister and his son. And this is happening despite the Supreme Court taking Suo moto cognizance and driving the investigation.
A period of 250 years or a quarter of millennium separates the two incidents; but the more the things change, the more they remain the same—just the actors and the stages change. Do we need another Madame Defarge and the attendant judicial system to give justice to the dead farmers? The thought is mind-numbingly scary.
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