How oppressors steal language and hijack causes

The Prime Minister today said that we cant be selective with our human rights advocacy. If you break this up a little, you’ll discover that it’s a rewording of an older argument. That older argument is “why are you only talking about THIS. why aren’t you talking about THAT also?”

It’s nothing special or new. It’s your basic garden variety whataboutery. Or rather, it’s advocacy of whataboutery. It’s a validation ticket for the kind of movement Hindu Americans start and then it gets adopted here in India too.

It’s an old machine that hijacks the language of the marginalised, creates a rights movement that’s seemingly anti-oppression, and then exports it abroad (to India) to be used by Hindutva goons in India. That’s where stuff like “Hindu Lives Matter” and “Hinduphobia” and “Hindu Human Rights” comes from.

These are not social movements. These are diversionary tactics employed to do whataboutery against actual social justice movements in India. Social justice is inextricably tied to power structures. And if that point isn’t getting through anyone’s thick skull, here’s an analogy to help.

Imagine an Indian freedom fighter saying “Indian lives matter” in pre-independence times. Now imagine a British officer responding with “All lives matter”. Is he doing this to emphasise his love for all people? Or is he simply trying to take the wind out of what the Indian said?

Imagine the British officer saying “these issues have to be looked at without anger and emotion” to someone like Bhagat Singh. Imagine the British officer saying “why are you focusing only on Indian lives?” or that Indians angry about British oppression are engaging in “selective outrage”.

You can’t understand social justice without understanding power structures. Powerful categories willy-nilly picking up and using the language of the oppressed while asking them to make less noise is always done with dishonest intentions.

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