They can put you behind bars, saathi. But they will never break you, write Araria activists Tanmay and Kalyani.TANMAY, KALYANIPublished: 25 Oct 2020, 08:20 AM

Dear friends languishing in jail for simply speaking truth to power,

We are Kalyani (pronouns: she/her) and Tanmay (pronouns: he/his/they) from Araria, a small district in the northeastern tip of Bihar. We work with Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS), a trade union of landless workers in Bihar.

We may not have met, but ever since you have been arrested, we have been seeing your names and your photos every day. And now we feel like we know all of you very intimately.

In July 2020, we were incarcerated, along with a 22-year-old gang-rape survivor, for allegedly disrupting court proceedings. We were in court that day to support the survivor who was there to submit her official statement about the trauma she had undergone. A working-class Muslim woman; a domestic worker with little to no formal education.

After giving her statement, when she asked for her friends/support persons (us) to be in the room with her as she signed, the magistrate took offence and in a bizarre twist of events, had all three of us arrested.

Yes, including the gang-rape survivor.

What a travesty of justice that a survivor was incarcerated simply for trying to access justice while also trying to feel emotionally safe. The three of us – two women and one trans person – were sent to a women’s quarantine prison, over 200 km away from our home district. While the survivor got bail, after seven days, we were let out on bail after 25.

But there wasn’t much to celebrate. Especially, knowing so many of our friends still remained behind bars.

‘Like Dust, We Shall Keep Rising’

We are telling you all this because we want you to know that the 25 days we spent in jail, you folks were in our thoughts all the time.

Even as we hummed bars of ‘Kyun daraate ho zindon ki deewaar se… aise dastoor ko, subah -e-benoor ko hum nahi jaante, hum nahi maante.’

It warmed us to think that perhaps you were in your cell singing along. Thoughts of your smiles, your slogans, your struggles gave us so much courage. They still continue to do so.

Anytime we would come across a new obstacle in prison life – overflowing toilets, broken prison phone, depressed fellow prisoners, or prison guards on power trips – we kept wondering if you had similar obstacles to face and if prison life was similar across the country.

It is infuriating, the systematic way in which the powers that be are trying to crush dissent and put into fetters some of the bright minds and gentlest souls striving for justice in the country.

But little do they know that like dust, we shall rise. And keep rising.

‘They Will Never Break You’

We won’t ask you how you are. It’s an impossible question to answer. Also, because whether inside or outside of those oppressive walls, it is so hard to be “okay” – given the state of the world today.

But we’d love to know the little things you are doing to stay sane, to find beauty, find joy, to survive, and who knows, perhaps even thrive.

It reminds us of those lines by Nazim Hikmet:

“It’s this way: being captured is beside the point. The point is not to surrender.”

They can put you behind bars, saathi. But they will never break you.

But little do they know that like dust, we shall rise. And keep rising.

courtesy The Quint